Historical texts and oral collections


This past year the library has added four collections of primary documents and oral history collections from Alexander Street Press:

  • North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories
  • North American Women’s Letters and Diaries
  • Oral History Online
  • American Civil War: Letters and Diaries

Much of the content consists of primary research material that was previously unpublished.  The full text content and links to audio files will be valuable to students and faculty conducting historical research.

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories

imldNorth American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories provides a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada. Includes than 100,000 pages of personal narratives, including letters, diaries, pamphlets, autobiographies, and oral histories.  Several thousand pages of Ellis Island Oral History interviews are included, along with thousands of political cartoons.

The materials begin around 1840 and extend to the present, focusing heavily on the period from 1890 to 1920. People from many countries are represented, including more recent waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia. In selected cases, audio files will let users hear the actual voices of the immigrants, and facsimile images will show pages of their scrapbooks.

North American Women’s Letters and Diaries

nwld.142North American Women’s Letters and Diaries is the largest electronic collection of women’s diaries and correspondence ever assembled. Spanning more than 300 years, it presents the personal experiences of hundreds of women.

The collection includes approximately 150,000 pages of letters and diaries from Colonial times to 1950, including 7,000 pages of previously unpublished manuscripts – all in electronic format for the first time. The material is drawn from more than 1,000 sources, including journal articles, pamphlets, newsletters, monographs, and conference proceedings.  Represented are all age groups and life stages, a wide range of ethnicities, many geographical regions, the famous, and the not so famous.

American Civil War: Letters and Diaries

The American Civil War: Letters and Diariescwld.142 knits together more than 400 sources of diaries, letters, and memoirs to provide detailed firsthand descriptions of historical characters, glimpses of daily life in the army, anecdotes about key events and personages, and tales of sufferings at home.  Originally written for private consumption, these entries provide an immediacy and a richness to the famous and the unknown, giving both Northern and the Southern perspectives, along with that of foreign observers.

Oral History Online


Oral History Online aims to index all the important oral histories available either on the Web or hidden away in archives.  The database also includes tens of thousands of pages of full text that are available nowhere else but through Alexander Street—including 40,000 pages of Ellis Island oral histories in electronic format for the first time, exclusive Black Panther Party narratives, and other unique and in-copyright content.

Oral histories are the voices of the disenfranchised—the famous and the lesser known. Artists, musicians, laborers, survivors, immigrants, and students are just a few of the silent people to whom Oral History Online gives voice.

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