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Resources: Digital Archives

American Prison Witness Archive: Spearheaded by Dr. Doran Larson of Hamilton College in New York, the APW is the first known online archive to feature the writing of incarcerated people and “contributions by correctional officers, prison staff, and prison administrators, thus creating a true meeting place and venue for comparative expression by and study of all of those who live and work inside American prisons.”

Darwin Manuscripts Project of the American Museum of Natural History:
“On this site, you will find the world’s first & only large collection of full colour, high-resolution images of faithfully transcribed Darwin manuscripts,” writes David Kohn of The American Museum of Natural History. The “DARBASE,” as it’s called, “catalogues some 96,000 pages of Darwin scientific manuscripts… currently represented by 16,094 high resolution digital images. Thus far 9,871 manuscript pages have been transcribed to exacting standards and all are presented in easy to read format.” The database is a work in progress.

Freedmen’s Bureau Project: This just-launched archive promises to be an incredible, crowdsourced/crowd-built archive of African-American history. From the website: “To help bring thousands of records to light, the Freedmen’s Bureau Project was created as a set of partnerships between FamilySearch International and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro­-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), and the California African American Museum. Tens of thousands of volunteers are needed to make these records searchable online. No specific time commitment is required, and anyone may participate. Volunteers simply log on, pull up as many scanned documents as they like, and enter the names and dates into the fields provided. Once published, information for millions of African Americans will be accessible, allowing families to build their family trees and connect with their ancestors.”

Latin American and Caribbean Ephemera Archive of Princeton University: Latin Americanists will particularly enjoy this trove, which is described by the university as follows: “The bulk of the ephemera currently found in the Digital Archive of Latin American and Caribbean Ephemera was originally created around the turn of the 20th century and after, with some originating as recently as within the last year. The formats or genre most commonly included are pamphlets, flyers, leaflets, brochures, posters, stickers, and postcards. These items were originally created by a wide array of social activists, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, political parties, public policy think tanks, and other types of organizations in order to publicize their views, positions, agendas, policies, events, and activities. The vast majority are rare, hard-to-find primary sources unavailable elsewhere.”

Library of Congress: Looking for archival material on practically any topic? This should be one of your initial points of departure. There are photos, letters and other documents, sound files, and much much more in this extensive online archive.

Mexican Digital Library: Like most, if not all, of the online archives listed here, the Mexican Digital Library is an ever-evolving online repository of materials that, in some cases, are centuries old.

New York Public Library’s Digital Projects: From the literary to the ultra-niche (theatrical lighting; historical menu collection), the NYPL’s digital project archives are a treasure that can generate dozens of story ideas and serve as a research resource for many others.

Flickr’s The Commons: The online photo sharing/storage service, Flickr, has an ever-growing Commons that is not only useful for journalists and editors sourcing images, but also for research purposes. The Commons includes some impressive national and international partners, including Smithsonian and Cornell University Library, as well as some more obscure and unexpected members, including state and federal governments of Latin American and European countries.

This list is by no means comprehensive. If you have a suggestion to add, please leave a comment below so I can update this post. Thanks!


One response »

  1. Thanks for this, Julie. The Western History Archives at the Denver Public Library are great for anyone researching the American West.

    There’s a history/genealogy resource:

    And a historical photo archive:


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