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Historic Documents

Technology is transforming literary works, early photography, government records and personal letters into a digital format that can be accessed around the globe. Libraries, historians, museums and universities are spearheading this digitization process. Below, we explore a few extraordinary exhibits that have moved from the stacks to the screen.

  • American Treasures of the Library of Congress
    Looking for recipes from the first American cookbook? You'll find it here, along with images of the hand-written lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner," rough drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and much more. A unique sampling of rare books, music, manuscripts, maps, photos, drawings, audio selections and video clips gives visitors a firsthand look at a cross-section of the vast repository that has been called "America's Memory."

  • Virginia Center for Digital History
    Based at the Alderman Library on the University of Virginia campus, this organization is working on a number of historical projects that combine images, documents and newspapers. Exhibits include the "Valley of the Shadow," a comparison of Northern and Southern communities during the American Civil War; "Virtual Jamestown," which explores the legacies of the Jamestown settlement and "the Virginia experiment;" and "Race and Place: African American Community History," a collection of material on slavery and emancipation, Reconstruction, and the era of Jim Crow segregation in the South.




  • Archiving Early America
    From this site, browse newspapers, maps and writings from 18th-century America. The site also offers a very helpful explanation on how to read a 200-year-old document and other interesting tidbits on the printing process, typesetting, etc.

  • National Archives and Records Administration Exhibit Hall
    Ever wonder how Elvis came to meet former President Nixon? This online exhibit hall of the NARA offers visitors a chance to peruse documents not only from such whimsical events, but also presidential correspondence, war propaganda and documents like the Apollo 11 flight plan.

  • Avalon Project from the Yale Law School
    This project takes a different approach to preserving documents of legal, economic, political, diplomatic and government interest. Instead of offering a digital image of each document, this site offers the full text. The searchable database includes historic documents from the United States, Western Europe and the Middle East. Archived documents include the Mayflower Compact of 1620, the Louisiana Purchase, the U-2 Incident and inaugural addresses.

Search for many more American treasures in GovSpot's Historic Documents category.




   --- S.B.

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