Original articles by academic faculty, librarians and other researchers.


Frontiersman or Southern Gentleman? Newspaper Coverage of Andrew Jackson during the 1828 Presidential Campaign

During the 1828 presidential election, Andrew Jackson came under attack for a number of reasons: his violent temper, his execution of U.S. militia and foreign nationals during the 1810s, and even the questionable circumstances of his marriage to his wife, Rachel. Often overlooked was the question about Jackson’s southern identity. During the final six months of the 1828 campaign, newspapers across the nation were filled with attacks and counterattacks about whether Jackson fit the expectations of a southern planter.

Two main questions about Jackson’s southern identity drew the attention of the nation’s media: Old Hickory’s slave mastery and his support of southern disunionism. Critics highlighted accusations that Jackson had been a slave trader prior to the War of 1812, which Jackson denied. This charge called into question his moral judgment and fitness for office. “There is no charge which ought to affect more seriously the reputation and prospects of General Jackson than that of speculating in slaves,” the Daily National Journal (Washington, D.C.) declared in mid-October. “Could the people of the U. States, under the influence of a momentary infatuation, elevate to the first office in the nation a man who had been engaged in carrying slaves from one State to another, for the purposes of traffic and profit,” the editorial continued, “ages would be insufficient to wipe away the foul stain from the annals of our republic.”

Frontiersman or Southern Gentleman? Newspaper Coverage of Andrew Jackson during the 1828 Presidential Campaign


A Light on Past Lives: The Illuminating Effects of Electronic Resources on Biographical Research

The most revolutionary change in biography writing is the advent of digitized newspapers. Unlike microfilm, which simply reproduced newspapers on film, these new electronic records provide what we biographers and historians have long dreamed for—a means of finding a needle in the haystack.

Let me explain. For years folks like me have been using the great newspaper collections in our nation’s libraries, archives, and other repositories. The contemporaneous accounts are like gold. But as with the pursuit of this precious metal, we have not been able to mine all of it. In fact, using our previously inadequate research tools, many of the best veins have remained untapped.

Essentially our choice was to read every page of a newspaper’s run or use dates to guide our research. So, for instance, if I wanted to discover what was said about a particular artist, I might have looked at issues of a newspaper published around the opening date of an exhibit. But if an art critic wrote a review several weeks later, the likelihood was that I would miss it.

Lacking dates, I could alternatively turn to a newspaper index such as the one produced by the venerable New York Times. However, unbeknownst to many researchers, this index is not complete. In keeping with the newspaper’s motto “All the News Fit to Print,” its indexers only included those items they judged fit to be indexed. A lot never earned a reference.

So without a date or without an index entry, the millions of pages of newspapers have remained as inaccessible to writers as the Manhattan white pages would be if one had little more than a first name—a lot of great information, but unreachable.

A Light on Past Lives: The Illuminating Effects of Electronic Resources on Biographical Research


Supplementing Early American Imprints: The Extraordinary Collection of Michael Zinman

Many of the hitherto unknown early American imprints now being digitized by Readex at the Library Company of Philadelphia were acquired in 2000, a mere ten years ago, from Michael Zinman, a private collector who surely ranks among the greatest Americana collectors of all time. Zinman’s collection of some 11,500 books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed in the thirteen colonies and the United States through the year 1800 was the largest such collection assembled in the 20th century, and larger than all but a handful of institutional collections. Not counting a great many duplicates, the Zinman collection added roughly 5,000 imprints to the collections of the Library Company. Including materials on deposit from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, its holdings then stood at over 17, 500 imprints, second only to the American Antiquarian Society, which has about 22,000. The total number known is over 45,000.


At a Council held in Boston January 8. 1679. The Council doth upon further Consideration judge meet to alter the day of Thanksgiving. [Boston: J. Foster, 1679]

Supplementing Early American Imprints: The Extraordinary Collection of Michael Zinman


Resolving a Stolen Past: The General Allotment Act, Individual Indian Money Accounts, and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

In December 2009 and at the end of a thirteen-year journey through three administrations and an array of proceedings against four Secretaries of the Interior, a Class Action Settlement Agreement was reached in Cobell v. Salazar before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. This accord recommends a two-part resolution to claims of alleged federal mismanagement of American Indian tribal funds and other assets, resulting from the government’s failure to meet its fiduciary responsibilities as specified by the General Allotment Act of 1887. These paths consist of a payment to individual tribe members to address monetary claims, and of a land program to consolidate more than 140,000 individual Indian allotments and over four million fractionated interests derived from the land distribution process of the Act and subsequent legislation. The Department of the Interior’s summary of this decision included a pertinent 40-acre allotment example. This example was originally described in Hodel v. Irving (481 U.S. 704, 713 [1987]) as “one of the most fractionated parcels of land in the world,” a parcel that produced roughly $1,100 of annual income for its 439 unequal owners. 1 Such fragmentation is systemic and has been censured in studies such as the 1928 Meriam Report.


Elouise Cobell filed her class action suit in 1996 and originally thought it would take only three years to resolve the issues. She joined Secretary Salazar and Attorney General Holder in making the announcement.
(Photo credit: Tami A. Heilemann-DOI)

Resolving a Stolen Past: The General Allotment Act, Individual Indian Money Accounts, and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set


In Praise of Librarians and Archivists: Appreciating the Colleagues Who Make Professors' Jobs Easier

Since I was a child begging my mother to take me to the library on a daily basis, I have appreciated the designated keepers of books. Conducting research as an undergraduate student made me aware of the specialized jobs that academic librarians did every day to make life easier for the clueless young people like me who wandered into the building with no idea about how to find academic journal articles or primary sources. As a graduate student, my appreciation for academic librarians only grew. I also became acquainted with archivists, primarily at the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Library of Congress, who explained the mysteries of microfilm readers and emerged out of “the stacks” with the material necessary for me not only to complete my graduate degrees but also to satisfy my intellectual curiosity. Becoming a faculty member has allowed me to work with academic librarians as colleagues. Over the past few years, I have appreciated not only their willingness to assist my students with searching for and acquiring sources but also for the different perspective that they bring to the inner workings of a university.

In Praise of Librarians and Archivists: Appreciating the Colleagues Who Make Professors' Jobs Easier


Preserving the Library in the Digital Age

Librarians, educators, journalists and others often rave about the potential and promise of electronic databases. Let's face it, I rave, too. For my previous book, Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution, and my current book on the Boston Tea Party, I have found Readex collections like America's Historical Newspapers and Early American Imprints invaluable for discovering new sources, learning more about eighteenth-century readers, confirming citations and drawing new comparisons.

I've had a lot of chances to reflect on how I gain access to sources. As a scholar whose sources are over 200 years old, it still amazes me how much I can read without ever leaving my study. Sometimes there are frustrating gaps in the available electronic databases, which can be unwieldy or misleading. Still, on occasions when I need to check a fact or a footnote without leaving my study, they're massively convenient.

Preserving the Library in the Digital Age


Digital News You Can Use: Observations on Digitizing Historic Newspapers

One of the biggest challenges to digitizing archival and special collections material is to prioritize your projects. Budget pressures aside, there are the standard considerations of historical subject matter, material format, current preservation needs, technical limitations and institutional priorities. After directing several digital projects, I've realized that one guiding principle has always helped me to decide.

During one of my first workshops in digitization, the presenter advised the audience that whatever digital project you decide to create, you will marry it for life. The presenter that day was Liz Bishoff, founding coordinator of the Colorado Digitization Project, now the Collaborative Digitization Program. Most people don't think of a digital project as a long-term commitment, but that's exactly what it becomes. A digital project is a digital collection, and all collections need not only a vision, but also a commitment to accuracy, service and preservation.

With Ms. Bishoff's advice in mind, I considered a number of potential subjects for my first digital archives project at Franklin and Marshall College. I quickly settled on digitizing the college's student newspaper, "The College Reporter." Established in 1873, the Franklin and Marshall student newspaper already had a long-term relationship with the students, faculty and alumni of the college. Digitization would enable the paper to be indexed and keyword-searchable for the first time. In addition, full images from the paper would now be available for browsing via the Web, all completely free of charge. The appeal and benefits were obvious. It was now just a matter of contracting the scanning, distillation and hosting processes with Olive Software, Incorporated.

Digital News You Can Use: Observations on Digitizing Historic Newspapers


What's Cooking in the Library? Tested Recipes for Building Digital Libraries

In addition to the ever-increasing interest in digitizing materials for preservation, access and sustainability, interest in creating new digital collections is also on the rise. Digital collections are natural extensions to the idea of the library, an idea which itself has expanded rapidly in recent history—from physical collections to the concept of a collection. As with building physical collections, creating digital collections is arduous and richly rewarding.

For those beginning to create digital collections, the technicalities of digitization are only a small part of the larger process. The larger process requires planning all aspects of the project, especially accessibility and sustainability. Luckily, we can learn from the digitization work of others who have already documented their process. However, the individual requirements of projects emerge from specific collections and institutions and vary accordingly. 1 Those variations require extensive planning time even when using existing models.

In The Mythical Man-Month, Frederick P. Brooks offers a general recipe for software development, comprised of:

  • 1/3 planning
  • 1/6 coding
  • 1/4 component test and early system test
  • 1/4 system test, all components in hand (p. 20)

While Brooks focuses on software engineering, the planning required to develop a digital library project is similar. The longest single chunk of time for the first project iteration should be in planning. Planning is essential to project success because poorly planned projects are difficult to salvage. Brooks' law, "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later," is equally applicable to many digital library projects.2 Proper planning plots the necessary infrastructure so that time-consuming and costly conversions do not become necessary.

What's Cooking in the Library? Tested Recipes for Building Digital Libraries


How Libraries Can Win in Today's Web 2.0 Environment

When librarians talk about developing patron services in the Web 2.0 environment, I often wonder if they are simply expressing a desire to deliver more engaging services, or whether they are truly embracing the Web 2.0 philosophy. For most, it’s likely the former, but over the past 18 months, a growing number of library administrators have been actively searching for ways to capture the fast-paced development environment utilized by Web 2.0 organizations.

In October 2008 at the Readex Digital Institute, Dartmouth College’s David Seaman presented "From Ponderous Perfection to Perpetual Beta: Library Services and Superabundant Information." He talked specifically about his institution’s desire to develop a more nimble infrastructure for creating and testing new patron services. In a sense, Seaman was asking if a library can become a Web 2.0 organization.

It’s an interesting question, as the Web 2.0 concept is, in many ways, more about a philosophy itself than the technologies or services that the philosophy has spawned.1 More specifically, Web 2.0 is grounded in the idea of perpetual development, or “perpetual beta,” and of treating users as equal partners in the development process. Seaman’s talk raised two important questions that I o;d like to explore further: first, what happens within this environment when library services are not successful? And second, what is that one thing—that “big win" for libraries—that will keep users coming back, even if new services fail?

How Libraries Can Win in Today's Web 2.0 Environment


Heart or Muscle? The Library in the Digital Age

At the Readex Digital Institute in October 2008, the presentations and discussions were thought-provoking and stimulating. In her presentation "The Collections Collaborative: Putting Content into the Flow," Meg Bellinger, Associate University Librarian for Integrated Library Systems and Technical Services at Yale, included a slide showing the inscription over the entrance to the Sterling Memorial Library. It reads, "The Library is the Heart of the University."

There has been much talk in recent years about the Library losing its place of prominence as the heart or soul of the academy. Since the dawn of the Internet and the ever-quickening pace of digitized knowledge sources, the privileged position of the Library as the intellectual home of the university has—in the minds of students and even some faculty—given way to the perception that the real source of knowledge is the Web. Librarians increasingly find it necessary to promote their place on campus, to attract students and faculty back into the library or, at the very least, to justify their continued value to the academic mission of their institution.

Heart or Muscle? The Library in the Digital Age


Welcome to The Readex Report

This online publication explores diverse aspects of digital historical collections and provides insight into web-based resources, including the Archive of Americana and Archive of International Studies.

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