Several collections of interesting and rare materials relating to American history have just been added to the award-winning American Memory collections available from the Library of Congress. These new collections have been added to the more than 80 already freely available from American Memory, which is a project of the National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress. By the end of 2000, the program will bring more than 5 million items of American history to citizens everywhere through the Internet.
"The American Revolution and Its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789" represents an important historical record of the mapping of North America and the Caribbean. There are more than 2,000 maps and charts in this collection; almost 600 maps are original manuscript drawings. Users can compare versions of several of the most important maps of the period, follow the development of a particular map from the manuscript sketch to the finished printed version and its foreign derivatives, and examine the cartographic styles and techniques of surveyors and map makers from seven countries: Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Holland, Italy and the United States.
"Band Music from the Civil War Era" makes available examples of a brilliant style of brass band music that flourished in the 1850s in the United States and remained popular through the 19th century. Bands of this kind served in the armies of both the North and the South during the Civil War. This online collection includes both printed and manuscript music (mostly in the form of "part books" for individual instruments) selected from the collections of the Music Division of the Library of Congress and the Walter Dignam Collection of the Manchester Historic Association (Manchester, New Hampshire). The collection features more than 700 musical compositions, as well as eight full-score modern editions and 19 recorded examples of brass band music in performance.
"Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections" is a multiformat ethnographic field collection documenting African American, Arabic, Bahamian, British American, Cuban, Greek, Italian, Minorcan, Seminole and Slavic cultures throughout Florida. Recorded by Robert Cook, Herbert Halpert, Zora Neale Hurston, Stetson Kennedy, Alton Morris and others in conjunction with the Florida Federal Writers' Project, the Florida Music Project and the Joint Committee on Folk Arts of the Work Projects Administration, it features folk songs and folktales in many languages. The online presentation provides access to 376 sound recordings and 106 accompanying materials, including an essay on Florida folklife by Zora Neale Hurston. "Florida Folklife" is made possible by the generous support of the Texaco Foundation.
Also during this period, approximately 2,000 posters were created by artists working for the WPA. The Library's collection of 907 is the largest. This assemblage of striking artworks, diverse in their design as well as subject matter, is featured in "By the People, for the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943." The Web presentation showcases those silkscreen, lithograph and woodcut posters designed to publicize health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions and theatrical and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The posters were made possible by one of the first federal government programs to support the arts and were added to the Library's holdings in the 1940s.
The site also offers three "Special Presentations":
- Collection Highlights. These posters were selected by Library staff who have worked closely with the WPA posters. The posters were selected with an eye toward their design, representation of a variety of U.S. states and artists and as a way of featuring those posters that have not been widely published. The presentation is divided into seven subjects.
- Interview with WPA Silkscreen Artist Tony Velonis. This brief conversation with Mr. Velonis, who discusses his WPA experiences, took place in 1994, when the Library hosted the symposium on the WPA called "Amassing 'American Stuff': The New Deal Arts Collections of the Library of Congress." The interview can be seen and heard.
- Federal Art Project Calendar. This calendar was created by the New York City Poster Division in 1938 to show government officials the skilled artistic work the Federal Art Project was doing for the WPA. The Library received a copy of the calendar as a gift in 1975.
Two collections of materials relating to the American West have also been added. The digitization of these materials was made possible by the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition. During its three years, this program, which concluded with the 1998-99 round of award winners, provided funds to 33 institutions across the country to digitize their collections and make them available on American Memory as well as on their own Web sites. Ameritech donated $2 million to the Library for the competition.
The first collection, "American Indians of the Pacific Northwest," contains more than 2,300 photographs and 7,700 pages of text relating to the American Indians in two cultural areas of the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest Coast and Plateau. These resources illustrate many aspects of life, including housing, clothing, crafts, transportation, education and employment. The materials are drawn from the extensive collections of the University of Washington Libraries, the Cheney Cowles Museum/Eastern Washington State Historical Society in Spokane and the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.
The presentation also includes 10 illustrated essays on specific tribal groups and on cross-cultural topics, written by anthropologists, historians and teachers who have studied the rich heritage of Pacific Northwest Native Americans.
The other collection is "History of the American West, 1860-1920: Photographs from the Collection of the Denver Public Library," drawn from the institution's Western History and Genealogy Department. The more than 30,000 photographs illuminate many aspects of the history of the American West. Most of them were taken between 1860 and 1920 and illustrate Colorado towns and landscapes, the importance of mining in the history of Colorado and the West and the lives of Native Americans from more than 40 tribes living west of the Mississippi River.
Also available are special presentations on "Native American Women"; "The 10th Mountain Division," ski troops who were based in Colorado and saw action in Italy during World War II; and photographer "L.C. McClure and Denver, the City Beautiful."