This post was written in collaboration with Rebecca McGivney, an archiving technician in the Digital Resources Division at the Law Library of Congress, and Michael Mellifera, a digital collection specialist in the Digital Resources Division at the Law Library of Congress.
Since we last celebrated our milestone of over 3,000 online reports just last summer, the Law Library has continued to publish additional legacy born-digital and digitized reports on a near-weekly basis. Now, as of last month, we are happy to announce that our collection of legacy and contemporary reports has grown to over 4,000. This collection includes a mixture of both legacy and contemporary reports on foreign, comparative, and international law topics. For decades, the Law Library of Congress has prepared these legal reports in response to requests from Congress, the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, and others. In 2020, we announced a multi-year effort to digitize and publish many of our previously unreleased historical reports to make them fully accessible to researchers and other members of the public. Last month, we announced that our reports are now also available in a curated collection on HeinOnline in addition to being freely available on law.gov.
As we approach the end of the legacy publishing phase of this collection, we thought we would take the opportunity to highlight some of the recently-released legacy reports from the past year. Below are a few interesting examples of historical reports that our Legal Report Archive team has made available online since our blog update last August.
While the bulk of the published legacy reports address issues that are still of interest to policymakers today – topics such as immigration, gun control, and the regulation of emerging technologies appear frequently – there are several documents that are specific in scope and whose topics are surprisingly unique. The three reports selected all fall under this latter category: offering small, surprising glimpses into the history and culture of various foreign jurisdictions.
This report from 1973 discusses methods used in Poland to not only regulate passenger-car hitchhiking, but also promote it as a “legitimate form of tourism.” One of the most amusing details is that one of these measures includes a competition held in 1958. During a “period of legitimate hitchhiking,” which lasted for a few months in the summer, hitchhikers could compete by purchasing a “certificate of participation” which could be obtained and validated by the Polish Tourism and Hiking Association. These certificates contained coupons to be offered to drivers as proof of both the passenger being a registered hitchhiker and of the driver giving a ride in case of an accident or any other incidents. Both drivers and hitchhikers could participate in the contest and prizes were awarded for “photographs, texts of original folk songs and legends as well as the description of folk customs.”
The topic of this report, also from the 1970s, focuses on the various structures put in place to protect the native languages of France, Germany, Norway, and Switzerland. The bulk of this report is dedicated to Norway and concentrates on the “century-old, Norwegian language conflict.” The author of this section alerts the reader: “it should never be forgotten that the driving power behind much talk of purifying the language is often a nearly religious belief in the respective speaker’s superior version of the same language.”
Jumping ahead a few decades – though not in content – this report from 2005 discusses the rationing of textiles, particularly curtains, during WWI in Germany. One of the most interesting details is the creation of the Imperial Clothing Authority in 1916, which in addition to ensuring that the military had adequate supplies and regulated the textile trade, was also tasked with “encouraging the invention of surrogate fabrics.” As noted in the report: “This encouragement must have shown results, because, in May 1918, the Imperial Clothing Authority exempted fabrics made from paper from the licensing regime.”
We are proud of our continued collaboration with the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) on this project. As of this month, GPO has provided full bibliographic records for over 3,300 of these reports. In addition to their availability on loc.gov, the reports are discoverable through the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP). In the CGP expert search mode, you can use a local field search to retrieve all of the records: wlts=LCLAWLIB. We are also grateful to the Law Section of the Library’s Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Directorate, U.S. Programs, Law & Literature Division, who provide enhancements to the bibliographic records received from our GPO partners.
Lastly, we would also like to share that there will be additional upcoming opportunities for users to discover and engage with the Law Library’s historical reports. Two years ago, in April 2021, we launched the Law Library’s second crowdsourcing campaign with By The People, entitled Historical Legal Reports from the Law Library of Congress. Thanks to the help of hundreds of online volunteers, this campaign was successfully concluded in the summer of 2021, and the completed transcriptions have now been fully integrated into the Library’s permanent collection. This summer, we plan to announce a new update to that campaign, with the release of several hundred additional digitized reports that were published in the last couple of years and which would benefit greatly from volunteer transcriptions to help ensure accurate full-text searchability of our collection and to greatly improve discovery and access for all users. Stay tuned for that upcoming announcement, and in the meantime, please enjoy exploring the Legal Reports (Publications of the Law Library of Congress) collection and continue checking back as we continue to share releases of new reports on current foreign, comparative, and international law topics.
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