Sunday, January 30, 2005

The US Civil War Center (USCWC): An Appreciation

The U.S. Civil War Center (USCWC) was founded in 1993 and is involved with a number of projects, but the best-known is its attempt to link to every scrap of information on the web that touches upon the Civil War era. To date it has found and cataloged about 9000 sites, though inevitably at any given time, some of the links are "broken;" that is, they lead only to a 404 error code.

The main point of entry is Index of Civil War Information on the Internet.

From an introductory page that explains the center's mission, history, etc.:

The Center has been called an "information clearinghouse." However, the Center is not a museum or a library. While we do not maintain original documents on the premises, we help direct individuals to the appropriate experts, institutions, and books for their research projects. Each day we are contacted by phone, fax, mail and e-mail by scholars, teachers, students, movie producers, reenactors, librarians, and amateur genealogists who are working on a diverse group of projects.

If you have a question, please be sure your first step is to view the Index, Questions, and Researching People of the Civil War Era sections on the Center's web site. Once you have examined our available links, we ask that you submit all inquiries in writing, either via mail, fax or e-mail.

The USCWC essentially vaccums up all the info on the web it can and parks that info as best it can in an extensive index. The center knows the info is not always accurate or reliable and that it may be part of idiossyncratic, even offensive historical interpretations. It expects users to know how to discern good sources from bad, bearing in mind that the meaning of "good" and "bad" are contextualized by the purpose of one's research. If I'm interested in popular memory of the Civil War, sources that would be "bad" for a college term paper on, say, Northern politics during the era, are "good" for my needs.

Over the years I've used the USCWC a lot and have always found it nothing less than extremely helpful. But as an expert on the Civil War era, I'm pretty well able to sift the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly. Therefore I thought a useful service might be to go through the index and identify the "best" links.

"Best," of course, is subjective. In general, I have thought of "best" in the sense of "value-added": I have looked for sites that tell you things or provide perspectives you could not just as easily find in an encyclopedia or some other reference work. "Value-added" does not always mean accurate, and some of these sites reflect perspectives on the Civil War era that are dated, racist, idiosyncratic, or downright weird. But usually "value-added" does mean interesting.

I vouch for the accuracy of nothing on these sites, nor for whether they respect applicable fair use laws, not whether they contain malicious code, or anything else. I won't even guarantee you'll agree with my selections. In fact, I'm sure you will disagree with some of them. I don't care. Get your own blog and make your own list.

But I do hope you'll enjoy the sites in the lists I've chosen.

The section below will provide links to specfic subject areas and will be updated as needed:


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