Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost


Freedom House. Access: https://freedomhouse.org/.

Wendell G. Johnson, Northern Illinois University Libraries, wjohnso1@niu.edu

Freedom House is an independent watch-dog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. It was founded in 1941 in New York City with the quiet encouragement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who wanted to promote popular support for American involvement in World War II. Today, Freedom House seeks to be a catalyst for increased political rights and civil liberties through a combination of analysis, advocacy, and action. Freedom House’s National Headquarters are in Washington, D.C., and the organization also has offices in New York, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and South Africa.

Librarians and their patrons will be most interested in the “Reports” issued by Freedom House, which are accessible from the homepage. The organization’s flagship report is its annual “Freedom in the World,” which analyzes a particular nation’s political culture (electoral process, political pluralism, the functioning of the government, freedom of expression, the right of free association, rules of law, etc.) and assigns it a “freedom score” on a sliding scale of 0 (worst) to 100 (best). In 2016, the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, and Finland received perfect scores (100). On the other end of the spectrum, Somalia (2), North Korea (3), and Eritrea (3) scored poorly. United States, by comparison, earned a score of 90.

Each year, Freedom House also issues a report entitled “Freedom on the Net” (FOTN), which measures obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. In 2015, Freedom House assessed 65 countries, each of which was assigned a FOTN score (0 = best, 100 = worst). Saudi Arabia, for example, received a score of 73. Freedom House contends that the Saudi government regularly filters content judged to be “harmful,” “illegal,” “anti-Islamic,” or “offensive.” Australia, on the other hand, received a FOTN score of 19. Freedom House claims that the Australian government places few impediments to Internet access and does not block online content.

Patrons may also download a variety of special reports dealing with current events, such as “Ending Impunity for Human Rights Violations in Crimea” and “Voices in the Streets: Mass Social Protests and the Right to Peaceful Assembly.” Librarians will need to navigate Freedom House’s site to correlate these reports with a specific reference interview.

The Theatre & Performance Collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Access: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/theatre-performance.

Patrick Wohlmut, Linfield College, pwohlmut@linfield.edu

The website for the Theatre & Performance Collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is an open, free-to-use access point for digitized images of physical objects related to the performing arts. V&A is a museum of art and design located in London, and the Theatre & Performance Collections include, but are not limited to, theatrical posters, props, costumes, sketches, sculptures and figurines, designs and set models, and other objects and ephemera.

There are nearly 1.8 million images in the V&A’s general digital collections, and 5,183 of those are from the Theatre & Performance Collections. The search interface is straightforward, though sometimes nonintuitive. For example, initiating a search from the Theatre & Performance Collections’ homepage does not automatically search those collections, but instead does a more general search of V&A’s digital images using “theatre” as a keyword. The term “theatre” appears in multiple places in the search results, not just in Theatre & Performance, so one has to use facets in order to specifically search those collections. However, those facets allow a researcher to refine his or her search by the physical criteria and location of the objects in the wider collection. Furthermore, the search interface displays thumbnails of images in the search results, making them easy to browse.

Undergraduate researchers are likely to find the detailed entries for items in the V&A’s collection useful. A physical description, its background history, and the purpose and context for which the object was made can serve as a launching point for further research into that object’s cultural, historic, and artistic significance. Additionally, an option to “Explore Related Objects” will initiate a new keyword search for items that share certain physical qualities with the one being studied. These search features, as well as the clarity of the digital images, make the website a potentially valuable reference.

Besides its usefulness with regard to theatrical design, theater history, and dramaturgy, some of the ephemera in the collections, including theatrical posters for stage productions starring a young Ian McKellen, a guitar smashed by Pete Townshend of The Who, and original drawings for the Rolling Stones tongue logo should stimulate the curiosity of anyone interested in the history of modern culture, art, and performance.

New York Public Library Public Domain Collections. Access: http://www.nypl.org/research/collections/digital-collections/public-domain.

Gene Hyde, University of North Carolina-Asheville, ghyde@unca.edu

In January 2016, the New York Public Library (NYPL) made more than 187,000 digitized public domain items available for high-resolution download with no strings attached. Users can download a wide range of digital materials, including papers from Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, and manuscripts from American authors like Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau. The collection also contains iconic Farm Security Administration photographs by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, and Lewis Hine’s Ellis Island photographs. Users will also find Renaissance and medieval manuscripts, more than 20,000 maps, and thousands of other images, paintings, documents, and more.

Access to this treasure trove is via a well-designed and pleasantly interactive website. The site has a visualization tool, which presents a page of thousands of micro-thumbnails divided into groups. The default sort is “Century Created,” but you can also opt to sort by “genre,” “collection,” or “color.” Simply moving your mouse over the micro-thumbnails brings up a larger thumbnail with a brief description of each item.

Here’s an example of how random searching can reveal marvelous things. While moving through 18th-century documents on the visualization tool, I came across a document from the Committees of Correspondence Collection. Opening the document presented a high-resolution scan of the document. Clicking on an individual document opened up a multiple page view, and the zoom feature allowed one to carefully analyze handwriting. Metadata displayed below the document made it possible to drill down to the library division (in this instance, Manuscripts and Archives), as well as collection and subcollection levels.

The site also features several “public domain remixes,” which are creative online projects using materials from the public domain collections. One featured remix is “Navigating the Green Books,” which features interactive mapping tools based on data from the Traveler’s Green Books, the guide to hotels, restaurants, and other services that served African Americans during the Jim Crow era. There are also full scans of more than 20 editions of the Green Book.

The NYPL’s Public Domain site is an impressive model of excellent organization and metadata, attention to detail, and ease of navigation. The resources are widely varied and culturally significant, and thanks to NYPL, easily available.

Copyright 2016© American Library Association

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