The University Record, May 6, 1997

Americana ventures into cyberspace

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Americana has ventured into cyberspace with the collaborative efforts of the U-M, Cornell University and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. With the use of digital technology through the Making of America (MOA) project, these institutions have made a significant body of material available on the WorldWide Web, documenting American social history from the ante-bellum period through reconstruction.

Drawing on the depth of materials at the Michigan and Cornell libraries, approximately 5,000 volumes published between 1850 and 1877 can be accessed at Browsing through the MOA collections can be done by entering an author's last name, a title, a subject heading or a specific year.

While the selection of materials from U-M holdings focuses on monographs on education, psychology, American history, sociology, science and technology, and religion, Cornell has focused on the major serials of the period, ranging from general interest publications to those with more targeted audiences such as agriculture.

Teachers, students and history buffs can find such treasures as William J. Jones' 564-page, 1875 publication, Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, which includes an address of welcome for Lee's arrival in Richmond to lead the Confederate forces. It begins: "Sir, we have by this unanimous vote expressed our convictions that you are at this day, among the living citizens of Virginia, `first in war.' We pray to God most fervently that you may so conduct the operations committed to your charge that it may soon be said of you that you are `first in peace'; and when that time comes, you will have earned still prouder distinction of being `first in the hearts of your countrymen.'"

Among the offerings in the MOA program is the 36-page, 1852 lecture by Charles Davies on the duties and relations of parents, teachers and pupils in which he begins by saying, "The great problem of the present age is the education of the young," and concludes, "The constant exhaustion of the body and mind which is produced by teaching is not restored by that relaxation and variety of pursuits which are found in the other professions. The teacher takes his place in the school-room by the road-side---and there day in and day out, toils away his life in subduing the refractory, and in planting in the young mind the seeds of knowledge.

"The eyes of the world are, in a measure, withdrawn from him. No anxious multitude applauds him---no senate chamber resounds with his eloquence---no public press teams with his praises, and no sympathy of friends cheers him in his daily labors. Each day brings with it the same round of duties, and each evening the same fatigue and exhaustion. His labors exhibit their ripened fruit but once in a generation. The heedless boy must grow to manhood and the laughing girl become a matron before he can be certain that his labors have not been in vain."