Editor’s Note

Civil Rights Collections in the Digital Realm

As more archival institutions begin to provide digital versions of their materials, many technical and archival issues come to surface. Archivists must consider issues with copyright restrictions, image size, and metadata when creating a usable digital collection. One must also evaluate the types of materials chosen for digitization and their historical significance and/or usability. Many digital collections contain material from a specific collection’s Creator: such as the Civil War letters of a Union soldier at the Siege of Vicksburg, the photographs of an early Twentieth century female photographer, or the diary of a young girl traveling through the West. While others contain materials of like categories, like Jazz sheet music, images of farm equipment, or sports ephemera. There are other collections though, which bring together materials of different types, from various collections and creators, that when brought together help to tell a story of difficult times in history and illuminate the thoughts of people who lived in those times. It is that subject which we highlight in this issue: the story of the American Civil Rights Movement as seen through digital collections.

The following articles depict the various issues, both technical and archival, in maintaining collections that focus on the Civil Rights era in American history. Whether they are the personal papers of Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, or the oral histories of young men and women who worked tirelessly throughout the American South, these articles provide a glimpse into the technical aspects required to maintain digital collections and the issues of selection and access to these materials. They also reflect the care that archivists, librarians, and historians employ with these materials and the historical value of such valuable collections.


Ryan P. Semmes

Ryan P. Semmes is the Assistant Archivist at the Congressional and Political Research Center at the Mississippi State University Libraries where he helps maintain the records of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant editorial project. Prior to working at Mississippi State University, he was the Archivist at the Washington, D.C., Public Library’s Washingtoniana Division. He received both his Master of Arts in Public History-Archives and his Master of Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History from Mississippi State University.