Early US Literature

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Reflective Essay on a Set of Digital Databases

The following databases provide varied online resources on American and early American literature and history.

1. nationalhumanitiescenter.org

National Humanities Center is a huge and comprehensive resource for studies in humanities. It presents America in Class which has “primary and secondary resources, online seminars, and lessons for history and literature teachers” and is “designed to promote the analytical skills called for in the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history and social studies.” It makes available databases for “identifying and evaluating textual evidence, determining central ideas, understanding the meanings of words, comprehending the structure of a text, recognizing an author’s point of view, and interpreting content presented in diverse media, including visual images.”

Students and teachers of American literature can access a cornucopia of texts, bibliography, newspapers, images, letters, deeds, wills, links to relevant sites, and a number of items concerning American history from the 16th century to the present times. Students can take a virtual class and participate in free Online Seminars. For example, 2013 Fall schedule for seminar includes topics on Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe, and others.

Its Toolbox Library, TeacherServe, and The Library are of immense value to those studying American literature and history.

2. http://www.americaslibrary.gov/

America’s Story from America’s Library is presented by The Library of Congress. An easily accessible and engaging website about American history from 1492 to present day, it categorizes major historical periods with further subdivisions on particular events and people. For example: Colonial America (1492-1763) lists vast topics relevant to those times. This is the most relevant feature to scholars of American literature and history.

The site has five main headings with subdivisions: 1. Meet Amazing Americans (Leaders & Statesmen, U.S. Presidents, Activists & Reformers, etc.) 2. Jump Back in Time (a timeline of American history from 1492 to present day and other stories about different events and people in American history.) There are interesting pictures such as the church in which Patrick Henry declared: Give me liberty or give me death, petition for bail from accused witches in the Salem witch trials of 1692, portrait of Pocahontas in European garb, etc., 3. Explore the States, 4. Join America at Play (America’s pastimes, sports and hobbies), 5. See, Hear and Sing (movies, music, songs, and tunes from America’s past).

The lists are not comprehensive, for example, not all presidents are listed. Even then a site managed by the government should be more inclusive of native Indians of whom only Pocahontas is mentioned under the category of Leaders & Statesmen.

3. http://www.ushistory.org/us/

U.S. History: Pre Columbian to the New Millennium is owned by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia founded in 1942. It neatly chronicles American history from the eve of British Colonization to the present times describing Native American society and also as they existed before the British arrived. A number of historians are listed on the page. Students can chat with them and ask questions on American history. Its links to other relevant sites are discoveries into valuable online resources. Readers can suggest their own links and leave their comments.

Its link to Virtual Jamestown and the Virginia Experiment has the Virtual Jamestown Archive, a digital research, teaching and learning project that investigates the heritage of the Jamestown settlement. Its objective is to initiate a national dialogue on the occasion of the four century anniversary observance in 2007 of the founding of the Jamestown colony. This resource is the result of collaboration between University of Virginia’s Virginia Tech and the Virginia Center for Digital History brought about by a large grant in 1999 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It’s a highly engaging and interesting site where one can use Google Earth to view Jamestown as it was.

4. http://www.nativetech.org/

Native Tech: Native American Technology and Art is an online educational resource for “indigenous ethno-technology focusing on the arts of Eastern Woodland Indian Peoples, providing historical & contemporary background with instructional how-to’s & references.” In affiliation with Amazon, NativeTech’s Bookpages compiles in one area all the separate bibliographies with a listing of the range of books cited in NativeTech’s articles. Many of these articles are researched using museum and archaeological collections, and published literature as well as personal communication with modern Native Americans. There is educational information about the use of these materials by Native Americans with a detailed explanation of the history and development of Native American technologies. “NativeTech hopes to show both change and continuity from pre-contact times to the present” and is committed “to revising the term ‘primitive’ with respect to peoples’ perceptions of Native American technology and art.”

The website features a series on scenes from Native Indian life also available in a book form named Woodland Windows: Seventeenth Century Native American Lifeways in Northeastern North America.

One can also order Indian handmade crafts on this website.

5. http://mith.umd.edu//eada/

The Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA) is a digital anthology of texts and links to texts originally written in or about the Americas from 1492 to approximately 1820. It is published and maintained by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and is available to the public for research and teaching purposes. The website can be of special interest to those engaged in digital humanities project for it has been set as a long-term and inter-disciplinary project committed to exploring the connection between traditional humanities research and digital technologies. Scholars from all disciplines are invited to submit their editions of early American texts for publication. Its Gateway page provides electronic texts by early American authors listed in alphabetical order.

6. http://oieahc.wm.edu/

Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture provides databases for study in early American literature. Its main feature is announcements about conferences and the link to William and Mary Quarterly journal as it is sponsored by The College of William and Mary and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation established the Institute of Early American History and Culture in 1943 and sponsor its work. It is also a platform for getting published one’s work in the relevant area.

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