- First, libraries of major research universities. In addition to providing access to disability rights materials, the Bancroft Library has digitized documents related to the free speech movement and the wartime relocation of Japanese Americans, to name just a few topics. There's lots of good stuff to be had on the Harvard University Library's website, including images of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century crime broadsides, a vast array of immigration sources, more than 4,000 legal portraits, and documents from the Nuremberg trials. Over at Yale, I particularly like the Avalon Project, a collection of documents in law, history, and diplomacy.
- Second, government libraries and archives. The National Archives and Records Administration has digitized over 125,000 historical documents. You can find them through NARA's searchable database or through the topical "galleries" (e.g., "Courts and Cases," "Federal Programs") on the website. NARA also offers a link to major historical documents, in case you want quick access to an image of the Bill of Rights or the Emancipation Proclamation. The Library of Congress has digitized a number of useful resources, including historical newspapers, documents from the Constitutional Convention, and evidence from famous trials. Most presidential libraries also have digitization projects. I've used the resources on the Harry S. Truman Library website and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library website. These online repositories are sometimes more limited, but usually offer speeches, photos, executive orders, and oral histories.
- Third, historical societies and institutes. These archives often have online exhibits or "projects" (such as the one the Gilder Lehman Institute assembled on the Dred Scott decision) which hint at the material in the broader collections. Some, like the Massachusetts Historical Society, have put vast amounts of material online.
But I can't end on that note: a digital archives update is not complete without a reference to the great digitization debates.
- The "millenarian prophecies" that historian Anthony Grafton described in his 2007 New Yorker piece continue. Whither paper books and brick-and-mortar libraries? I encourage interested readers to consult the Historical Society blog for ruminations on this topic.
- More pragmatic, perhaps, are conversations about the limits and potential pitfalls of the digitization endeavor. Columbia Law School recently hosted a symposium on the legal issues (copyright, defamation, privacy) that can arise from making archives accessible on the web. (Concise takeaway: "putting archival material online is often a lot easier said than done.")
- Meanwhile, this era of trim budgets has given new urgency to ongoing discussions about which physical archives should be digitized and what information from the virtual realm (a.k.a. "born-digital" materials) ought to be preserved. (Should we devote resources to saving "tweets"? The Library of Congress thinks so.)