Featured Collection

March 2000

American Memory Historical Collection

In the Fall of 1995, James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, said "For the general public, the Congress has endorsed the creation of a National Digital Library through a private-public partnership that will create high-quality content in electronic form and thereby provide remote access to the most interesting and educationally valuable core of the Library's Americana collections. Schools, libraries, and homes will have access to new and important material in their own localities along with the same freedom readers have always had within public reading rooms to interpret, rearrange, and use the material for their own individual needs." American Memory, the primary focus of the National Digital Program, has done all that and more. At present American Memory has over seventy collections, containing more than 2.5 million items, available online. Another 2.5 million items are in production and will be up within the next year. Most of the items within American Memory are primary source documents such as photographs, manuscripts and maps; items which often provide a first hand view of life in the United States. Included in those collections are the papers of George Washington, oral history interviews conducted during the Great Depression, films of Theodore Roosevelt during his presidency, audio performances of folk songs from throughout the United States and images taken during the Civil War.

Three photographic views of life in the United States from from the collection: America from the Great Depression to WWII: Color Photographs from the FSA-OWI 1939-1945
Photograph of laborers chopping cotton, Greene Co. GA

Chopping cotton on rented land, near White Plains, Greene County, Georgia. Photographer: Jack Delano. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [Reproduction number: LC-USF351-141 DLC].

Boys fishing in a bayou in Louisiana

Photograph of Cajun boys fishing in a bayou near Terrebonne, a Schriever, Louisiana, Farm Security Administration project. Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [Reproduction number: LC-USF351-112 DLC].

Grocery store in Lincoln Nebraska ca 1940

Grand Grocery Co. Lincoln, Nebraska. Photographer: John Vachon. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [Reproduction number: LC-USF351-268 DLC].

Though most of the collection is taken from the collections held in the Library of Congress, the Library has been fortunate to receive funding from the Ameritech Corporation to support the digitization of significant American history collections at other institutions. The Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition has supplied funding for 23 projects involving 33 institutions. Nine of these collections are now fully integrated into American Memory. In some cases, the digital reproductions are mounted at the Library of Congress, in others, at the home institution.

One group that is of special interest is K-12 educators. The Learning Page is one way that American Memory reaches out to that community. This area provides guides to the collection, technical support, lesson plans and activities that can be used in the classroom or at home. We also reach out to educators by providing in house and online workshops to help them learn to use the collections more effectively. Another tool for K-12 educators as well as life long learners of all ages is Today in History. Today in History is a multimedia presentation that provides information on an event from a specific day in history using the American Memory collections.

A variety of technical information is accessible from the American Memory home page. Included are requirements for contractors performing scanning and text conversion services and markup specifications and keying instructions for text conversion. A recent addition is a report from Library of Congress conservators on the role they play in digitization projects, including the training of contractors in safe handling of materials.

The URL to access the American Memory homepage is <http://memory.loc.gov/amhome.html>.

Contributed by:
National Digital Library Program
American Memory Historical Collection


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DOI: 10.1045/march00-featured.collection