The History of the Great Lakes States website, at www.envisionthepast.com , is a free online history library for the five states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin; an area once called ‘The Old Northwest’. The historical era covered starts in the 1600s – with French colonization of the region – and ends about 1860. The site currently has links to over 1,300 items, including;
· hundreds of books
· dozens of personal journals and memoirs
· dozens of articles from historical journals
· vintage maps and atlases
· historical documents
All materials are available to anyone, free of charge. There is no registration, and users are not asked for any personal information. We don’t have any political axes to grind. There are no limits on the number of items users can view. Most books can be downloaded.
All items are in the public domain, so nearly everything was published before 1924. Some more recent items were placed in the public domain by the publisher or author.
All links lead to websites at other organizations. Organizations around the country are scanning massive quantities of public domain books and other documents, placing them on their websites for free public access. All items on the History of the Great Lakes States site have links to the digitized documents on the websites of other organizations. Over half our books are hosted on the website of the non-profit Internet Archive or its sister organization Open Library, which together have millions of online books. We also have materials hosted by universities and state historical societies, and some items hosted by companies such as Google and Historic Map Works.
Users can browse through materials by subject. If the Internet Archive has millions of free books online, why bother using a smaller collection like this? Searching for an exact title or author can easily be done on a search engine, but people often find search engines tedious and frustrating when they want to find out what is available on a particular subject. When in a library, they can go to the shelf and look through books. The History of the Great Lakes States site is organized so that users can go straight to a subject area and find a little information about each of the books and articles there.
Our collection is old, but that’s good. We only offer items in the public domain, and most materials are 90 to 250 years old. Some are even from the 1600s. For our special subject area these older materials are ideal. For example, we have numerous accounts of explorers, missionaries, soldiers, settlers and political figures that they themselves wrote, or that were written by their close contemporaries. These are the same materials historians turn to in their efforts to understand people and events of the past. They come alive in a way that accounts written by much later writers cannot.
We post occasional blog articles too. Mainly these are brief articles highlighting certain categories of materials on the site. Links to a few examples are below, and all our posts can be found under Blog on the main menu.
How is this useful for your organization? Chances are good that many of your members, clients or website visitors would appreciate access to this fine collection of free online history. Without any cost or obligation, you can provide this service to them simply by posting the link to History of the Great Lakes States on your website and Facebook page.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you can find a few more minutes to look through the site. The Site Map on the Home page is the best place to start. Please see the links below.
History of the Great Lakes States website
A few recent Blog posts:
19th C Newspapers and History Journals
Pioneers in Illinois Tell Their Stories
This is a list of libraries and other organizations that put our link on their website. Many more have posted our link on their Facebook pages.
Anyone can sign up to be notified of blog posts by Following our Twitter site, by clicking ‘Get Notifications’ on the ‘Like’ pull-down on our Facebook page, or by Subscribing in the right margin of the website Home Page.
History of the Great Lakes States Facebook page
Great Lakes History Twitter page
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