Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Really old and really neat stuff

Cuneiform Tablets: From the Reign of Gudea of Lagash to Shalmanassar III

The Library of Congress is an inexhaustible source of really old and neat stuff. They also have a healthy dose of family history related items. The particular tablet above is in the Global Gateway in the Digital Collections. The collections include Collaborative Digital Libraries. As I teach classes on Internet resources, I am continually surprised at the general lack of knowledge about what I would consider to be basic Websites. One of these is the Library of Congress. Quoting from a Wikipedia entry:
The collections of the Library of Congress include more than 32 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 61 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America, including the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible (one of only four perfect vellum copies known to exist)[11]; over 1 million US government publications; 1 million issues of world newspapers spanning the past three centuries; 33,000 bound newspaper volumes; 500,000 microfilm reels; over 6,000 comic book[12] titles; the world's largest collection of legal materials; films; 4.8 million maps; sheet music; 2.7 million sound recordings; more than 13.7 million prints and photographic images including fine and popular art pieces and architectural drawings; the Betts Stradivarius; and the Cassavetti Stradivarius.
Compare those figures with these listed for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City:
The library holds genealogical records for over 110 countries, territories, and possessions. Its collections include over 1.6 million rolls of microfilmed records onsite and access the total collection of more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, and other formats; 4,500 periodicals; 3,725 electronic resources including subscriptions to the major genealogical websites.
OK, so the facts are probably wrong, but the point is obvious, the Library of Congress has roughly 89 times more books than the FHL. So how many times have you been to or used the resources of the Library of Congress? The Family History Library is obviously more focused and whole lot more helpful and it is a lot cheaper to stay in Salt Lake than Washington D.C., but what about online resources, those you can access from any computer? Surprisingly, many genealogists are not even aware of all of the online resources of FamilySearch, the genealogical organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much less those of the Library of Congress.

Take for example the National Digital Information Infrastructure & Preservation Program. When was the last time you used this resource? What about the Library of Congress Web Archives Minerva?

The point is that there are so many resources that most researchers are virtually walking around with blinders when they limit their inquiries to a few very popular Websites or repositories. I do understand that there is only so much time in the world, but as researchers (if we want to be considered such) we need to broaden our perspective and realize that not all of the family history resources in the world are conveniently labeled as such.

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