A new German website uses hypertext and Web technology to present an archive of first-hand accounts of the Thirty Years’ War in central Germany. If you’re interested in the future of digital archives, the site is worth a look, even if you don’t read German. It’s called MDSZ, short for Mitteldeutsche Selbstzeugnisse der Zeit des Dreißigjährigen Krieges.
One thing to notice is the behavior of the image on the front page, of an armored knight attacking fleeing peasants. If you mouse over the image, it is instantly magnified to show its detail in (presumably) actual size. Moving the mouse navigates intuitively to different parts of the picture (unlike some cumbersome image viewers on the Web, which move only in slightly overlapping blocks, or respond in unexpected ways to the mouse).
At MDSZ, mousing over an image (left) automatically zooms in on details (right). Moving the mouse glides smoothly around the enlarged image. (Example is reduced from actual size.)
The archive contains four Selbstzeugnisse (“ego-documents”), first-hand accounts of violence and war-related events in Thuringia. None of these has been published before. The four manuscripts are (respectively) by Volkmar Happe, Michael Heubel, Hans Krafft, and Caspar Heinrich Marx, and all four are constantly available through links in the upper right-hand corner of every page. Continue reading
The building on the right is the Casa Lonja, in Seville, Spain: it’s the home of the Archivo General de Indias, or AGI for short. One of the world’s greatest resources for studying the history of the New World, it contains an inconceivable number of documents about the Americas.
Thanks to the wonder that is microfilm, I’ve been nibbling at the edges of the series most popular with U.S. historians, namely the Cuba Papers (Papeles procedentes de la Isla de Cuba) — more than a million documents, many of them about Florida and the Gulf Coast. Copies of some of these documents are scattered around the Southeast, the result of a half dozen or so expeditions to La Lonja by American archivists. The largest collection in the U.S. is probably the one at the P.K. Yonge Library at the University of Florida, but getting access is not a simple matter for non-Gators. My little cache is from the Auburn University library, and is supposedly an exact copy of the stash at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson.
Getting a long look at the P.K. Yonge collection would be a treat, and I hope to arrange it. But if I had no end of time and money, I’d rather go straight to the source. A couple of months at the Casa Lonja: aquél sería ideal.