Meet the Hubs!: Mountain West Digital Library

Meet the Hubs!: Mountain West Digital Library

Posted by Carly B. Boxer on February 4, 2013 in Blog, Featured.
This is the fourth post in a weekly series highlighting the DPLA’s service hubs

Another week, another digital hub! This week, I’ve spent some time searching through the collections of the Mountain West Digital Library. The MWDL serves as a portal to content from 60 partner organizations in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and Hawaii. With partners ranging from academic libraries to historical societies to religious organizations, the MWDL provides a comprehensive look at the historical documents, photographs, maps, and even the sounds (!) of the American West.

I decided I would browse through the MWDL by looking at its collections; there are some 370 collections made available via the MWDL portal, so even though I couldn’t by any stretch of the imagination search through all of them, I did manage to find several really interesting and unusual collections without a problem.

A print of the Puerta de San Andrés by J. Laurent y Cia from the 19th century, courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno

Among the first of the collections to catch my eye was a collection of Basque posters hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno’s Basque Library and Center for Basque Studies. The posters, many of them from Basque festivals in the US and in Basque Country, are beautiful. I’m especially fond of a 1977 poster displaying a crest that contains the shields of six of the seven regions of Basque Country.  The collection also contains a number of vintage photographs from Spain, including a phenomenal 1870 print of the Puerta de San Andrés in Segovia.

A 1977 poster bearing the Basque coats of arms, courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno

Another collection, “Cookery and Culture,” contains digitized historical cookbooks made between the 1700s and the turn of the 20th century. “Cookery and Culture” is part of Utah State University’s digital collections. I began reading a volume titled Cookery, It’s Art and Practice, which was written in 1895. The volume begins very self-seriously:“cookery has attained its present development by a long process of experimental empiricism, at which all mankind has laboured from the very early days of its existence.” It goes on to contain a lengthy dictionary of contemporary culinary terms. With 57 texts dating from the era, the collection provides really great insight into the history of cooking in the US.

One of the MWDL’s other unusual collections is the Western Soundscape Archive, a collection of nearly 3,000 sound clips of nature sounds and the calls of animals indigenous to the western United States. From the mating calls of Pacific chorus frogs to the foot thumps of the white-throated woodrat, the archive contains a fairly comprehensive library of the sounds of the Mountain West region.  As such, it presents an unusual, immersive experience of the Western soundscape. Altogether, the MWDL’s portal offers access to a truly diverse range of documents, images, and sounds detailing the history of the western US and beyond.


Cover Image 1864 Johnson’s California, with Utah, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona Map. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, 295 S 1500 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

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