Reference eReviews | September 1, 2013

Southern Life and African American History, 1775–1915, Plantations Records I; Slavery and the Law
ProQuest; proquest.com/pdpq/historyvault
By Cheryl LaGuardia

content ProQuest History Vault is a remarkable full-text, full-image database comprised of multiple subject modules providing full access to digitized letters, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, financial records, diaries, and other historical primary-source documents. This review is of Southern Life and African American History, 1775–1915, Plantations Records, Part 1, module 6 of History Vault, and the closely related module 4, Slavery and the Law (for a full list of modules see: http://proquest.libguides.com/historyvault).

Items in Southern Life and African American History, 1775–1915, Plantations Records, Part 1 (SLAAH) come from major repositories throughout the South, including the South Carolina Library, University of South Carolina; the Maryland Historical Society; Tulane University; the Louisiana State Museum; Louisiana State University; and the Virginia Historical Society. The module includes two series: Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution Through the Civil War and Records of Southern Plantations from Emancipation to the Great Migration. Material here includes plantation journals, crop books, overseers’ journals, account books, personal diaries, and business and personal correspondence. [For a fuller description of the collection see the ProQuest LibGuide, Southern Life and African American History, 1775–1915, Plantations Records, Part 1 (Module 6).]

Items in the Slavery and the Law (SAL) module come from the state archives and local courthouses of Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. They include just about every legislative petition on the subject of race and slavery from 1789 to 1865, as well as State Slavery Statutes, the record of the laws governing American slavery during that period. [See the ProQuest LibGuide, Slavery and the Law (Module 4).]

Usability The History Vault interface is blessedly clear and straightforward: at screen top is a toolbar that includes links to advanced search, browse events and collections, and LibGuides. A simple search box is accompanied by a list of suggested searches, such as agricultural labor, Confederate army, free persons of color, Reconstruction, and women and property. The browse events box offers links to information on military campaigns and battles and slaves and slavery; clicking on a subject reveals a time line of events significant to the history in that module, from which users can retrieve relevant documents. The browse collections box allows users to enter the individual collections in the module, beginning with essay introducing the collection.

Clicking one of SLAAH’s suggested searches, “Sale of slave children,” resulted in 526 results of mostly petitions to the court about buying and selling slave children in harrowing detail and businesslike language. A search for Richard Henry Lee in all fields excluding full-text retrieved 32 results, the first 22 or so of which were Lee’s letters and speeches, followed by about 10 false hits. When I looked at screen left after doing the search, however, I saw a limiting link for “Person as Subject” and clicked it to find 19 spot-on results.

A browse of the State Slavery Statues in SAL pulled up 848 results from 1789 to 1865—invaluable, detailed material that will be gold to scholars of American history.

Documents are downloaded as PDFs, and for lengthy items, that can mean multiple downloads. However, comparing the time and effort it would take to locate, access, and record the originals for individual scholars makes this a negligible carp.

The virtually exhaustive content of plantation records and court documents available here is astonishing, bringing to the scholar’s desktop a treasure trove of historical material on the Southern economy from 1789 to 1865, interwoven with the personal and legal realities of the slave trade and system. The accessibility of the content is excellent, and the digitized images are surprisingly clear and readable, given their age. ProQuest-produced LibGuides that accompany both modules add considerably to the files’ ease of use.

Pricing Southern Life and African American History, 1775–1915, Plantations Records I is sold either as a subscription or a perpetual archive. Price is based on a number of variables, including FTE. An academic library with an enrollment of 5,000 can expect to pay about $9,464 for a perpetual archive, or $1,893 for an annual subscription.

Verdict These SLAAH and SAL modules of History Vault are extraordinary, necessary historical resources. Highly recommended for libraries serving serious scholars of Southern, African American, and women’s history.


Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu

EndNote X7
Thomson Reuters; endnote.com
By Bonnie J.M. Swoger

Content Students, authors, and researchers who need to create in-text citations and bibliographies know the pain and monotony of manually constructing these lists. Several software programs (some for purchase, some for free download) have been developed to take away the pain of this task, including EndNote from Thomson Reuters, a dominant player in this field. Version X7 was released in July with several updates.

Reference managers like EndNote help writers and researchers perform two primary tasks. First, the software helps users organize references and find existing bibliographic details. Second, these products work with word processing software to insert in-text citations and fully formatted bibliographies into manuscripts. Importantly, EndNote and other similar programs help users format bibliographies in many citation styles. EndNote includes 491 installed styles with almost 5,000 styles available for download.

EndNote X7 offers the ability to sync references across up to three computers (e.g., the MAC in a users’ lab, an office PC, and a laptop at home) and an iPad app (purchased separately).

The latest version of the product includes some badly needed features related to PDF management. EndNote can now automatically rename PDF files attached to a reference according to user preferences. It has several common file renaming conventions (e.g., Author + Year or Author + Year + Title) and allows users to customize the renaming scheme based on any of the elements recorded in the references.

EndNote now lets users identify a folder on their computer where PDFs are normally stored and automatically import files from there. As the PDFs are downloaded, EndNote can often automatically extract metadata for the articles included. Metadata can be automatically imported for PDFs that are imported into EndNote one by one as well.

The new release enables the creation of bibliographies with subheadings, which is useful when using certain bibliographic styles or compiling a CV. Users can separate references into pre-existing categories such as “Primary Sources” and “Secondary Sources” or create customized categories such as “Journal Articles” or “Books.”

Finally, in what must be a long awaited feature, EndNote now has some functionality in Microsoft PowerPoint for PC. Although bibliographies won’t be automatically updated, citations and formatted bibliography entries can be added to a slideshow with a few clicks. These features are not available for MAC users.

EndNote includes the ability to search many databases from within the program, allowing direct import of references. The program then has a “Find Full Text” feature that can be associated with a user’s institution, enabling access to journal subscriptions.

The product can be used alone as a desktop program or in association with EndNote Web, allowing users to access their reference data and PDF documents. It’s also possible to collaborate with other EndNote users to create reference lists, although PDFs cannot be shared.

Usability Starting from scratch with a new reference management tool is complex, tedious, and time-consuming. Although researchers can accomplish everything they need to using this tool, its interface is more clunky and confusing than other such tools I have used.

Reference data can be manually entered or imported from a database: many databases include an “Export to EndNote” link. Previous EndNote libraries can also be imported. While the tool can automatically extract metadata from some PDF documents as they are imported, other reference managers are better at this. Reference data can be edited once entered, although edits must be manually saved.

The new features of EndNote X7 do what they promise. The new PDF management tools are a must-have feature. PDF documents downloaded from publisher website and databases rarely have human-readable file names. Since I never get around to renaming the files myself, I am happy to have a reference manager do it for me. EndNote creates a copy of the original file, so a file saved to a “Downloads” folder or to your desktop can be safely deleted. Unfortunately, the product creates a maze of unreadable folders into which these PDFs are placed.

Categories are managed from the EndNote toolbar in Microsoft Word. Custom categories are easy to create, and it is fairly simple to add references to individual categories, but this needs to be done for each document using EndNote citations. Aside from the default “Primary sources” and “Secondary sources” labels, categories must be re-created for each manuscript.

Integration with Microsoft PowerPoint is quite basic, and because bibliographies are not automatically created, it isn’t much of an improvement on simply copying and pasting formatted citations directly from EndNote. I hope that this badly needed feature will be expanded in future versions.

Pricing Verified students can purchase EndNote for $113.95. Nonstudents can purchase a downloaded copy of the program for $249.95 or have a copy shipped to them for $299.95. Volume discounts and enterprise solutions are available. A free version of the product, EndNote Basic, includes storage for two gigabytes of attachments and 50,000 references, as well as the top 20 most frequently used styles.

Verdict EndNote does some really useful things: sort references, insert in-text citations, and automatically create bibliographies. However, it has the most complex user interface of the reference managers I have worked with and is very expensive. While EndNote is suitable for college and graduate students as well as researchers and scholars, Zotero or Mendeley are better options.


Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu

 

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