Access World News now available

The University Libraries is pleased to announce access to our newest database, Access World News. The database provides up to date news locally, nationally and internationally. Users can browse by topics of interest, geographically, or trending topics. In addition to the innovative browsing experience, users can access transcripts from popular news broadcasts such as NPR or 60 Minutes. Access World News is a great resource for students and faculty interested in current events from credible news sources. 


“With an unprecedented combination of global, regional and local news, including a unique merging of news formats (PDF image editions, web-only, full-text), this resource supports a diverse range of research needs across an array of academic disciplines for students and faculty. Includes current and archived news content from more than 12,000 sources spanning 200+ countries and territories. Easy-to-use interface.”


Major Newspapers: It’s important to have access to news at the national level as well as locally, especially in today’s world. Access World News makes it easy with the variety of regional publications and equally robust nationwide newspapers such as:

  • Baltimore Sun
  • Houston Chronicle
  • Chicago Sun Times
  • Washington Times
  • Catholic Standard (and many more Catholic news sources)


Unique Features: Access the information you need with ease by utilizing some of the following tools and attributes:

  • Search by map
  • Full color PDF titles available
  • Full integration with Primo launch coming
  • Easily cite, email, or save articles 
  • View news in multiple formats: full-text, web-only, and images


Click here for a quick tutorial on navigating Access World News! 


Understanding History with Primary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Perhaps one of the best ways is to examine documents from an era or event of interest; these are known as primary sources. The Library of Congress defines it as “Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts, or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.” These sources can be almost anything; a document, artifact, oral history, postcard, etc. Secondary sources, on the other hand, are generally books or articles written about a primary source or document. They contextualize and interpret the primary source in question. [1]

Finding primary sources can be difficult depending on the topic. But, the best places to start are online collections from libraries, museums, and archives, all memory institutions that rely on such documents for their collection and viewing. Today, these institutions are pushing to digitize documents and artifacts to make them accessible to patrons from anywhere in the world. For me, I am currently pursuing a double master’s in History and Library Science. The ability to access digitized documents allows me to engage with the past and apply it to my research. While I cannot physically hold, touch, or feel the document I am studying, through digitization, I can engage with a virtual reproduction or scanned image of the source. Primary sources are essential to my career path and working with them either hands on in the archives or scrolling through scans in a digital collection allows me to engage with topics of interest. 


How can you gain more experience interacting with primary source documents? Several institutions, large and small now offer crowdsourcing opportunities to transcribe documents within their collection. More sophisticated programs include the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives, but more localized libraries and museums also participate. To gain a sense of the process for transcribing documents, I chose the Smithsonian Institutions because this includes all museums as well as their respective library and archives. After you create an account, then you can choose a specific museum or theme of interest. I picked African American History, Women’s History, and the Archives of American Art so I could have a range of themes and experiences.

Before beginning, a tutorial is suggested for viewing. In the tutorial, guidelines for transcribing and notating are covered. There are different roles you can take on for these projects. The obvious one being transcribing, typing up what the document says verbatim. The other option is to review and edit what another volunteer transcribed. A general rule for all transcription sites is a three step process: a volunteer transcribes the document, a different volunteer reviews, and then the document is submitted for an employee of the institution to provide a final review before providing online access.

My Experience

Screenshot from Sally Ride Papers transcription.
Screenshot from Sally Ride Papers transcription.

Sally Ride Papers: The first collection I worked on was the Sally K. Ride Papers housed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Archives. The Sally Ride Papers contain reports, speeches, photographs, etc. I personally worked on documents related to the KidSat program. Sally Ride created this program along with other scientists as a way for school-aged children to look at images of Earth using a camera aboard a Space Shuttle.

These documents were print documents, so reading handwriting was not an issue. Although, with print documents the question of how to arrange graphs, charts, and caption boxes becomes tricky. Luckily, the Smithsonian provides a tutorial on documenting these irregular texts. For this collection, I also reviewed some transcriptions of other volunteers. This was also a good opportunity to see how others handled describing the graphs and images within the text. 

Freedmans’ Bureau: The Freedmens’ Bureau was a government organized agency created during the Reconstruction era to help integrate freed slaves into society. The success of the agency is contested by historians, but the Bureau did set high standards for black education. Under President Lincoln’s administration in 1865, the agency formed as a sect of the Department of War. Most the documents within the transcription collection deal with labor contracts between freedmen and local superintendents. The collection is archived at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. [2]

Screenshot from Freedmen's Bureau transcription.
Screenshot from Freedmen’s Bureau transcription.

Experience: This collection proved a bit more difficult than the Sally Ride Papers in that most documents were handwritten and from the late 1800s. Deciphering the handwriting from the time period was challenging at time, but after looking at a few documents, one can begin to see the continuities in certain words and letters. The subject matter for these documents proved to be a bit mundane, as they were mostly contract, but nonetheless it was fascinating reading materials over 100 years old! 

Lastly, I worked on transcribing documents from the “Letters From Paris: American Artists in Paris, 1860-1930.” This project contained letters from various American artists while they lived or visited Paris. Specifically, for me, I chose Cecilia Beaux’s correspondence from 1888. Beaux was a portraitist during the Impressionist movement. Some of her works include “Man with the Cat,” and “Admiral Sir David Beatty, Lord Beatty.”  [3]

"Man with the Cat"
Painting by Cecilia Beaux. Taken from the Smithsonian American Art Museum website.

Like the Freedmen’s Bureau papers, these were also difficult to read due to the handwriting of the time. Her letters mostly relayed the daily activities of her time in France; visiting friends, going to church, etc. While I was not quite familiar with Beaux or her personal life, I found the personal correspondence to be more interesting rather than the government documents of the Freedmen’s Bureau or Sally Ride Papers.  

I greatly enjoyed the experience transcribing pieces of the past! I recently took a history course on the 19th century in which we learned about the Reconstruction era and the Freedmen’s Bureau. I was able to apply what I learned in class and contextualize the document I transcribed from the organization. In the moment, it may seem difficult to decipher a word or understand the meaning of the document, but once a letter is completely transcribed a feeling of accomplishment takes over. 

How you can get involved

There are numerous crowdsourcing opportunities for you to transcribe! Here in Washington, D.C. three of the largest institutions offer digital volunteer opportunities: Smithsonian Institution (you can pick a museum or theme of interest), the National Archives, and the Library of Congress. Smaller institutions occasionally host events such as a “Transcribe-a-thon” for certain collections. Not only is this a great way to help out, but it provides experience examining primary sources and you just might find a source you want to learn more about or use in your own research! 


The Smithsonian:


Library of Congress:


Library of Virginia:


National Archives:


[1] “Using Primary Sources.” The Library of Congress.


[2] “Labor Contracts.” Smithsonian Institution., “Freedmen’s Bureau.”

[3] “Cecilia Beaux.” Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Jazz Appreciation Month

This April marks the 20th annual Jazz Appreciation Month, or JAM, a celebration created by the National Museum of American History in 2001 to commemorate a music genre influential to American culture. A variety of celebrations, exhibits, performances, and lectures take place throughout the month–and although this year is a bit different given the circumstances, there is no shortage of resources and entertainment to celebrate the genre.

Swing, Zydeco, or Fusion; these are just a few. Today, jazz genres are seemingly endless and morph into other styles of music, but its origins are more concrete. Back in the late 19th century, in a little city called New Orleans, locals introduced “call and response chanting” with beats and drums, echoing the musical styles of West Africa. Is jazz a distinctly American genre? No, but Americans, African Americans in particular, cultivated the style and made it an American staple. You may not identify as an avid jazz fan, but it’s almost a certainty that sometime, you’ve hummed along to the familiar melody of a jazz standard. [1]

Here in Washington DC, jazz music holds deep roots. The famous Duke Ellington himself was born in Northwest DC. While his career was based in New York City, Washington holds on to his legacy. The popular area known as the U Street Corridor served as an epicenter of African American culture in the early twentieth century. Ellington, along with other greats such as Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, performed at the Lincoln Theatre, a popular music venue off U Street. To this day, it still draws in crowds to enjoy a variety of performances. Other jazz clubs and venues have emerged since then and can still be found throughout the city. Below are three prominent figures who, I believe served as trailblazers for jazz. They are by no means the only ones.

Mural on the True Reformer Building located on U Street. Taken from
Mural on the True Reformer Building located on U Street. Taken from

Duke Ellington: This swing composer graced stages and radios for more than sixty years. Chances are you’ve heard one of Duke Ellington’s most famous songs, “In a Sentimental Mood,” maybe in a movie, hotel lobby, or just on the radio. The soft echo of the piano no doubt soothes all listeners. Born and raised in Northwest D.C. Ellington’s legacy lives on in our region. The Duke Ellington School of Arts bears his name as a school for aspiring artists. His home; the Duke Ellington Bridge; and other locations throughout the city are marked and designated in his memory.

Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet. Image from NPR's 'Jazz Profiles.'
Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet. Image from NPR’s ‘Jazz Profiles.’

Louis Armstrong: You probably know Armstrong by one of his famous nicknames: “Satchmo,” “Satch,” or “Pops.” Known for his masterful trumpet playing and distinctive singing voice, Armstrong entertained the world for over five decades, and his influence is still present today. He was a staple of Dixieland jazz, a popular genre of the New Orleans region. During a time of racial tension, he was a voice that united: His music provided a bridge between tensions both political and racial. Armstrong was not one to publicly speak of politics or civil rights, but his presence reached far and wide; he even held a concert in East Berlin in 1965, which was controversial for the time. You can read about Satchmo’s life and his influences in his personal writings in Music is my life: Louis Armstrong, autobiography, and American Jazz. [2]

Glenn Miller Vinyl Record. Personal photo.
Glenn Miller Vinyl Record. Personal photo.

Glenn Miller: Major Alton Glenn Miller, his official rank while enlisted in the Army during World War II, was a talented trombonist and served as the leader of the Army Air Forces Band. His hope was to modernize the existing Army band; he no doubt exceeded this aspiration. At a time of uncertainty in the world, much like now, he provided comfort and entertainment as his music boosted the morale of soldiers and civilians alike. His most popular recordings, “In the Mood” and “Moonlight Serenade,” show his range. “In the Mood” is upbeat and makes one immediately feel happy and giddy, feeling the need to dance. “Moonlight Serenade” is a bit more somber and evokes a sense of longing. Unfortunately, Miller’s success came to an ominous ending in 1944, when his plane disappeared while traveling from England to France, likely due to a crash caused by fog. To learn more about Miller’s timelessness as a musician and his time in the Army Air Force Band, you can access this online book by Dennis M. Spragg: Glenn Miller: Declassified. [3]

How can you enjoy the wonders of jazz? Typically, one could attend the popular Jazz in the Garden held by the National Gallery of Art in their sculpture garden throughout the summer. Visit any neighborhood in the city and chances are there is jazz music performed at least once a week. Since those are wishful scenarios at the moment, there are plenty of ways to enjoy jazz from your home! Artists are holding livestream performances, many of which can be found here. You can always find a jazz playlist, of any genre you like, on your favorite music streaming service (below is a list of my personal favorites). This year, the National Museum of American History is celebrating Women in Jazz where you can visit their website for resources, history, and to view the museum’s online collection.

“You Rascal You” – Wynton Marsalis

“Strangers in the Night” – Frank Sinatra

“Beyond the Sea” -Kevin Spacey version

“Moonlight Serenade” – Glenn Miller 

“Blue in Green” – Miles Davis

“I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)” – Chet Baker

“All The Cats Join In” – Benny Goodman

“Go Down Moses” – Louis Armstrong

“C’est Si Bon” – Yves Montand

“I Love Paris” – Ella Fitzgerald


[1] “Jazz Origins in New Orleans.” Accessed April 7, 2020.

[2] “Louis Armstrong: Biography.” Louis Armstrong House Museum. Accessed April 7, 2020. 

[3] “Glenn Miller: Biography.” Accessed April 7, 2020.