Archival Research from a Distance: New Adam Matthew Digital Collections
By Jutta Seibert
The Library recently acquired over sixty unique digital primary source collections produced by Adam Matthew Digital.
The collections, which span from the 15th to the 21st century, can be accessed from the AM Explorer platform. Contents include documents, manuscripts, letters, books, newspapers, magazines, films, images, posters, and audio files. Each collection is curated by an editorial board, made up of leading experts in the field who contributed essays and, in a few cases, video interviews. The essays and interviews contextualize the materials offered in a collection.
The sheer size of the archive makes it impossible to do it justice in a short blog post, and the collections highlighted here are by no means representative. Interested readers can find a complete list of available collections online. Selected collections will be featured in future posts.
Socialism on Film (1918-1988) is a collection of newsreels, documentaries, and feature films from the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the former GDR, China, Vietnam, Korea, and Latin America.
Sourced from the archives of the British Film Institute, this collection features films gathered by British communist Stanley Forman. The films in the collection were versioned into English for distribution in the West. Scholars can assemble their own playlists and link to preselected snapshots or excerpts. Each film includes a transcript in English.
For example, the Lenin & the Russian Revolution sub-collection “features over 80 documentary and feature films that present and explore the dramatic rise of communism and formation of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. Created to bolster and celebrate the communist cause, as well as to kindle and ignite the political passions of new generations of revolutionaries, these films make for powerful propaganda tools.” [Excerpt from the collection description]
The essay “‘See the Other Half of the World’: Stanley Forman, Educational and Television Films and Left Film Culture in Britain” by Alan Burton (University of Leicester) explores the history of Plato Films and its successor, Education and Television Films (ETV), two companies founded by Stanley Forman to distribute films from socialist countries in Britain. The Plato/ETV film library and archive was transferred to the British Film Institute National Archive after Forman’s retirement.
In “Documentary Film and the Role of Women in the USSR” Melanie Ilic (University of Gloucestershire) introduces the history of women in the USSR, encompassing women’s daily life and political progress. Graham Roberts (Leeds Trinity University) contributed an essay about “Ideology and Imagery in Socialism on Film,” in which he analyzes the ways in which ideology is presented in selected films from the collection. Besides the topical essays, the collection also features video interviews with leading experts who analyze selected films.
Popular Medicine in America (1800-1900) documents the history of popular remedies and treatments in nineteenth century America, including botanicals, homeopathy, phrenology, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, and sexual health. Sourced from the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the primary sources brought together in this collection range from print books, trade cards, and pamphlets to broadsides, posters, advertisements, and anatomy guides. The visually rich collection presents materials intended for the lay person rather than the medical professional.
Interested readers should start with a tour of the collection and read “Advertising Health to the People” by William H. Helfand, an essay originally written for the Library Company of Philadelphia exhibition “Every Man His Own Doctor.”
The collection includes a visual gallery of illustrations, advertisements, and posters as well as a glossary of medical terms including terms that are no longer part of everyday speech, such as Bright’s disease, chilblains, and iridology. Online exhibitions on “Family Health,” “Alternative Medical Practices,” and “From Nature to Manufacture” combine visual sources with primary documents and contextual information. The interactive chronology charts key dates in the history of popular medicine and links out to related source materials in the collection.
Explore other collections on the AM Explorer platform, or jump off the deep end and search across all collections. Links for AM Explorer, Socialism on Film, and Popular Medicine in America can be found on the Library’s Databases A-Z list.
Jutta Seibert is Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Memorial Library.
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