By Stan Thayne
There are a number of online resources available to students and researchers interested in the study of the American West. Though most of these are dedicated to Western history more generally, several are relevant to the topic of religion—which, after all, intersects with every other facet of culture and is only relevant when placed in a broader context. What follows is a brief summary, with links, of several sites that may be helpful to researchers. Our hope is that this roundup (and its deficiencies) might open up a conversation about online resources. So please, jump on in and tell us what resources you have found helpful to your own studies!
The Library of Congress’s American Memory site has a digitized collection of photographs from the Denver Public Library available. The collection is titled History of the American West 1860-1920. Here is how the collection is described at the website:
The images in History of the American West are drawn from the more than 600,000 photographs in the holdings of the Western History and Genealogy Department at Denver Public Library. ...approximately 4,000 images document the place of mining in the history of Colorado and the West and 3,500 that show the lives and culture of Native Americans from more than forty tribes living west of the Mississippi River. To these, the Denver Public Library has added approximately 23,000 additional photographs digitized as part of its large-scale Photodigitization Project.
The National Archives has a digitized collection of Photographs of the AmericanWest: 1861-1912.
In 1986 Patty Limerick and Charles Wilkinson founded the Center of the American West. In addition to selling T-shirts, the site announces upcoming events, provides information on internships and student awards, and also offers a number of forums, podcasts, and links to papers, books, and websites on a number of topics relevant to the study of the American West. The center’s projects include subjects such as Energy, Mining, Water, Land Use, Interior, and more.
The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, co-founded by Richard White and David Kennedy, offers a number of resources, forums, and fellowships, as well as a blog. Projects include Water in the West, The Rural West Initiative, and Comparative Wests.
The American West Center at the University of Utah offers a number of resources. Of particular interest is their oral history collections, on topics such as Utah Outdoor Recreation, Polio, Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans, and more. Also very useful for those in Indigenous Studies is their digital archive on Utah American Indians and Utah Indian Curriculum Project.
PBS’s New Perspectives on the West site, based on the Ken Burns documentary, is actually quite helpful in a number of ways, providing links to archives, biographical information on a lot of key figures, and even lesson plans on a number of topics, as well as, of course, clips from the film.
The Howard R. Lamar Center at Yale University offers a number of resources and fellowships.
The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies offers a number of fellowships and publications and has a really good oral history project (though interviews are not available online), as well as other resources.
Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library offers a number of digitized collections relevant to those interested in Mormonism and much more, including the Western Waters Digital Library.
TheMountain West Digital Library, a project of the Utah Academic Library Consortium, offers “free access to over 670,000 resources from universities, colleges, public libraries, museums, historical societies, and government agencies, counties, and municipalities in Utah, Nevada, and other parts of the U.S. West.”
Resources for the American West in general are of course much more numerous than those dedicated to Religion in the American West specifically. Though much at the above sites is very relevant, a focus on religion is still greatly lacking at many of the centers for the study of the American West. But there are a number of useful resources here.
For those teaching courses on Religion in the American West, particularly helpful is the Seminar on Religion in the American West (the host of this blog). The Seminar organizes a session at the American Academy of Religion and the site offers a timeline, sample syllabi, primary source documents, a bibliography, and, perhaps best of all, a link to this blog (which is, after all, an extension of said seminar)!
These are just a few of the resources available to scholars interested in the West as a region—or whatever else you may characterize it as. I have surely overlooked several others. What have I missed? What databases, websites, or online collections do you find particularly helpful to your own research interests? Your input just may help someone out with a research paper or conference paper or dissertation or book chapter they’ve been working on. So, please, comment and share…
p.s. See also our Online Resources tab in the sidebar for more links to online collections and databases.