The online Research Guide, which forms the core component of the American Women
Web site, began life as a print publication. During a period of nearly four years,
eighteen Library of Congress catalogers, reference specialists, and editors surveyed
their collections and compiled a richly illustrated, 456-page resource guide titled,
American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women's History
and Culture in the United States, which was published in December 2001 by
the Library of Congress in cooperation with the University Press of New England.
Copies of this award-winning book are available from major booksellers, through
Press of New England, and from the Library
of Congress Sales Shop. A short
press release announcing the guide's publication and an illustrated
article about the book written by one of its authors provide useful background
information on the guide's origin and content. Although much of the text and
many of the illustrations are now available online, the published book remains
an attractive and practical companion to the Web version, addressing audiences
and ready reference needs not always met by online publications.
Women workers install fixtures
and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17F bomber at the
Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif. Alfred T. Palmer.
1942 Oct. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-DIG-ppmsca-03058.
While the print publication was still in production and long before it
reached the book shelves of most major libraries, several members of the
editorial team decided to approach staff responsible for creating American
Memory sites with a proposal to mount the contents of the guide onlineboth
text and illustrations. The goals were to establish the initial framework
of an American Memory site that could point to and provide context for
the Library's existing and future digital collections in the field of
American women's history, while simultaneously enhancing access to the
institution's thousands of non-digital collections.
To meet these two complementary goals, the online Research Guide:
- preserves the print guide's original organization based on divisional reading
room or research center and retains the useful collection summaries and descriptions
of each division's catalogs, finding aids, and other access tools;
- supplements the information contained in the divisional collection summaries
by providing links to online catalog record descriptions and finding aids;
- enhances access to the contents of the guide (and compensates for the loss
of the print index) by offering a full-text search capability that retrieves
text in the body of the guide and in the captions of illustrations;
- improves the reader's ability to locate materials across the Library's
complicated, multiformat structure by providing hyperlinks from one relevant
section of the guide to another;
- draws attention to the Library's growing digital resources by including
many more illustrations than was possible in the print publication and
by providing direct links to hundreds of digital items in the Library's
American Memory collections (including some that were newly digitized
for this site; see Building the Digital Collection),
as well as to the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog and the Library's
- gathers in one place the scholarly introduction and the five topical essays
that were interspersed throughout the print guide, thereby establishing an
organizational structure independent of the divisional overviews, which can
readily accommodate an infinite number of additional cross-divisional thematic
analyses of the Library's women's history collections; and
- describes collections that were acquired by the Library since publication
of the print guide or that had been omitted from the print publication for
In redesigning and restructuring the print publication for online use, the
following modifications were introduced to make the text more "Web friendly":
Text was divided into manageable sections that could be retrieved as separate
- "Chapters" in the book have become "sections"
in the online presentation, and each section has been divided into several
large subsections, which are nearly always titled Introduction, Using
the Collections, Selected Holdings or Selected Collections, Conclusion,
External Sites, and Visit/Contact. The content of each of these subsections
varies depending on the reading room or administrative unit being described,
but generally the following information will be found.
- Introduction: Briefly highlights some of the division's notable
holdings in the area of women's history; provides an overview of the division's
history and acquisitions policies; and alludes to the strengths and weaknesses
of its collections.
- Using the Collections: Often delves deeper into the division's
collecting policies; explains how the materials are arranged and described;
suggests appropriate research methodologies; and identifies the major catalogs,
finding aids, and other tools essential for uncovering and interpreting
the unit's collections.
- Selected Collections: The largest component of each section, the
heading is self-evident. This is where you find descriptions of selected
holdings, grouped by topic, format, date, or other criteria meaningful to
- Conclusion: Summarizes some of the holdings information and key
research advice given within the section.
- External Sites: Gathers in one spot all the links to Web
sites outside the Library of Congress Web pages that appeared in the
- Visit/Contact: Lists the telephone number, postal and email addresses,
hours of operation, and essential access and use information for all Library
reading rooms and for the specific one being described in the section.
- Each of these subsections is usually further broken down into divisions,
subdivisions, and so forth, often with additional headings and subheadings.
- To assist navigation of the hierarchical divisions and subdivisions,
a navigator panel containing an expandable headings list (or table of
contents) appears on the left side of each page.
- The arrow in the navigator panel identifies the division or subdivision
of the section that is currently being viewed and helps provide context
for the section's overall organization. When you select any of the hyperlinked
headings in the navigator, the headings of the next-level divisions
are revealed. Simultaneously, the text on the right side of the screen
jumps to the beginning of the division selected on the navigator. The
three images below show the expanding table of contents in the navigator
panel for the General Collections section of the Research Guide.
|1. Fully collapsed navigator on the Introduction page
|2. When the Selected Holdings heading is highlighted,
the navigator expands to show subsidiary categories.
|3. When Starting Places is selected, further subdivision
headings are revealed.
- The navigator is generated dynamically from the XML-coded text through
the use of an XSLT stylesheet. An expandable table
of contents for the entire Research Guide, based on another stylesheet,
is available elsewhere on the site.
Text was also reformatted to allow for easier skimming of pages and to accommodate
The ability to link to other digital files was the primary motivation behind producing
an online version of the Research Guide. The guide takes advantage of five
kinds of links.
- Subheadings were added to the section divisions. These subheadings do not
appear within the navigators since they do not represent separate Web
- Bullets, numbered lists, italics, boldface, and other formatting conventions
were introduced to break up dense narrative passages and draw attention to
- Longer paragraphs were divided into two or more paragraphs based on logical
breaks in the text.
- Some transition sentences and paragraphs linking passages in the narrative-based
print guide became unnecessary or confusing in the online presentation, and
they were omitted.
- Efforts were made to make each Web page "stand on its own," since
readers will land on pages as a result of search queries and will not necessarily
have read the pages in the order in which the information had been presented
in the printed text. When appropriate, links were added to direct readers
to a related discussion elsewhere in the same or another section of the guide.
1. Cross-reference links of the see and see also variety
that facilitate quicker navigation between related passages in the guide. When
the context of the sentence makes it clear where the link is headed, the link
is placed on the appropriate words in the text; when the destination of the
link is less clear, parenthetical statements have been added to alert readers
to the title of the section to which they are being referred.
2. Catalog record links and bibliographic record links. The former type
of link appears only in the body of the guide, whereas the latter appears only
in brief illustration captions.
- Links to catalog records appear in brackets within the text, e.g.,
[catalog record]. These links launch a search string via the Z39.50
information retrieval protocol that retrieves a formatted display of
a Library of Congress Online Catalog record. Catalog records supplement
and may even supersede some information in the Research Guide, specifically
with respect to the dates and quantity of the material described, since
the catalog records are likely to be updated more frequently than the
text in the Research Guide. Since catalog records sometimes contain
their own links, it is possible to move from a summary description in
the women's history Research Guide, to a potentially more detailed catalog
record, and ultimately through a link in the catalog record to an in-depth
collection finding aid or perhaps a digital surrogate of an item.
- Links to bibliographic records are discussed below under Glossary
3. Links to other Library of Congress Web sites. In addition to linking
to information in the Library's catalogs, the Research Guide also includes links
to relevant Library of Congress Exhibitions Web pages, home pages for American
Memory collections, lists of finding aids and other resources appearing on reading
room home pages, and other useful materials available on the Library's site.
4. External Links. These are used sparingly in the American
Women Research Guide, and when they do appear they first take the
reader to an intermediary page containing a standard disclaimer alerting
the reader that the destination site is outside the Library of Congress
5. Links to digital content. These links, which may be the most important
of any type used in the American Women Research Guide, point to the Library's
growing digital resources. They appear in the body of the text and are used
in both the captions and thumbnails of illustrations. They link to related digital
content throughout the Library of Congress Web site, provided the content is
accompanied by bibliographic records or other descriptive information. Such digital content may be found principally in the American Memory Historical Collections,
Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC), and Library of Congress Exhibitions
Web pages, as well as in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.
Be advised that although the digital surrogate may be accessible on the Library's
Web site, the original item may be held by another institution which loaned
the item to the Library for an exhibition or which received an Ameritech
Award to digitize its materials for inclusion on the Library's American
In an effort to alert the reader to the type of file they will access, the
following labels are used for digital content links:
- Used in the body of the text to link to sound files. The link resolves to
a bibliographic record in American Memory that contains playback instructions
and a list of audio file formats from which to select. The bibliographic record
may also contain a thumbnail image from an album jacket or related item.
- bibliographic record
- Used in short captions of illustrations to link to information in
either American Memory or the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog
(PPOC) that describes the item being illustrated. The description usually
includes the title of the item, name of the creator, date the item was
created, physical medium of the original, reproduction and digital identification
numbers, and information about subjects represented in the item. In
addition to this summary information, the bibliographic record includes
a link for viewing or listening to the item.
- [catalog record]
- Used in the body of the text to link to Library of Congress Online
Catalog records (see item #2 under Types of Links, above, and the illustration below).
- exhibit display
- Used in short captions of illustrations to link to descriptive information
about an item that appears on the Library's Exhibitions Web pages.
- full caption
- Used in short captions of illustrations to link to a pop-up window
containing a longer caption describing the item. The only illustrations
displaying a "full caption" link are those that appeared in the print
version of American Women. It is possible that fuller captions
will be supplied later to images that were added to the online version
of the Research Guide. The full caption also includes a thumbnail version
of the image, which is useful when the full caption is accessed by way
of a full-text search rather than by clicking on it from the illustration
on screen (see Searching for Text and Images
- [full item] or full item
- Used in brackets in the body of the text and without brackets in
short captions of illustrations to link to a set of images that make
up a complete unit of material, usually textual in form, such as an
entire letter, speech, book, pamphlet, or music score. The link generally
resolves to a bibliographic record that contains either (or both) a
thumbnail version of the first image in the set or a text link containing
a phrase, such as view the images. Clicking on either the thumbnail
or text link will launch a presentation of the remaining images, often
through a page-turner device.
- [moving image]
- Used in the body of the text to link to motion pictures, films, Web
broadcasts of Library events, etc. The link generally resolves to a
bibliographic record in American Memory that contains playback instructions
and a list of file formats from which to select. The bibliographic record
may also contain a thumbnail still image from the moving image file.
Links to Library Webcasts go directly to the digitized video file.
- Used in the body of the text to link to pictorial material (such
as photographs, prints, drawings, or cartoons). The link resolves to
a bibliographic record in either the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog
(PPOC) or American Memory that contains a thumbnail of the image with
instructions on how to access a larger version.
The following series of screen captures from the Manuscript Division section
on Reproductive Health provides examples of some of the links described above.
Here is the overall layout of the page:
The first two paragraphs of text contain several types of links.
- The first link is a cross-reference alerting the reader to information
on other collections relating to public health nurses in another part of the
Health and Medicine discussion in the Manuscript Division section.
- The second link is to the catalog record for the Margaret Sanger
Papers. A screen capture below gives you a glimpse of what the Z39.50 search
retrieves from the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Note especially the
link at the end of the record, which takes you to a detailed finding aid
for the collection.
- The third link is also a cross-reference, but this one directs
you from the Manuscript Division portion of the Research Guide to the
Rare Book and Special Collections Division portion. The description
could also have included references to Sanger photographs in the Prints
and Photographs Division and a Sanger radio broadcast in the Recorded
Sound Section of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound
Division, but the author elected to have researchers discover those
sources by doing a full-text search of the guide (see below), which
would also uncover references to Sanger in the General Collections and
Area Studies sections of the guide.
- The fourth link is an example of an external link, and a screen capture
below shows the destination of that link.
- The final link is to a moving image file that contains a videotaped
broadcast of a presentation by Esther Katz, editor of The Margaret Sanger
Papers Project at the Department of History, New York University, who spoke
at the Library of Congress in March 2003 about the Sanger Papers.
|Second link: catalog record for the Margaret Sanger Papers
|Final link: External link listed on Manuscript External Sites
In addition to the links that appear in the body of the text, there are also
three links in the illustration The Complete Dainty Maid Outfit.
- The thumbnail image links to a larger version (see screen capture
below). In this instance, that larger image is accompanied by a digital
identification number as well as by links to the bibliographic record
and to higher-resolution versions of the image. This type of display
is known as a "secondary" American Memory display. Thumbnails of
images from the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) also resolve
to a similar "secondary display." Thumbnails of items that are part
of page-turner displays or exhibit displays link to larger jpeg-format
versions of the images but those versions do not provide any identifying
information or links to higher-resolution images.
- The bibliographic record links to descriptive information about the
item being illustrated, and it includes a thumbnail image that goes
to the secondary display.
| Secondary display
| Bibliographic record
- The full caption link is a clue that this image appeared in
the print publication. The link brings up a pop-up window that includes
the descriptive information that appears under the illustration together
with a longer caption. The screen capture shows how the pop-up window
appears on top of the formerly active window in your browser. The contents
of this and all full captions are searchable through a full-text search
The American Women full-text
search form is similar to those for other American Memory collections, but
there are a few points that you should keep in mind.
As is the case with other American Memory collections, searches done in American
Women result in a list of Web pages, ranked according to the positioning
and frequency of your search words within the pages.
For example, a search for the phrase "White House" in the American
Women Research Guide identified thirty items, the first twenty of
which are shown in the sample screen capture below. Included among the
search results are Web pages consisting of full captions of illustrations
(only those images that appeared in the print version of the guide) and
Web pages containing portions of the body of the guide. You can usually
distinguish between the two types of results because entries denoting
caption pages often contain a reproduction or call number, and entries
for the guide proper include the title of the specific Web page containing
your search words, followed by a colon and the name of the division in
whose section the page appears.
In the example,
- entries 1, 5-9, 13, and 15-20 go to Web pages containing text from
the body of the guide relating to holdings in the Manuscript, Prints
and Photographs, and Geography and Map divisions (note the colon and
division name appearing at the end of each entry)
- entries 2-4, 10-13, and 14 take you to text in the full captions of illustrations
(note that all but one of these entries contain a reproduction or call number)
If you select any of the entries for the guide, you are taken to the
appropriate page, where you will find your search words appearing in boldface
on the screen. After finishing with that page, you can select buttons
at the top of the screen to see the Previous entry, Next entry, Item List,
or conduct a New Search. You can also select any of the headings in the
navigator panel (on the left side of the screen) and proceed to browse
through the guide. If you opt to select a navigator heading, you leave
the temporary display view generated by the search and begin accessing
pages with permanent URLs (see Searching
American Memory for more information).
Selecting one of the caption entries in the search results list takes
you to a different display, as explained below.
Search results will often include the
full captions of those illustrations
that appeared in the print version of
the guide; these can be recognized by
the phrase "Full caption:" preceding the
on the brief item list. Because these
captions are accessible through
(see Using Links
above), the link on the search result
page resolves to a separate Web page
containing the brief head note, full caption,
and thumbnail version
of the illustration. See, for example,
the screen capture of the display page
for the Vinnie Ream photograph, which
is item 10 in the search results
The top of this display offers the same options as the search displays
of the guide pages, i.e., "go to" buttons for the Previous entry, Next
entry, Item List, or New Search. You cannot, however, get to the guide
proper from this display. What do you do if you want to locate the Vinnie
Ream photograph in the section of the guide where it appears because you
are interested in seeing an enlarged view of the image or would like read
the text which the Ream photograph illustrated?
- Often the Web page containing the illustration is represented in the
results of your initial search, but finding it may not always be easy.
For example, although the Ream image is held in the Prints and Photographs
Division, the photograph appears as an illustration in the Manuscript
Division section of the guide on Artists, Architects, and Designers,
which is entry 27 in the search results. It may not occur to you to
select that entry, however, if you do not know that Ream's papers are
held in the Manuscript Division.
- The alternative is to do another search, this time limiting the words searched
to those that appear in the head note of the full caption. Searching for the
reproduction number "LC-USZ62-10284" will lead to the most precise results,
exactly two hits--the full caption page and the Manuscript Division page on
Artists, Architects, and Designers, where the illustration appears.
- Another possibility would be to search for "Vinnie Ream," which would
also uncover resources relating to her in the Prints and Photographs
Division section on Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings.
Much of the digital content that is either linked to or displayed in
American Women is drawn from elsewhere on the American Memory site,
the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC), and the Library's Exhibitions
Web pages. A relatively small number of items have so far been digitized
solely for this site (see Building
the Digital Collection). Although for technical reasons a search page
exists for these items, it is not prominently featured on the site because
search results may be misleading. It is better to retrieve the items as
part of a broader American Memory search (see Searching
American Memory), with the added benefit of accessing a much larger
pool of resources than has been referenced or illustrated in the American
Women Research Guide.
Although the American Memory search page is the preferred way to search
for digital items, you can of course access many digital items in American
Women by following links from the illustrations and text in the Research
Guide (see Illustrations and Digital Content
Links, above). To locate these links using the full-text search form,
you can search for words describing the content of the items, but you
might also consider searching the exact phrases "full item,""full caption,"
and perhaps even "bibliographic record," although the latter will generate
a significant number of results. These searches will not retrieve full-item
audio or moving image files, but searching the terms "audio"
or "moving image" for such links is not particularly efficient,
given the frequency with which the words are used in the text of the Research
Guide. Audio or moving image digital files relating to American women
can be located by reading the relevant sections of the Research Guide
and by searching American Memory directly.
For additional advice on constructing searches in American Women and other
American Memory collections, see Searching
American Memory on the American Women home page. Also be sure
to explore the Search
Tips link on the American Memory search form.