Drum roll please………………
And the day has come at last, when I can proudly announce the arrival of the Liberalism in the Americas Digital Archive! Head straight over to the online repository of primary documents at http://liberalism-in-americas.org/ to explore what the archive has on offer. Political pamphlets, essays, political ephemera, books, and periodicals from nineteenth-century Latin America have been included to facilitate research on the development and impact of liberal ideas and political practices across the continent, with a particular focus on Mexico, Argentina, and Peru.
The archive has several key features that we hope researchers will find useful. First, there are a range of browsing options, where the documents can be surveyed according to the country or region they relate to, the year in which they were published, the author, and the key themes that we identified as particularly important to current investigations into Latin American liberalisms: Church and State; Economic Development, Policy and Ideas; Political Culture; Race and Ethnicity; and Women and Gender. Secondly, each document has been catalogued with a range of additional keywords – citizenship, elections, freedom of the press, secularisation, constitutionalism, suffrage, education, industry, taxation, tribute, property, freemasonry, currency, republicanism, imperialism, immigration, and many, many more. In addition to keywords that help to provide researchers with further information about the content and context of archived materials, each document has been catalogued with a short abstract that goes into a little more detail.
In addition to browsing the collection, you can simply search for key terms that interest you. Bear in mind that much of the catalogue information – keywords, abstract, and so on – are entered in English, but that the vast majority of the document titles and content is in Spanish, so it will be necessary to alternate between English and Spanish words in the search function to locate sources of interest.
Once an interesting document has been located, you can access the material in a variety of ways: image files will appear one at a time on the screen, or you can download the entire document as a pdf or text-only format. In the text option, which you can also view alongside the image files, there are numerous errors in transcription, which are the result of imperfect OCR (optical character recognition) technology that sometimes struggles with non-English language text and older fonts. It is this OCR technology that makes the documents fully searchable, which is obviously a bonus, even in imperfect form, but unfortunately we didn’t have the man/woman-power to manually correct the mistakes made by the software in this transcription process.
But you can get involved, and help us to improve the search and text-only functions by correcting any mistakes that you notice in the transcriptions. To do this, you will need to create an account and log-in – this is purely so that we can verify changes are being made by actual people, and not some evil spamming machine; there is no charge, and creating an account will result in no undesired emailing etc. Once you’ve logged in, you can check the original image against the text and make any changes to the text transcription that you can. Your changes will then get sent to me for approval.This will make the text-only option of viewing documents more accurate for subsequent users and will also make the search function more reliable, so it’s very valuable work! If everyone who uses the database edited a single document that they used or downloaded, together we will make an enormous difference!
Well, I hope everyone will find the archive useful for their research. Feel free to get in touch if you notice any errors that can’t be corrected from your own account and I’ll endeavor to correct them.
Over the next couple of weeks, in celebration of the archive’s birth, we’re going to be hearing from Sarah Backhouse, the Liberalism in the Americas’ tireless research assistant who catalogued the archive material, about her experiences working on the archive. As you all get familiar with the resources, we’d love to hear any stories about your encounter with unexpected documents and how you’re using them, so do get in touch!