University of California Launches Calisphere Digital Library

The University of California has announced Calisphere, a digital library containing more than 150,000 digitized primary source materials about California. Calisphere is available at .

The materials (which include photographs, newspapers, diaries, advertising, etc.) are from libraries and institutions from all over the state and they’re explorable in a huge number of ways from right off the front page. You can browse an index (from 1906 Earthquake to Zoot Suit Riots), browse by subject, or visit a directory of California Web sites. For teachers, there are themed collections organized by time period which contain primary source material, an overview of the time period/topic, relevant questions, etc.

These theme roundups were interesting but I was more intrigued by the index, so I decided to check out “Computers.” I got a set of 13 pictures (no articles and no site links) that included manufacturing, cleanrooms, an adorable little Altair from 1975, and for some reason a Pegasus. If you click on the thumbnail of the picture you get a (much larger) picture with a little additional information (owning institution, date, etc.) but to get the detailed information (description, rights, subject headings, etc.) you have to click “More information about this image” next to the large picture. This feels a little backwards to me — I’m used to seeing the thumbnails, then the details, then the large image last. A nice feature of the large image is that you have the option to print the image with or without the details.

I wandered around a few more sets of materials from the index, some of which were heavily populated (“Civil Rights”, “Maps”, “Richmond Shipyards”) and some of which weren’t (“John Steinbeck”, “Bear Flag Republic”.) If you want to see all the topics and the entire index at once, there’s a huge page that’s great for browsing at Teachers shouldn’t miss the guide page at .

Lots of great material here, though I wish the details for the pictures weren’t buried under a couple of extra clicks. A real timesink.

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