Reaching Into the Past

This summer the Washington and Lee University Library has bought a bunch of old stuff.

Maybe that statement needs some elaboration.

We have acquired two acclaimed commercial databases which provide us for the first time with online access to many American and British newspapers and magazines from well before the advent of Internet publishing — even before the 20th Century.

The 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers database allows W&L students and faculty to search through “the largest single archive of 17th and 18th century news media available from the British Library” — nearly one million pages from about 1,200 newspapers and news pamphlets. Students of history and other disciplines will be able to glean new perspectives on the (mostly European) world of 200-300 years ago. As one scholar has pointed out, Americans using the Burney Collection might be surprised to find out that the American Revolution was “portrayed in most of the London papers as a remote colonial nuisance of little significance.”

A more American focus is available to W&L researchers from Accessible Archives , a collection of American newspapers, magazines, and other primary source materials, mostly from the 19th century. This resource includes coverage of some of the most renowned newspapers and magazines from the 1800’s, including the Virginia Gazette, Pennsylvania Gazette, Godey’s Lady’s Book, William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, and Frederick Douglass’ Paper. Other materials incorporated into the database are thematic collections of books and newspapers articles on the Civil War and county histories. For years we have had access to the Pennsylvania Gazette through this product, but now we are adding much more.

And, of course, back in June, we announced the newly-acquired online American Periodical Series database, which contains articles from about 1,500 American magazines and newspapers published before 1940.

Everything old is new again. Well, maybe not everything.

All of these online resources are available to W&L faculty, students, and staff from just about any on-campus or off-campus location that can access the campus computing network. If you have questions, please contact Senior Reference Librarian Dick Grefe or another of our department liaison librarians.

The Special Collections and Archives department has improved its presence, both physically and online. Take a look at our website to learn about the collections, displays, services our staff offers, and much more. We also have created a new reading room for research in Special Collections. Please visit our website at, or visit our facility on Level 1 in Leyburn Library. We encourage faculty to bring their classes over to Special Collections (see Class Visits and Projects tab) for tailored presentations.

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