Annual List of Best Historical Materials Announced

The annual list of Best Historical Materials was announced during the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Book and Media Awards Ceremony at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta on Sunday. The list recognizes the evaluation and effectiveness of coverage of historical resources in all fields of history and promotes the enhanced availability of historical works and information. Published in Reference and User Services Quarterly (RUSQ), these sources are selected by the Historical Materials committee of the History Section of RUSA, and seek to improve the usefulness of bibliographies and indexes in the field of history and shared among bibliographers, indexers, publishers and professional associations.

The list includes:

Bibliography of the East India Company. Contemporary printed sources, 1786-1858 Print

This book continues Pickett’s work, first published in 2011 as Bibliography of the East India Company: Books, Pamphlets and Other Materials Printed between 1600 and 1785.  The second volume covers the years between the subordination of the Company to the Crown and the disestablishment of the Company after the Indian Rebellion.  It offers not merely a list of published works, but also includes a preface for each year that is covered.  The prefaces themselves offer a chronology and contextualization of events in the history of the Company for each year.  The bibliography covers monographs written during the period but also includes ephemera such as price lists and cargo manifests.  Although individual entries are not annotated (except to add caption titles, which often explain the contents of a book), the bibliography is indexed by author, title, and subject.—Steven A. Knowlton, Princeton University Libraries.
By Catherine Pickett. Print only. British Library Publishing Division.
$95.00 Hardcover


Calisphere provides a central location to access a rich and diverse variety of digital collections on California. The site is hosted by the University of California system but includes many state-wide partners: museums, public and special libraries, and archives. Content includes visual, textual, and audio materials. A single search box on the home page searches across all collections. The result list includes limiting facets by type of item (moving image, text, etc.), decade, contributing institution, or specific collection. Includes a browse feature by collection or by exhibition. The interface is user-friendly and attractive, the digitization quality is excellent, and the material covers topics from all subject areas (history, literature, race relations, diversity, economic growth, performing and visual arts, architecture, etc.). Each entry includes a rights statement so that the end-user is aware of copyright ownership and/or restrictions.Eileen Bentsen, Baylor University
University of California: University of California Libraries, developed and maintained by the California Digital Library.
Free Online, rights may vary by collection/institution.

Directory of Tool and Machinery Patents (DATAMP):

Patents aren’t just for engineers anymore – they are an excellent primary source for cultural, scientific, and community history. The open-access DATAMP database offers an extremely valuable tool for those tracking patented machines and tools, including household, agricultural, industrial, structures, and hand tools. This database supplements information in the patent record: names and locations of manufacturers, access to over 1300 non-US historic patents, Confederate States of America patents, and patents destroyed in fires at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Russ Allen and his team of dedicated volunteers from antique tool and machinery circles have made this database easy to browse or search. In addition to accessing official USPTO records, some results include links to supplemental information. –Barbara J. Hampton, USPTO PTRC Representative and Librarian (retired).
DATAMP is funded by the Old Woodworking Machines web site.

Human Rights Studies Online:

This database collects primary and secondary sources in text and media for a number of genocidal events, including Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, and Darfur.  It collects sources that would otherwise be scattered throughout government and United Nations documents collections, archives, and periodicals.  In addition to full-text searching, the content is indexed by subject, theme, discipline, and other fields.Steven A. Knowlton, Princeton University
Published by Alexander Street Press.
Fee Based, subscription required.

In the Lands of the Romanovs: An Annotated Bibliography of First-hand English-language Accounts of the Russian Empire (1613-1917). Print & Online.–an-annotated-bibliography-of-first-hand–english-language-accounts-of-the-russian-empire–1613-1917

This comprehensive bibliography features thorough notations of each entry, along with lengthy introductory sections to contextualize the material.  Color illustrations supplement the text.  In addition to the print volume, an online edition is offered as an “open source” text to which readers can contribute. The notations offer much original research into the biographies of authors whose works are included, making this an important reference work in its own right as well as the most complete bibliography in its field.Steven A. Knowlton, Princeton University
Anthony Cross /Open Book Publishers.
Free online/Fee-Based Print $32.95 to $61.95.

IsisCB Explore:

IsisCB Explore is an open-access database that provides citation & abstract information about the history of science. The cumulative work digitizes the Isis print index, covering 1913 to 1975, and it then extends to the current date. It is especially helpful for historians of science, medicine, and technology, as its core dataset comes from the Isis bibliography with 40 years of content.– Nickoal L. Eichmann-Kalwara, Mississippi State University / University of Colorado, Boulder.
Open Access Project.


Lipad is a full-text searchable database of the transcripts of the Parliament of Canada from 1901 to the present. It is an open source, freely accessible resource. The website was launched April 2016. In 2013, a group of political scientists, computer scientists, and historians teamed up at the University of Toronto and a key output of this collaboration is the first machine-readable and fully searchable historical Hansard (transcript of Canada’s Parliament). This data has been linked to various biographical properties of parliamentarians, including their party and gender. The interface is user-friendly, presenting the debates in a script format and often including the speaker’s picture – rather than a digitized scan of the original text as has been traditionally available.–­­ Katie Cuyler, University of Alberta
University of Toronto.

Slavery in America: History, Culture & Law:

The HeinOnline database, Slavery in America & the World: History, Culture & Law provides access to over 1,150 full-text resources that provide primary and period works on the topic of slavery. The search interface includes the Slavery Quick Finder Tool. This resource provides slavery information from various collections and includes memoirs, slave codes, judicial cases, topic surveys, reports, and scholarly articles. HeinOnline offers tutorials, widgets, and webinars to assist searchers independent of a librarian. The subscription may be branded for the local provider of the access to HeinOnline. Individuals affiliated with the institution may freely register and search the collection. Sue McFadden, Indiana University East
William S. Hein & Co., Inc.
Free to registered individuals & Fee-Based.

The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia.  2 Vols, Print & E-book

This is the first reference source in English that focuses exclusively on ancient Iran during the period of its great empires before the arrival of Islam from 700 BCE to 651 CE.  The main dynasties were Medes, the Achaemenids, the Seleucids, the Arsacids (Parthians), and the Sasanians.  Kia emphasizes ancient Iran’s geographic expanse, the diversity of peoples, languages, and cultures, and the forces of change brought on by military conquests and administrative structures. There are 241 essays arranged by themes, such as ancient cities and archaeological sites, cultures, kings and queens of dynasties, peoples, and religions.  Using both secondary and primary sources, and often citing Encyclopaedia Iranica, Kia offers a source that will appeal to a broad audience that includes high school and college students and general readers seeking basic narrative and descriptive information accompanied by references for further reading and selected primary source texts.David Lincove, Ohio State University Libraries
Mehrdad Kia./Santa Barbara, Ca.  ABC-CLIO, 2016.
$198 (ISBN 978-1-61069-390-5). Ebook available (978-61069-391-2).


Umbra Search for African American History: The aggregated search tool provides access to archival records from over 1,000 libraries. The core of Umbra Search is provided by the “Givens Collection of African American Literature” at the University of Minnesota Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections, with the Penumbra Theatre Company.” Libraries and institutions partner with Umbra to offer resources that support African American and theater history. The search functionality of Umbra is easy to use and provides facets on the left side of the screen for more specificity, a list of resources identified, ways to display the list graphically, and options to display the item organization. Umbra, offers the combination of a search and a linking tool that displays the content in Umbra or linked in the native archive.Sue McFadden, Indiana University East
Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections, with Penumbra Theatre Company.

The Best Historic Materials selection committee consists of Sue McFadden, Indiana University East, Chair; Steven A. Knowlton, Princeton University; Eileen Bentsen, Baylor University; Leigh-Anne Yacovelli, Union Library Company of Hatboro.



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