ProQuest’s NAACP Papers, History Vault & Treehouse | Reference eReviews

NAACP Papers, History Vault

ProQuest and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP);;
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  • By Cheryl LaGuardia


Content The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Papers, History Vault is the digitized, full-text, searchable content of the NAACP’s archives, with approximately two million pages of action summaries, legal briefs, memos, reports, personal correspondence, proceedings, and the rest of the association’s organizational records dating from 1909 (when it was founded) to 1972.

The file consists of six collections, all under the heading “NAACP Papers”: The first three collections are “Board of Directors, Annual Conferences, Major Speeches, and National Staff Files”; “Branch Department, Branch Files, and Youth Department Files”; and “Special Subjects.” Three remaining collections with the subhead “The NAACP’s Major Campaigns” are “Education, Voting, Housing, Employment, Armed Forces”; “Legal Department Files”; and “Scottsboro, Anti-Lynching, Criminal Justice, Peonage, Labor, and Segregation and Discrimination Complaints and Responses.”

Usability Links on the opening screen lead to, for example, advanced search, browse events, browse collections, and LibGuides. Users will also find a simple search box labeled, “What would you like to search for?” Below that is a carousel of clickable images to browse events (in the categories of legislation and case law; organizations; demonstrations; riots; elections; sports and athletics; and violence and assassination), beneath which is a section for browsing collections (the six listed above). Suggested searches are listed and linked. These include: Black power; boycotts; Brown v. Board of Education; Robert L. Carter; Gloster B. Current; discrimination in administration of justice, education, and in the military; Charles Hamilton Houston; lynching; Thurgood Marshall; NAACP Annual Conventions; NAACP Veterans Affairs Committee; racial intimidation and violence; the Scottsboro Boys; Smith v. Allwright; Stephen Gill Spottswood; Sweatt v. Painter; Walter Francis White; and Roy Wilkins.

I started exploring by clicking the suggested “Brown v. Board of Education” link, which led to 112 items. The first result was for “Bradley v. School Board of the City of Richmond school desegregation case, general case material,” from FOLDER: 016309-015-0725 in the collection, Papers of the NAACP, Supplement to Part 23: Legal Department Case Files, 1960–1972, Series A: The South, Section II: Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and ­Virginia. There I was able to download a PDF of the file (an especially nice time-saving feature here is that you can download portions of a file, rather than the entire file all at once).

Back at the result list I saw valuable options to narrow my results by start and end dates, subject, geography, person as subject, federal agency, organizations, collections, and principal correspondents, with links to individuals and organizations named multiple times in the result list.

Next I clicked on browse events and got a time line running from 1909 (with the founding of the NAACP) to 1974 (with a link to Bradley v. Milliken, a Detroit school desegregation and school busing case). I scrolled through the list of events and chose demonstrations, which, when I clicked on it, revealed a time line for these events ranging from 1915 (“NAACP begins its campaign to have Birth of a Nation movie banned from movie theaters”) to 1966 (the Meredith March Against Fear). In that time line I discovered documents related to the National Conference on Lynching held in May 1919 in New York City, describing sit-in demonstrations throughout the 1960s, recording planning and preparation for the March on Washington in 1963, and recounting the experiences of Freedom Riders in the 1950s and 1960s.

When I clicked on browse collections I went directly to a page describing the Scottsboro case, 1931–1950. Just to offer an idea of the remarkable detail and scope of this file, here’s a note about this one collection among the many included in the NAACP Papers:

“The contents of this collection are contained in some 421 folders which typically are arranged by document category or by subject matter, and thence by date. Document types include correspondence, legal transcripts, memoranda and other administrative and organizational records, financial accounts, and news clippings, press releases, and related news media files; also noted are a series of handbills, flyers, posters, fact sheets and other aspects of public awareness and fundraising campaigns launched by the NAACP and the Scottsboro Defense Committee (organized formally in 1935 as an umbrella organization specifically to raise funds for the legal defense of the Scottsboro defendants).”

My first search, for “Fannie Lou Hamer,” found three results; a search for “Malcolm X” brought up ten sets of documents. When I tried a search of the file for “miscegenation or interracial relationships” I got 101 items, with one as recent as 1976. An advanced search for “Medgar Evers and Emmett Till” found five results, and in the course of doing that search I learned that when using advanced search you can choose to mine all six modules at once or just a single module. Overall, searching this database is easy. The History Vault LibGuide ( holds useful information for searching and citing various History Vault modules, as does the help section of the site. Both also describe how to create and manage user profiles in any of the History Vault modules.

The content here is astounding in quantity and quality. The image resolution is excellent, even for hand-written items. Searching this file is a valuable history lesson in itself. One misgiving: I wish the particular file in use were identified at the top of the screen; the title bar lists only: ProQuest | History Vault, and it’s necessary to look further down the screen to discover exactly what it is you’re searching. Having “NAACP Papers” listed along with ProQuest | History Vault would make it clearer to researchers the file they’re using.

PRicing Each of the six NAACP modules is sold either as a subscription or a perpetual archive. Pricing is based on several variables including FTE. An academic library serving an enrollment of 5,000 could expect to pay about $13,628 for a perpetual archive or $2,725 for an annual subscription, per module.

Verdict This file’s print counterpart is the most heavily used collection in the Library of Congress’s Manuscript Division, and it’s all the more impressive that researchers can now have 24/7/365 access to this remarkable record. An essential acquisition for libraries serving scholars in civil and human rights, American history, criminal justice, social choice and political theory, military history, and sociology. A tremendously significant historical resource.

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


  • By Bonnie J.M. Swoger


Content Treehouse is a self-paced learning platform for those who are learning web and app development. Users acquire technology skills through videos, projects, quizzes, and interactive forums. Treehouse students can gain knowledge about iPhone and Android app development, basic HTML and CSS, WordPress development, JavaScript, PHP, and Ruby. The platform also includes lessons on supplemental skills needed in the workplace: how to write a business plan, the nature of the freelance market, copyright, marketing, social media strategies, etc.

Lessons can be accessed in two main ways. Users can search for individual lessons in the Treehouse library, or follow a guided path through Treehouse tracks. Tracks start with basic concepts and progress through more advanced topics. For example, the web design track starts with the basics of making a website, moves on to HTML and CSS basics, then provides lessons on design principles and Photoshop and Illustrator basics. The final lessons concentrate on search engine optimization and SASS (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets). Users are asked to select one track at a time, although they can switch to another one at any point.

Patrons may also select individual lessons from the Treehouse library. “Projects” are shorter lessons with between five and 20 steps. These steps include videos, quizzes, and hands-on code-writing practice sessions. Users can skip individual steps, rewatch videos, and retake quizzes. Videos come with time-stamped transcripts, allowing greater accessibility. Longer lessons, called “Deep Dives,” offer a larger number of steps, broken down into subtopics.

The platform provides all of the tools needed to learn about these topics through the user’s web browser: no additional software is needed. For hands-on practice, an in-browser code editor appears and guides students through a set of objectives, allowing them to check their work along the way. To supplement these work spaces within each lesson, students can also create up to ten work spaces (independent of lessons) to create files and code. Files can be uploaded and downloaded, and the code editor has code highlighting, formatting, and autocomplete features.

Finishing each lesson or subtopic earns the user an “Achievement” or points, and often presents a brief humorous video as a way of saying “Good job.” The content available to users in Treehouse depends on their membership level. “Basic” members can access any of the projects and tracks, as well as the online forums. “Pro” members enjoy those resources as well as additional access to conference recordings and recorded “workshops” on a wide variety of topics.

The platform’s user forum encourages them to interact with the resource’s teachers and other students. The forum appears to be quite active, with teachers and moderators playing an active role in answering questions. Users can search for answers to specific questions, and “subscribe” to a question to easily see new answers.

Usability The Treehouse platform has a clean layout and design, but it will take novice users a few minutes to understand what everything is. For first-timers, a welcome screen offers a “tour” of each page, but, unfortunately, once it is dismissed the tour can’t be located again.

The homepage offers a glimpse of the user’s progress through the lessons; this progress is displayed upon each login. Points and achievements are listed, as well as the tracks signed up for by the user. The homepage also indicates progress through each track, as well as how much additional work is needed to complete it. My homepage indicated that I had 55 more hours of work on the web design track (which was a bit daunting at the end of the academic semester). Time estimates for all tracks is provided; this helps users schedule their work. If I wanted to complete the web design track in eight weeks, for example, the site explained that I would need to work on lessons for one hour each day.

Each part of the resource (tracks, library, forum, work spaces) is available via a left-hand menu. By default, links are icons that display mouse-over text, but the menu can be expanded. The always present left-hand menu makes it easy to jump between sections.

Progress within a track, project, or deep dive is intuitive, with the database offering clearly ordered steps, prominent “Next” buttons, and labeled video lengths. Videos include transcripts and links to outside resources on the topic. Once within a module, users can download individual videos to view offline. Alternatively, users have access to all the videos in a lesson via an iTunes podcast feed, although the same videos cannot be found through an iTunes search.

Small details could be improved (for example, I would like to know why my quiz answers were wrong), but the lessons are easy to follow and the hands-on practice is particularly valuable.

Pricing Individuals can access Treehouse directly through monthly subscriptions. The “Basic” plan is $25 per month, and “Pro” costs $49 per month. Annual billing is available at a discount, and users can “pause” a membership for up to three months—useful for academic users who take the summer months off. Libraries can subscribe to ­Treehouse (the basic plan) for their patrons at a rate of $4,620 per year for very small libraries up to $218,400 per year for the largest libraries.

VERDICT The platform is easy to use and encourages completion via awarding points, badges, and providing access to humorous reward videos. Treehouse provides a slightly better (though much more expensive) alternative to freely available resources by guiding users through each topic and providing feedback on quizzes and hands-on activities. For schools or public libraries seeking to provide additional technical resources, this product could be an effective part of an educational program.

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, Readers can contact her at

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