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Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts

1 February 2017

Women’s Letters and Diaries databases

The two resources featured here provide a valuable way to see into the past, says Melanie Thorn, Subject Librarian. 



Mary Queen of Scots is one of hundreds of writers whose
experiences are published here. 
British and Irish women's letters and diaries: 1500 to 1950, and its companion North American women's letters and diaries: colonial to 1950 are databases that reveal the personal experiences of over 400 British and more than 1300 North American women from various historical eras.

For example, the American database includes the story of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who enlisted in the confederate army as Harry T. Buford in the 1870s. She wrote of her experiences in battle and as a Confederate spy, and her arrest for ‘being a woman in disguise’. "There was, evidently, something suspicious and mysterious about me; and, suspicion having once been excited, some lynx-eyed detective was not long in noting certain feminine ways I had, and which even my long practice in figuring as a man had not enabled me to get rid of." [1] 

Not only does the story point out that women fought in the Civil War, but provides insight into cultural and social understandings of women and femininity.

Gerda Lerner, an American historian who was involved in the creation of the first graduate program in women’s history in the United States, was unimpressed at the lack of interest in the topic when she entered academia in the mid 1960s.  “In my courses, the teachers told me about a world in which ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn’t exist.” [2] This was replicated in terms of research, with Lerner noting that the number of historians interested in women's history “could have fitted into a telephone booth”. [3]

Thankfully this has changed, but primary sources written by women can still be difficult to find and this is what makes these databases so valuable.

The search tool in these databases is incredibly powerful and allows you to easily search for very specific content, for example, content written by widowed women who lived in New York city in the 1860s, or for women who were writing about a particular historical event, like the bombing of Pearl Harbour. A good example of the latter is the American, Natalie Stark Crouter, who was confined in a Japanese civilian camp in the Philippines with her businessman husband and their two children throughout World War II.

She writes,  "After the children left for school, we turned on the radio about 8:15 -- and heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While listening, we heard planes and went out as usual to see them. Almost over the house, quite high, came seventeen big bombers in formation. We could see them plainly and thought they were American. I remarked, "Well, we probably won't be standing here looking up at planes like this much longer. As they passed almost opposite the house, we heard a long ripping sound like the tearing of a giant sheet and saw an enormous burst of smoke and earth near officers' quarters at Camp John Hay -- the first bombing of the Philippines before our eyes." [4]

In addition to the raw material like this, the database also includes biographies of many of the authors, providing the context of people who would otherwise be little known in history.

The two Diaries and Letters databases are available through Library Search, and the Databases A-Z. Please contact your subject librarian if you would like more details or help in using the databases: Melanie Thorn (Clayton) or  Rod Rizzi (Caulfield).

To discover more primary source databases for history see the Primary Sources library guide.






[1] Loreta Velazquez, The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Valazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieut. Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army, (Hartford, CT: T. Belknap 1876) 278,  [accessed 10 January]

[2] William Grimes, ‘Gerda Lerner, a Feminist and Historian, dies at 92’, The New York Times, 3 January 2013 [accessed 16 January 2016], (para 4 of 24)

[3] Grimes, New York Times

[4]Natalie Stark Crouter, Forbidden Diary: A Record of Wartime Internment, (New York, NY: Burt Franklin & Co. 1980) , [accessed 10 January]

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20 June 2016

Rare Books Week a must for book-lovers


Book lovers, local historians and collectors will be interested in the Melbourne Rare Books Week, to be held between July 14 and 24, 2016.

The mid-year program is a major attraction for book collectors, librarians and all who have a love of words, print on paper and literary heritage.

Monash is associated with a number of items on the program, with staff presenting topics including The Tyranny of Distance, 50 years on (Emeritus Prof Graeme Davison), Banned books exposed (Dr Patrick Spedding), Illustrated books (Stephen Herrin) and Keeping the originals (Professor Wallace Kirsop with a panel). Other speakers during the week include Emeritus Prof. Chris Browne, Adj Assoc Prof John Arnold, and former Rare Books Librarian Richard Overell.

Two of the free events are to be held at the Monash Law Chambers in Collins Street, while others are to be held at the State Library of Victoria, the Library at the Dock, the Supreme Court Library and other city venues.

All events are free, but bookings are needed in most cases. The full program and links for individual rsvps can be found on the web page.

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2 September 2015

Explore old texts in new ways

Read old texts as they were originally intended by their famous or non-famous authors, with Oxford Scholarly Editions Online , says Anne Melles, Subject Librarian for Literary Studies.


Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO) has recently added three new modules of literature to its collection. These are extensive collections of Romantics Poetry and Romantics Prose, and a very limited collection of Romantics Drama.

Works from the most famous English and European Romantic authors and poets are included, for example, Byron, Goethe, Shelley,  and Dorothy and William Wordsworth.  In addition the modules contain the works of selected philosophers of the time, including Bolzano, Godwin, and Hegel.  The collection contains fascinating insights into the world of that time:
• Lord Byron saw the waltz as "a sign of indecorum, even depravity", and his poem, Waltz: An Apostrophic Hymn By Horace Hornem, Esq, conveys his distaste.
• What did Percy Bysshe Shelley have to say of Frankenstein, the famous Gothic horror penned by his wife, Mary Shelley? Read his review of her book.
• An alderman meets his untimely demise during a fantastical feast in this prose, attributed to William Hazlitt and inspired by the opulence of the Lord Mayor's Banquet.

Primary texts in OSEO are annotated by respected scholars, for example many of the Shakespeare texts are edited by Stanley Wells.  The annotations are both textual and background in nature and provide a much useful information for students working on assignments and scholars researching this period.

Oxford provide some excellent material to help researchers learn about OSEO. You can browse A-Z and chronologically by Author, Work and Edition. Click here to take a tour of the collection. 





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29 April 2015

WWII maps of Pacific preserved online

Monash University Research Repository has recently completed a mammoth project digitising   World War II maps and terrain studies....by Barbara Wojtkowski and Bronwyn Foott.


Terrain Studies - Repository
One of the AGS maps: Seeadler Harbour, Manus Island,
 Admiralty Islands, Papua New Guinea
Since Australian and New Zealand Forces landed at Gallipoli 100 years  ago, Australian Forces have taken part in many campaigns all over the world, including, during World War II, in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) immediately north of Australia.

Monash University Research Repository has now digitised all Monash holdings of a critical geographic resource from that period, the Terrain Studies.

The South West Pacific was a key destination for Australian Forces, but unfortunately very little was actually known about it. After all, who had actually mapped all the island chains, all the numerous archipelagos and highlands? What were the conditions? Who lived there? Was there any food that could be found locally? What about diseases? And thousands of our young people were about to go into these areas to survive, fight and die. What to do?

In the background, away from the front line, an organisation called the Allied Geographical Service (AGS) was formed in 1942 with the task of remedying this situation. Its function was to prepare various ‘publications’ to address this lack of fundamental and critical information. Among the AGS’ publications were the Terrain Studies whose purpose was to cover a specified area as completely as possible from a military perspective. This they did under difficult conditions, with very limited resources, often with only three weeks’ notice. By the time of its dissolution in November, 1945, the AGS had produced 110 Terrain Studies.

The Studies themselves contain detailed text, photographs, diagrams, maps and often annotations, as new information came to hand; everything that could be found from every possible source in Australia and overseas in the time allowed. They were used in planning and later as the basis for another publication, the Terrain Handbooks, which had a wider distribution. These Terrain Studies have now been digitised in their entirety – each Study, the text, the photos, maps and diagrams in exquisite and intricate detail.

So, why are they so important? Why make a fuss about something which was used so far in the past?....  History, is one major reason. In addition to valuable academic research in the field, these resources may be useful to personal researchers who are tracing the last movements of relatives.

For use with a modern application, the maps and annotations are highly accurate. Their application to coastal change, climate change and related disciplines is unquestionable.


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2 February 2015

American Congress historic papers now available

An outstanding new collection acquired by the  Library is a U.S. ‘national treasure’.....by Jenny Casey

The United States Capitol, the home of Congress,
 in the 1840s.

The Library is delighted to announce the acquisition of two prestigious primary sources from Readex which combined provide comprehensive, digitised access to documents on people, issues and events in American history, politics, law and culture since 1817.

Often described as a “national treasure”, the United States Congressional Serial Set (1817-1994) provides 11 million pages of reports, documents, maps, illustrations, statistical tables and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from the 15th to the 103rd Congress.  American State Papers (1789-1838) covers the legislative and executive documents of the first 14 Congresses during the period 1789 to 1838, filling the critical historical gap from 1789 to the printing of the first volume of the Serial Set in 1817.

Dr. Taylor Spence, Lecturer in American History at Monash University, said “The United States Serial Set is the complete archive of every word written or uttered in the U.S. Congress and is a treasure trove of data for all aspects of American history.”

A powerful search engine enables researchers to explore in minute detail every document in the collection, whilst also searching related collections such as America’s Historical Newspapers.

Interested staff and students are invited to register for an information session at the Matheson Library on Tuesday February 17th. This session will highlight examples of the rich content and provide tips for easy searching.

For further information please contact:
Jenny Casey, Subject librarian, history: jenny.casey@monash.edu
Sue Little,Subject librarian, government publications; sue.little@monash.edu

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