ProQuest’s Expansion of History Vault Opens New Perspectives on American History

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ANN ARBOR — The Ann Arbor database provider ProQuest says that later this year it will open content that has been largely inaccessible to global researchers with a significant expansion of its acclaimed History Vault, a five-year program to provide central access to the key archival collections that document the most important and widely studied topics of 18th- through 20th-century America.

Six new modules will surface documents that enable fresh insight into the civil and women’s rights movements, immigration and World War II.

“History Vault uncovers and unlocks very unique views into history… primary sources that allow researchers to explore the most pivotal eras in American history at a granular, sometimes deeply personal, level,” said Susan Bokern, ProQuest vice president for information solutions. “These collections have largely been inaccessible to researchers because they have been physical collections, held in a handful of locations. We’re opening them to worldwide exploration.”

History Vault debuted in 2011 with collections covering the black freedom struggle and the Vietnam War. In 2012, six new collections were added, including the first digital access to the records of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915 (Plantations Records) that reveal detailed records of slavery in the American South.

In 2013, History Vault will build on this foundation, releasing two additional modules of NAACP papers, including internal documents relating to the group’s major campaigns — Scottsboro, anti-lynching, criminal justice, peonage, labor, and segregation and discrimination complaints and responses, along with legal department files relating to the campaigns.

Other 2013 collections will provide the first digital access to the Women’s Studies Manuscript Collections from the Schlesinger Library, enabling researcher access to documents related to voting rights, national politics, and reproductive rights. Another collection, U.S. Documents on World War II Planning, Operations, Intelligence, Axis War Crimes, and Refugees, will release in November. Researchers will also have new insight into the evolution of law and American society through a module that captures American legal manuscripts from the Harvard Law School Library.

History Vault’s supporting technology enables single source access and simplified searching of this extraordinarily varied historical content.  Original archival arrangement schemes are preserved, and metadata records and PDFs of the original documents are packaged together at the archival folder level, mimicking the user experience of browsing through archival boxes to find research treasures. 

Records from federal agencies, letters, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, financial records, and diaries are among the unique resources. Developed with controlled vocabulary indexing and full-text, faceted searching, History Vault enables researchers to drill to targeted results.  Users can also opt to page through an entire collection to explore at a more relaxed pace.  

Major events in history are indexed and those records are accessible through a timeline of events to help put individual documents into historical context. 

ProQuest History Vault will eventually house 23 million pages of digitized archival content that supports African American Studies, Women’s Studies, American History, and Political Science, among other areas.  Institutions can build their collections over time to provide an unparalleled research experience for their students and faculty who would otherwise be unable to access materials held at geographically dispersed archives. 

To learn more about ProQuest visit www.proquest.com.

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