Guide to visiting libraries & archives in the United States

[Cross-posted from the main VHL blog]

naraSummer is prime time for students and researchers to plan trips to visit libraries and archives. If you’ve never been to the United States to conduct archival research before, you may find the process a little daunting. We have therefore put together a guide to the some of the key libraries and archives our readers might plan on going to, along with various tips of things to consider when thinking about and planning your trip.

The guide is available on LibGuides at We welcome feedback on the guide and hope many of you find it useful!

Finding digitised newspapers and magazines on Google Books

My New Year’s resolution is to try and update this blog a bit more frequently than I’ve managed in the last year or so, and yet it’s already February! Anyway, a few enquiries lately have reminded me that I had meant to write up some guidance to searching for archives of newspapers and magazines that have been digitised by Google.

Thanks to Google’s mass digitisation project, it is possible to find old issues of hundreds of newspapers and magazines via the Google News Archive and via Google Books, many of which date from after 1922 (the end-date for the public domain in the US, and the date after which freely digitised sources become much scarcer on the web). It’s a fantastic resource if you’re looking for news or periodical sources for 20th century American history, but not one that is all that immediately intuitive to navigate.

Google News Archive:

The Google News Archive contains digitised issues of hundreds of newspapers, many from the United States. If you visit the main page (link above) you are presented with an alphabetical listing of all the newspapers for which some digitised issues are available. It tells you quite clearly how many issues are available and from what time period, but unhelpfully does not provide any more information than that about the newspapers themselves – tricky if you’re looking for papers from a particular location and don’t know what they’re called, and newspapers often have frustratingly generic titles if they don’t include an obvious indication of location. There is also no way to browse or limit the papers you see by location or by date, but if you know you’re looking for a particular newspaper and date then it is easy to find whether it’s available here.

Clicking on a newspaper title will bring you to a screen where you can browse issues in a timeline, displayed by day, week, month, year or decade. If you start with ‘decade’ then you can ‘zoom in’ to the other levels by clicking on the header of the column. Once you click on a particular edition, you get a nice user-friendly display where you can zoom in and out, flip through the pages, and even link directly to a single article. It is not however possible either to print or to download pages or articles.

Timeline view

As well as browsing the newspapers, you can of course search. Google provides two search boxes at the top of the main screen – the one right at the top is the normal main Google search box, and then underneath there’s another box with two buttons next to it, appearing to offer you a choice between searching the archive and searching the web. Alas this is all a mirage – Google have retired the option to search the archive directly from here and if you type something in the search box and click ‘search archive’ it just runs a normal web search anyway! It is possible to search the archive but you have to explicitly tell it to search the digitised newspapers by typing ‘’ into the search bar on Google followed by your search terms. You can then use ‘search tools’ to limit your results by a custom date range.

Searching digitised newspapersMagazines on Google Books:

It is possible to browse digitised magazines via Google Books, but it’s not at all obvious if you don’t know how! If you go to the main Google Books page the search button just says ‘search books’ and the ‘browse books and magazines’ option takes you to an entirely unhelpful directory of random books according to various subjects. What you need to do instead is to go to, where you will find an alphabetical listing of digitised magazines by title. Unlike the listing of newspapers that I described above, this initial listing doesn’t give you any indication of how many issues or which years are available. To see that, you either need to click on the magazine title and then choose ‘browse all issues’ in the left-hand sidebar, or click on the small ‘browse all issues’ link underneath the title. This will then bring you to a full listing of all the issues available, which is unfortunately nowhere near as user-friendly to navigate as the timeline display for the newspapers.

Another odd quirk is that to get into the magazine itself, you need to click on the title link, not the cover image for the issue. If you click on the latter, you are taken to a descriptive page and then have to click on ‘preview this magazine’ to get to the content itself!

Title entry for magazinesViewing magazines is similar to viewing the newspapers, with zoom options and smooth scrolling through the pages. You can also choose to view multiple pages at once, which can be helpful for scanning through to find the page you want.

Viewing multiple pagesAs with the newspapers, you can only link to the issue, not print or download. You can however search within the magazine much more easily, using the search box in the left-hand sidebar. The default is to search within the particular issue you are viewing, but there is a checkbox to search all issues as well.

Magazine search

Welcome to our new home!

After a happy six years on Blogger, we have decided to move the VHL blogs to a new home, on the Bodleian Libraries’ own blogging platform. This gives us a more ‘official’ URL and ties us in more closely to other Bodleian blogs like that of the History Faculty Library.

From now on, you can find the main VHL blog at and the US Studies Resources blog at The links to and from our website, Facebook and Twitter are being updated, so if you get your news from the blog that way you should continue to do so.

If you have subscribed to the blog either via RSS or email you should not need to do anything as we will be updating the settings for our subscription service, Feedburner. You should continue to receive new posts exactly as before, though please do let us know if not so that we can check it’s all working as it should.

New sites saved on our delicious page

Here are the links most recently added to our list of useful free web resources on delicious.

American Transcendentalism
Collection of texts, criticism and other sources relating to 19th century American transcendentalism
The Antislavery Literature Project
The Antislavery Literature Project engages in public scholarship by providing educational access to the literature and history of the antislavery movement in the United States.
British Virginia
British Virginia is a series of scholarly editions of documents touching on the colony. These texts range from the 16th and 17th-century literature of English exploration to the 19th-century writing of loyalists and other Virginians who continued to identify with Great Britain. British Virginia editions appear principally in digital form, freely downloadable.
Gilder Lehrman Center Online Documents
The Gilder Lehrman Center’s online document collection contains over 200 individual items, including speeches, letters, cartoons and graphics, interviews, and articles.
Founders Online
Correspondence and Other Writings of Six Major Shapers of the United States: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Over 119,000 searchable documents, fully annotated, from the authoritative, federally funded Founding Fathers Papers projects.
Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world.
Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls (Stanford)
Stanford’s Dime Novel and Story Paper Collection consists of over 8,000 individual items, and includes long runs of the major dime novel series (Frank Leslie’s Boys of America, Happy Days, Beadle’s New York Dime Library, etc.) and equally strong holdings of story papers like the New York Ledger and Saturday Night.
Cornell University Law Library Trial Pamphlets Collection
The Trials Pamphlet collection at the Cornell University Law Library consists of pamphlets ranging in date from the late 1600s to the late 1800s. As a collection, these trial pamphlets are a unique resource that captures a formative period in American history from the early years of the republic, through the turmoil of the Civil War, to the emergence of the United States as a leading industrial nation in the late 1800s.
FDR Library Digitized Collections
Digitized materials and finding aids for the collections at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum
Thomas Addis Emmet collection (New York Public Library)
The Emmet Collection was assembled over a period of fifty years by Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, a renowned surgeon and one of the early collectors of American manuscripts of the revolutionary era. His collection of 94 volumes of manuscripts and extra-illustrated books was purchased by John S. Kennedy and presented to The New York Public Library in 1896.The portion of the Emmet Collection housed in the Manuscripts and Archives Division consists of approximately 10,800 historical manuscripts relating chiefly to the period prior to, during, and following the American Revolution. The collection contains letters and documents by the signers of the Declaration of Independence as well as nearly every prominent historical figure of the period. The manuscripts are arranged in 28 topics, most of them milestones in early American history.
The Daily Progress, 1892-1923
Digitised issues from the Charlottesville, VA newspaper, available from the University of Virginia | Library of Congress
Contains legislation from the 107th Congress (2001) to the present, member profiles from the 93rd Congress (1973) to the present, and some member profiles from the 80th through the 92nd Congresses (1947 to 1972). is in an initial beta phase with plans to transform the Library of Congress’s existing congressional information system into a modern, durable and user-friendly resource. Eventually, it will incorporate all of the information available on
US Mass Shootings, 1982-2012: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation
Full data set (available in CSV, XLS, TXT and Google docs) from Mother Jones’ investigation into mass shootings in the United States, begun following the Aurora, CO shooting in July 2012

Santa Claus and reindeer, Alaska, 1893

As it’s the last day before the Christmas break, I’ve been poking around for something Christmassy to share from one of our resources, and have come across this delightful account of playing Santa Claus with real reindeer to Eskimo children in Alaska in 1893.

I told the children about Santa Claus, and for them to tie their fur stockings up near their beds, as he was coming to visit them for the first time, and would remember every child…. It occurred to me that perhaps this was the first time in the history of civilization that a live Santa Claus made his midnight visit upon an errand of mercy with a team of reindeer.

My favourite part though, I think, is the beautifully evocative description of the night itself:

While in my stooping position at the first house, I suddenly lifted my eyes to the north and beheld the most gorgeous aurora I witnessed at any time during the winter. The night was a glorious one, cold and crisp, with the stars shining in lustrous splendor from the pale blue canopy above, and not a breath of air was stirring. Across the whole northern horizon floods of wavy light surged and swept from east to west, sending further up into the heavens streams of vapory light dancing up and down in graceful shadows, that easily led me to imagine they were caused by invisible spirits.

If that doesn’t make you feel all warm and festive, nothing will! Click on the images below to read the full extract from the report, which is contained in the US Congressional Serial Set (available via OxLIP+ for Oxford users).

Report on introduction of domesticated reindeer into Alaska. with maps and illustrations, by Sheldon Jackson, general agent of education in Alaska. 1894, S.Exec.Doc. 70 (53rd Congress, 2nd Session), contained in the US Congressional Serial Set.

I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing Christmas and New Year!

Follow me to visit libraries and archives in the USA

(Cross-posted to the main VHL blog)

In April, I was selected as the 2011 recipient of the CILIP/ESU Travelling Librarian Award, which supports a UK librarian to travel to the United States to visit libraries and archives. The award is designed to promote and develop UK-US library links, and is an excellent opportunity for me both to learn more about historic library collections in the US and to share information on the American collections at Oxford with librarians in the United States.

I’ll be flying out to the US one month today, on 17th September, and will be blogging my trip at I’ll also be tweeting as @jlrawson. You can view my itinerary on the blog at – I’ll be visiting a variety of libraries and archives with significant historical collections, all in the east coast area. Follow me as I travel and gain an insight into the places that I visit!  If you have things you’d like to know, or questions you’d like me to ask while I’m there, feel free to let me know.


Welcome to the US Studies Resources at Oxford blog!  The posts that follow are intended to help students and researchers make the most of the collections available at the Vere Harmsworth Library, as well as more widely at the Bodleian and University of Oxford and online.

I’m aiming to post a couple of times a month, all being well (those who are regular faces at the VHL and RAI will know though that there are often many other demands on my time…), and cover both specific resources and more general topics.   Some posts will reflect enquiries I’ve been dealing with, and others may be more practical guidance on locating and using resources.  Hopefully the blog will build up into a useful resource in its own right.  Please feel free to let me know if there are things you’d like me to blog about – topics or resources – and I’ll see what I can do!

If you want to keep up with general news from the VHL, you’ll find that on the VHL blog.

I’m working on the first ‘proper’ post as we speak, and it should be up in a few days.  If you don’t want to miss out, then why not subscribe by RSS or email using the handy links on the right.