TITLE: Making of America

ACCESS: http://moa.umdl.umich.edu

Providing full text access to primary source documents in American history, Making of America (MoA) is a valuable resource for faculty, students and other researchers. With over one million pages of text and images currently available, MoA is also a very significant collection of digitized books and journals dating from the antebellum period through reconstruction (1850-1877). Since 1995, when MoA began as a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan and Cornell University, the intent of the project has been to use digital technology to preserve and make accessible historical collections held at both institutions. While the collection may eventually grow to include documents from a 100-year period (1850-1950), MoA at present thematically focuses on the mid-nineteenth century. This period was chosen for its continuing interest to scholars and the general population, the manageable size of the collection, the rapidly deteriorating condition of many of the publications, and its public domain status.

After documents are selected for inclusion, they are scanned and SGML encoded. Optical Character Recognition is then performed on the documents to further improve search capabilities. Given this structure, users may browse journal and book bibliographies, as well as perform simple keyword, Boolean, frequency, proximity and index searches. Pages may be viewed and printed in either PDF or text versions of the scanned images. The interface is relatively easy to negotiate, with pull-down menu options and help files easy to find.

Despite its relative ease of use, it's important to remember that MoA is also a sophisticated research tool. Although the collection is currently limited in scope to a relatively short twenty-seven year period in American history, the depth of the collection is extensive. Ranging from single images to journal articles, journal issues and entire books, MoA is best viewed with frames-capable browsers. Access requires a fairly robust personal computer and modem connection. Users may need to be cautioned that books are downloaded as large text files. These very large files are not formatted by page, may take a long time to download, and can cause web browsers to crash.

When used in conjunction with other digital library collections, such as the Library of Congress American Memory Project, the Humanities Text Initiative, National Archives and Records Administration Archival Information Locator, and subscription databases such as JSTOR, American history scholars using MoA have access to a growing collection of primary source documents.

Linda Frederiksen
Washington State University Vancouver
frederik@vancouver.wsu.edu


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