by Matt Saldaña
What do Nazi comic books, Civil War-era song sheets, and portraits from a pioneering African-American photography studio in Charleston, S.C., have in common? They're all new additions to the Duke Digital Collections, Duke University's free archive of historical texts and images. (The collection's About page notes: "In addition to providing easier access to these materials, digital collections aid in the preservation of materials by reducing the need for handling the originals.") Indeed, the presentation online is remarkable--and, for the song sheet collection, there's even a tag cloud containing terms like "love," "flag," "cause" and "traitor."
Other recently digitized collections include photographs taken by two Americans living in a nascent Soviet Union, and a Union soldier's private collection of cartes-de-visites of "Officers of Army and Navy and Notorious Characters of the So-called 'Confederate States.'" Here's an excerpt from the intro for "Americans in the Land of Lenin: Documentary Photographs of Early Soviet Russia, 1919-1930." Trust us, though, the images are even better:
Both men left unique photos of their encounter with ordinary individuals of the self-proclaimed first socialist country in the world. Their images of life in the Soviet provinces between the World Wars reveal an agrarian, multi-ethnic country, still reeling under the impact of the revolutionary forces unleashed at the beginning of the 20th-century.