ProQuest Puts Thomas Edison's Papers Online

ANN ARBOR — The Ann Arbor information publisher ProQuest LLC and Rutgers University announced an effort to make the university’s Thomas A. Edison Papers collection more accessible to scholars and students around the world.

More than 175,000 of Edison’s laboratory notebooks, diaries, business records, correspondence, and other documents will now be available ProQuest’s History Vault, boosting access, precision search and cross-referencing of these documents.

The Thomas A. Edison Papers provide an intimate look at the life, work, and vision of the inventor credited with integrating the worlds of science, technology, movies, business, and finance.

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An inventor, businessman, scientist, industrialist, entrepreneur and engineer, Thomas Edison laid the foundation for the age of electricity, recorded sound, motion pictures, and the introduction of modern industrial research. This extraordinary project has carefully gathered the materials from the Edison National Historical Park that document his life and work.

With more than 150,000 pages of materials that have never been available online, the collection is comprised of six parts: Five collections that span Edison’s life and work from 1850 through 1919, and a sixth collection of Motion Picture Catalogs – a source for studying America in transition as filmmakers reflected industrialization, technological innovation, the changing role of women, race relations, and the birth of new communication and mass entertainment.

Sophisticated digitization and search technology make crisp reproductions of these materials more accessible than ever before, improving research outcomes in areas as diverse as the history of science and technology, business and economic history, popular culture and film history, as well as social and labor history.

“This is a very unique resource,” said Susan Bokern, ProQuest vice-president of information solutions. “The Edison Papers are a firsthand insight into the mind and the work of the inventor, as well as a stunning look at how technological innovation and cultural change are interrelated. His inventions both reflected and disrupted the cultural practices of his time. Incorporating these papers in ProQuest’s History Vault Program increases their research utility to scholars and broadens their access.”

The History Vault includes digital archives from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries — 11 million pages of digitized primary source content that documents and improves research of the American experience. Developed with controlled vocabulary indexing and full-text, faceted searching, History Vault enables researchers to drill to targeted results. Users can also opt to page through an entire collection to explore at a more relaxed pace. Major events in history are indexed and those records are accessible through a timeline of events to help put individual documents into historical context. The resource supports African American Studies, Women’s Studies, American History, Military and Diplomatic History, and Political Science, among other areas.

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