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Ag Library Improves Access to Farming History Collection

By Brian Norris
November 12, 1999

BELTSVILLE, Md., Nov. 12--Researchers can now go to a web site to easily delve into a special collection of documents and other materials covering more than 200 years of U.S. farming history.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture History Collection Web Site was produced by the National Agricultural Library here as a cooperative project with the University of Maryland. NAL is part of the Agricultural Research Service, USDA’s chief scientific agency.

NAL’s USDA History Collection includes original letters, reports and other papers of department officials and agricultural historians, along with other materials gathered by USDA over its nearly 140-year history. Also in the collection are manuscripts dating to the late 18th century. The new web site includes a searchable guide to the collection, a map to help web visitors navigate the site, highlights of the collection, and historical photo images and graphics. The site can be found at:

“The history of agriculture in America is in many ways the history of this nation,” said NAL director Pamela Andre. “Farming was and is key to the success of the United States, and USDA has been an important part of this success. The new web site makes it easier for those researching this important aspect of American history.”

“The collection dates to USDA’s creation in 1862 and before,” Andre said. “When we added it to our special collections in 1997, our immediate goal was to preserve it while making it easier for researchers to use.” NAL created cataloging records for the materials, took steps to preserve deteriorating materials, and reorganized the collection into a more user-friendly format. The project included rehousing and organizing the collection’s 660 linear feet of records into acid free archival folders and cartons. More than 8,000 books and journals were cataloged and added to the NAL collection.

The USDA History Collection includes materials brought together over several decades by USDA agencies. Along with the letters, memoranda, reports, and papers of USDA officials and agricultural historians, the collection contains newsletters, photographs, videotapes, press releases and clippings.

“Collected histories contain information that can improve our future by teaching us lessons from the great minds of the past,” Andre said. “Libraries preserve these histories and make them easily accessible so that the lessons can be studied and learned by generations to come.”

Use of materials from the USDA History Collection can be arranged by contacting NAL’s Special Collections, telephone (301) 504-5876, or email NAL is the largest agricultural library in the world and is one of four national libraries of the United States with the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine and the National Library of Education.

Scientific contact: Susan H. Fugate, Special Collections Section, ARS National Agricultural Library, 10301 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705, phone (301) 504-5876, fax (301) 504-7593,