Monday, June 12, 2006

Three cheers for RLG's Archivegrid

The Research Libraries Group has recently launched an amazing database of historical archives called Archivegrid. Arhivegrid provides search access to thousands of archives and special collections worldwide as more and more institutions contribute their holdings. Participants include the International Institute of Social History (IISH), American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, BBC Written Archives Centre, CBS News, United Nations, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Library of Congress, as well as hundreds of historical societies, college and university archives, and museum archives (ranging from the Fogg Art Museum to the National Museum of Roller Skating).

I decided to play around with Archivegrid and do a few searches. I started with names. Searching on George Gerbner led me to the Dell Hymes Papers (1965-1985) at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. A search on Elihu Katz linked me to the Henry R. Cassirer Papers (1936-2005) at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. (Cassirer, I learned, was a CBS executive and these papers document his life and career, particularly his work at CBS in the 1940s and his long association with UNESCO.) I threw Robert Louis Shayon's name into the engine and got quite a few hits, one to the University of Iowa's National Citizens Committee for Broadcast Papers. I paired "public service announcements" with "children" and found an interesting entry: "Correspondence and subject files relating to television commercials for food products aimed at children, 1975-1978" at the New York State Archives. A search on Radio Free Europe turns up 170 items. For folks doing thorough historical research this is a good archive to keep in mind for a lot of primary source material that otherwise flies under the radar.

In its launch/publicity mode Archivegrid has been free to all. That is likely to change very soon but it will be available to member institutions of the Research Libraries Group. Lucky for us Penn is a member!

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