Happy 2024 to all of our Signal subscribers! In this special edition of “What’s New Online at the Library of Congress,” we’re looking back on some of our new digital collections releases in 2023.
Do you have a favorite digital collection or item at the Library? Leave us a comment below and stay tuned for our next newsletter in February 2024. Cheers to a new year!
What was new on loc.gov in 2023?
The Africana Historic Postcard Collection, from the Library of Congress’ African and Middle Eastern Division, has significant value for researchers and students working on sub-Saharan Africa’s colonial life and cultural history. This first phased release of the collection includes approximately 1,200 postcards documenting representations of African life from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most of the postcard imagery from the African colonies was taken by military and colonial officials, missionary workers and professional photographers, and it chronicles the transformation of cultural, political, and social landscapes in the African continent. Digitization of the rest of the collection (approximately 7,000 postcards in total) is ongoing.
Nearly 60 new recordings were added to the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature in 2023. The newly released recordings span three decades, from the 1960s-1980s, and feature writers reading, giving talks, and participating in panels at the Library’s Capitol Hill campus. Read even more about this release in a blog post from the Library’s blog From the Catbird Seat.
This selection of the first five boxes of the papers of army officer and diplomat Charles William Le Gendre (1830-1899) spans the years 1866-1893, and is concentrated in two periods, 1866-1875 and 1891-1892. The materials consist of correspondence, memoranda, dispatches, reports, Chinese and Japanese documents, and other papers relating chiefly to Le Gendre’s diplomatic career in the American foreign service and in the Japanese and Korean governments. The collection documents his service as American consul at Amoy (Xiamen), China (1866-1872); advisor in the Japanese foreign service and in a diplomatic post representing Japan in Taiwan (1872-1875, then known as Formosa); and advisor in the Korean government (1890-1899). Subjects include American interests in Asia, Asian civilizations, establishment of peaceful relations with Taiwan, and Korean trade relations. Collection materials are in English, French, Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian languages.
The Library of Congress houses the world’s largest baseball collection, documenting the history of our National Pastime and providing a unique look at the game of baseball in America since the late 1700s. This collection includes a large selection of annual baseball guides, including numerous volumes of Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide. Also included are rule books, record books, scorekeeping guides, books on how to hit and play different positions, and more. Additional baseball materials available at the Library, as well as links to baseball-related digitized publications offered by other institutions, can be found through the research guide Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress.
During her lifetime, musicologist and collector Gisella Selden-Goth (1884-1975) amassed an extraordinary collection of holograph music manuscripts (that is, written in the composer’s own hand), including works by Bach, Chopin, Haydn, and Mozart. In 1963, she placed her collection on deposit with the Library of Congress. After her death in 1975, the manuscripts that were formally donated came to the Library of Congress and make up this digital collection. This digital collection contains all the holograph manuscripts, along with Selden-Goth’s personal Autographen album and a chronological register of her manuscript acquisitions dating from the first one she received as a gift in 1912 up to 1939, shortly after she left her home in Florence, Italy and brought her prized collection to the United States to keep it safe during World War II.
This digital collection represents the entire contents of the Music Division’s collection of Larry Colwell Dance Photographs. In studio portraits, Colwell captured many ballet stars of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the New York City Ballet, including George Balanchine, Alexandra Danilova, Talley Beatty, Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil LeClerq. The collection contains black-and-white photo contact sheets, negatives, and photographs, all taken by Larry Colwell.
The Southeast Asian Rare Book Collection counts among its most unique items a collection of 71 bamboo slats and 6 cylinders from the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. These items are etched with either verse or prose in the Mangyan script—an Indic-derived writing system that pre-dates the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines and persists to the present. This collection was assembled between the years 1904 and 1939 as a result of the collaboration between Fletcher Gardner—a Contract Surgeon of the United States Army stationed at Bulalacao on Mindoro island from 1904-1905—and two brothers who lived on the island of Mindoro: Ildefenso Maliwanag and Eusebio Maliwanag. The bulk of the collection was written by three Mangyan authors: Luyon, Kabal, and Balik, and covers various topics, ranging from life under Spanish occupation of the Philippines to agriculture, education, and different stages of life, as well as ambahan, a form of poetry with seven-syllable lines and rhyming endings. The collection also includes three volumes entitled Indic Writings of the Mindoro Palawan Axis, which provided the transliterations and translations available in the digital presentation.
The materials from the OSRD represent original research conducted by the Allies during World War II. The tens of thousands of items in the Library’s OSRD collection include technical reports, drawings, memos, medical research results, and other documents, which were either originally open access literature or which have since been declassified. This online collection presentation includes declassified technical laboratory and field reports as well as other reference material from two of the OSRD’s 25 administrative divisions, Division 12: Transportation and Division 16 Optics/Camouflage.
The material was digitized from the microfilm collection and represents the “most important” research reports found in the hardcopy collection. Information on topics such as amphibious vehicle studies, DUKW design, bridge, ponton and ferry designs and much more, can be found in reports in Division 12 (Transportation). The Optics/Camouflage (Division 16) collection includes reports on topics such as aerial photography, camouflage applications, periscopes and other optical instruments.
Music and sound have always served an integral role in film and the Silent Film Scores and Arrangements digital collection offers unique insight into that development. This collection includes over 3,000 items published or created for use in silent film accompaniment between 1904 and 1927. These items include scores written for specific films, cue sheets that compile melodies for use at certain moments in specific films, and stock music composed or arranged for general use in silent film. Scores and arrangements included in this collection include piano scores, full or reduced orchestral scores, instrumental parts, or just melodic incipits.
The African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) holds a sizable collection of prayer materials from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Prayer traditions are passed down through generations in various formats – such as oral, written, etc. – capturing the rich culture of belief systems. The Selections of Prayer Materials in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia contain items in many formats, including manuscripts, rare books, lithographs, and historical postcards, written in African languages, Hebrew, Arabic, Armenian, Ge’ez, Georgian, Ladino, Persian, Turkish, or Turkic languages. Based on this selection of materials, the division developed and published in July 2022 an online exhibition/Story Map, “Prayer Traditions in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.” This story map was part of the “Exploring Challenging Conversations” initiative generously funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The purpose of the initiative is to enhance public awareness of cross-regional and intercultural religious understanding in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and their global diasporas.
Happy 2024 to everybody! To learn about Library of Congress digital initiatives including digital humanities, digital stewardship, crowdsourcing, computational research, scholar labs, data visualization, digital preservation and access & more, you can subscribe to the Signal blog via email.
*featured image citation: Charles William Le Gendre Papers: Chronological file; Jan.-June. 1872. Manuscript/Mixed Material.