Prince William Public Libraries Puts the Archive on Your Screen
Written by Kirk Johnson, Materials Services Division
Summer is over, and the fall semester is already underway. It won’t be long before students begin thinking about upcoming history research projects, papers, and presentations. One challenge any historical research project presents is access to primary sources—relevant original documents from the era being studied. While public libraries are traditionally more associated with secondary sources—most commonly books written by scholars and historians—more and more original documents are being digitized and hosted by various vendors and publishers, academic and commercial. The public library can increasingly provide its patrons access to “the archives.”
One online archive available through Prince William Public Libraries’ Digital Library is the aptly titled “Accessible Archives” portal. “Accessible Archives” contains full-text records of hundreds of publications including newspapers from the colonial era, “camp” newspapers from World War One, the Civil War, African American newspapers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and a variety of other well-known and significant publications.
There is also a collection of primarily locally-produced county histories covering counties, parishes, and boroughs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This collection would be useful for both local history projects and genealogical research.
The database is indexed and searchable, so patrons can browse individual collections or titles, or do a targeted search. All the content is transcribed, but more records also include scanned images of the original documents. Besides being a great tool to find primary source information, “Accessible Archives” also introduces students to primary source research.
But don’t think it’s only for schoolwork – the Accessible Archives collection is also a lot of fun to browse. We invite you to log in with your library card number at pwcva.gov/digitallibrary and dig through the archives yourself.
What’s Hot at Prince William Libraries: September 2021
September means that Summer is over, and for many people that means reading habits change as well. Out with the beach books and vacation reads, in with…whatever strikes your fancy. Or—just as likely—whatever you have time for.
One nonfiction genre which never goes out of style is biographies, including autobiographies and memoirs. Prince William Public Libraries has always carried a wide variety of biographies by and about political leaders, public figures, celebrities, athletes, and “ordinary” people who have experienced extraordinary things or lived remarkable lives. You can see that variety in some of the recent additions to our collection.
Because so many biography subjects are famous or notable for a particular field, era, or event, many biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs are cataloged according to the subject’s career, vocation, or the historical event or era they are associated with—or because sometimes there is one facet of a famous person’s life of particular interest. Here are some recent biographical works which are not cataloged as “BIO” in our catalog.
In the 1920s, a woman named Pearl “Polly” Adler became a fixture in the New York City nightlife scene, and later achieved notoriety nationally, for her unusual entrepreneurial endeavor—she started, and ran, an infamous brothel which became an institution in the bohemian scene and black market alike. Artist, writers, boxers, and gangsters mixed at her brothel under her supervision. Adler eventually retired from her career as America’s most famous madam and wrote a book about her experiences. Now, author Debby Applegate brings her story—and the world of Jazz Age New York City—alive, in “Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age.”
It’s been over four decades since legendary actress Natalie Wood drowned under circumstances which continue to mystify – and trouble – millions. Now her own sister, Lana Wood, has written an account of her own investigation in “Little Sister: My Investigation into the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood.”
On a much lighter note—but still touching serious issues—actor Kal Penn has written a memoir of his life which touches on both his career in Hollywood and in politics and advocacy, including experiences of being the child of immigrants, and a person of color trying to make it the entertainment business. “You Can’t Be Serious” is indeed very funny at times, but contrary to the title, sometimes it is very serious.
Retired NBA star Dwayne Wade is no stranger to celebrity—besides his own career as a high-profile player winning championships and MVP awards, he’s also married to actress Gabrielle Union. In “3 Dimensional,” Wade partners with photographer Bob Metalus to produce a unique memoir in word and image.
These are just a sample of the wide variety of books which demonstrate just how ways there are to approach the writing of someone’s life story—or part of it. Come to your local library and learn about a person you’d never heard of, or learn things you never knew about a famous name.