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New Arrivals in the History, Art, and Culture Digitization Project!

Greetings once again from the world of the History, Art, and Culture (HAC) Digitization Project! Over the last couple of months, I’ve highlighted digital selections from the Warren M. Robbins Library of the National Museum of African Art as well as the Vine Deloria, Jr. Library at the National Museum of the American Indian, here and here, respectively.

This month, we take a look at SILRA. By any definition, the centerpiece of our digitization efforts at SILRA are the bicycling-related serials. To date, we’ve scanned over 100 items spanning titles like “The Wheel World,” "The Bearings,” and “The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review.”

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Bicycling was at the center of a craze which hit its zenith in the 1880’s. These titles are replete with fascinating contributions from enthusiastic lovers of the sport. These magazines have it all. Everything from cycling themed prose and poetry, to cartoons, to announcements and minutes of conferences and meetings. Even the advertisements for the “latest” technological advances in bicycle engineering provide clues to the intensity of the bicycling craze of the era.

And contemporary interest in these titles is just as fervent, if not as widespread. The Libraries holds the most comprehensive runs of serials on the subject and according to Mike Hardy, Branch Chief at SILRA, “these are the most heavily used titles in the collection.  Nearly every visitor wants to use one or more of these titles.” I asked him about why researchers were interesed in these titles, here's what he had to say:
"The first visitor I had at our new location was a 72-year-old retired Canadian naval officer from Nova Scotia, whose specialty was training helicopter search and rescue teams from both the U.S. and Canada. His hobby, since age 14, is collecting head lamps from turn of the century bicycles. He was writing an encyclopedia on the subject, and had collected two of every type/model of these lamps ever made in North America — except one, he was still searching for one more of a particular lamp. He spent the better part of week with the serials.
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I had another visitor, a retired gentleman from St. Louis, who was researching bicycle seat designs of the 19th and early 20th century. According to him, importance of seat designs went beyond ergonomics to include cultural aspects considered equally important. Cycling was a popular activity for both men and women in the late 19th century. The seat designs for women were considered critical: no one wanted a women to be ‘injured’ as a result of poor seat design – nor to have seat design be considered as an excuse for the loss of virginity!"

Very proper indeed!

Erin Thomas

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