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London Low Life gives “street view”

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BKS_HV4088L8_G74_168A new resource at VCU Libraries provides an almost “street view” of the topsy-turvy world of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes — only it was all too real for those who lived on the margins:  London Low Life.

Through visual records of cartoons, maps, sketches, subversive posters — and the texts of broadsides, “swell’s guides,” chapbooks, ballads, slang dictionaries, and more — researchers can experience the vibrant and illicit culture of London street life.  The brothels, gin houses and East End slums of the 19th century’s greatest city reveal the contradictions of a progressive era marked by the neglect of those consigned to poverty.

Fascinating in its depth of detail, London Low Life illumines the dark, secretive, and dangerous paths of a forgotten history and the lives of those who suffered but also subverted their situation.

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By Kevin Farley, humanities collections librarian

Image: The Great army of London poor: sketches of life and character in a Thames-side district / by the river-side visitor, The Lilly Library, Indiana University

Times Digital Archive: Every page & article since 1785

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VCU Libraries provides access to a vast resource of historical and contemporary information via the Times Digital Archive.  Recording centuries of British and world history, culture, politics and business, The Times (London) was established in 1785, and is the oldest daily newspaper in continuous publication. The Times Digital Archive is an online, full-text facsimile of more than 200 years of The Times, providing searchable access to every page of every issue from 1785. This access represents 1.4 million pages, nearly 70,000 issues and more than 11 million individual articles.

From this wealth of information, researchers have an unparalleled opportunity to search and view historical and contemporary journalism and images of human events. Read by both world leaders and the general public, The Times has offered readers in-depth, award-winning and objective coverage of world events since its creation. The user interface facilitates quick searches as well as detailed research, browsing for discovery and download options.

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By Kevin Farley, humanities collections librarian

Image: Waymarking.com

Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles

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Advancing our understanding of the history and present of women’s contributions to the literary, cultural and political life of Great Britain, VCU Libraries provides access to the landmark database, Orlando:  Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Orlando exemplifies digital humanities’ efforts to broaden access to little known or studied texts, provide historical and cultural context for authors and their works and inspire transformative ways of reading and understanding women’s literary engagement with their readers and the world through writing. Created at Cambridge University, Orlando is designed with a “unique structure and searchability,” encouraging researchers “to examine its information and critical comment in a wide range of configurations and to re-form this in new and creative ways. Orlando is open to the serendipities of productive browsing,” and fosters in-depth research through cultural, biographical, and textual discovery. More than 1,300 writers are included, and approximately 30,000 items are available for discovery–a growing list of authors and texts. Orlando will greatly enhance teaching and research at VCU, and foster a dynamic and innovative reading experience.

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By Kevin Farley, humanities collections librarian

Image:  “A Woman Seated at an Organ (or Writing Desk),” Yale University Art Gallery, public domain.

Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century

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VCU Libraries offers The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century, a landmark digital collection for African-American studies. With this resource, researchers have access to historical analysis and context, original newspaper accounts and crucial first-person records of the experiences of those seeking greater political and cultural freedom in the turbulent 20th century.

Records reveal not only the efforts of those in power to oppose the civil rights movement, but the organizational efforts and everyday protests of individuals and groups united to end widespread restrictions to freedom for blacks in the United States.

The wealth of sources includes government records from the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and H. W. Bush presidencies, as well as the activities of the FBI on civil rights leaders and participants. The records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) are available.

From the founding of the NACWC in the last decade of the 19th century to the riots that followed the verdict in the Rodney King trial in the 1990s, researchers will discover how these momentous events were experienced by those who lived them, and continue to influence American life, culture and politics today.

Of particular importance is the inclusion of vast records that describe events that may be less known now, but were crucial milestones in the struggles against oppression and toward equality. These include: the fight against forced labor in the first half of the 20th century (documented in the Peonage Files of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1901-1945); the migration of African-Americans to urban areas in search of work and equality; the East St. Louis Riot of 1917; the Scottsboro case and the passage of the anti-lynching laws; the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II; the FBI actions against the Black Panther Party, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. These detailed and multi-layered perspectives on history await discovery in The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century and will create innovative teaching and research for VCU.

Additional online scholarship available through VCU Libraries includes Black Historical Newspapers, Black Studies Center, Black Studies in Video, and Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive.

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By Kevin Farley, humanities collections librarian

Image:  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “William L. Patterson, executive director of the Civil Rights Congress, addressing the Bill of Rights Conference, circa 1940s.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940 – 1949.