A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875
March 12, 2008 by pfriendsof
The Library of Congress and the Law Library of Congress offer a rousing digital library, supplying a fix of historical and legal documents. They proudly proclaim that:
“Beginning with the Continental Congress in 1774, America’s national legislative bodies have kept records of their proceedings. The records of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the United States Congress make up a rich documentary history of the construction of the nation and the development of the federal government and its role in the national life. These documents record American history in the words of those who built our government.”For the most part these are full image scans of text documents; however they are fully searchable and available in high quality tiff images! And if that isn’t rousing enough, their collection of Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784-1894 is in full color, high quality, and searchable in many ways (even by tribe!). Moreover, an option for greater image quality is available using MrSID (Multi-resolution Seamless Image Database)
. Scans of photos, busts, painting, and other artifacts are also viewable in certain areas. For example The Louisiana Purchase Legislative Timeline includes an image of old slave quarters, a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, and a city plan for New Orleans:
Most of the items fall into the public domain, given that they are out of copyright and/or public Government documents. However, items like the old slave quarters photograph may be under copyright (printed 1940); while their metadata gives an author, Wolcott, Marion Post, it doesn’t state it’s current copyright facts. Another problem with the site is the user interface. Apparently the site hasn’t been updated since 2003 and it certainly feels that way. The gaudy peach background and lay out make for an out of date web experience. The search functions and appendix features provide great access and searchability but red links on a peach background make searching a bit cumbersome.
The Library of Congress has an intended audience: US Congress and American citizens. However, people from all over the world can access this information. Overall, this is an excellent resource for anyone looking to see and/or research artifacts from American history. Excluding the graphical interface- the high quality digitized records, comprehensive metadata (see example), and the searchability functions leaves little to be desired.