Electronic publisher Alexander Street Press and local history book publisher Arcadia Publishing are collaborating on a research website that will collect images and text from every region and state in the U.S. and many areas of Canada. The site will eventually contain more than one million searchable images, including photos, postcards and maps. Local and Regional History Online: A History of American Life in Images and Texts can be browsed for free at lrho.alexanderstreet.com, and is available to libraries via subscription or purchase of perpetual rights.
Alexander Street history editor Greg Urquhart envisions the collection serving many disciplines, since, as he pointed out, it includes personal stories and photos of immigrants, laborers and newsmakers; documents local architecture of homes and businesses; and shows images of racism and tolerance; among other things. “Researchers can identify images related to a specific region or event; compare architectural trends across regions and time periods; trace waves of immigration over time; or find images that give them a sense of labor conditions in New York’s garment district in the 1900s, or that help them understand living conditions in a Chinese internment camp during WW2, for example,” Urquhart said.
Richard Joseph, CEO of Arcadia—which has published more than 5,000 books featuring the local history of different regions—mentioned a few highlights of the collection: users can search across regions and decades for others who share their family name; trace changes to their hometown’s Main Street from the late 1800s to the early 1900s; explore the history of a building or public park; or find images of the places their grandmothers remember from childhood. “The collection is both addictive and fascinating. It presents history in the most meaningful sense,” he said.
The collection uses Alexander Street’s Semantic Indexing. Libraries can purchase the entire collection or select specific regional subsets.