UPDATE: We have now purchased this resource.
The American Founding Era Collection contains digital versions of the published papers of several major figures of the time. The collections it contains are as follows:
- The Adams Papers
- The Papers of Thomas Jefferson
- The Dolley Madison Digital Edition
- The Papers of James Madison
- The Papers of George Washington
- The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution
Note on the Adams Papers: The Founding Era Collection only contains these papers from the founding-generation of the Adams family, and so the bulk of the papers available date from the 18th century.
Note on the Dolley Madison Digital Edition: This is the first ever complete edition of all Dolley Madison's correspondence. This collection was 'born digital', and is currently complete up to 1837. It is included in and can be accessed via the Founding Era Collection, but also has a separate platform, the one on which it was originally built, which also includes annotations that aren't accessible from the Founding Era platform. There are links across to the standalone platform from each document in the Founding Era Collection so that these annotations can be found easily.
How to use the database
As well as the full-text search, the browsing options are very powerful. You can browse collections individually or the whole lot at once, and have a choice of doing so by chronology (date of document) or by contents (order of the documents in the published volumes). There are also browsable indexes available to the Adams, Jefferson, and Washington Papers.
Once you have started browsing any of the contents, chronology, indexes or your search results, there is a navigation compass to take you forward and back through the different levels and documents. It looks a bit like part of the background (at least, I didn't realise what it was at first!), so in case it's not just me that overlooked it, I thought it was worth pointing out. The platform's own guide describes how the compass works as follows:
It took me a bit of getting used to, but once you've got your head round the structure of the collection, it is an easy way to move from one part to another. Next to it you always see where you are in the hierarchy.
The documents themselves are transcribed, not page images, and contain links to notes, explanatory references and other documents where relevant. You can print documents, but there are no options for exporting/saving records other than to make a note of the durable URL given in the citation box at the bottom of each document. This box is a useful addition though, giving you guidance on how to cite the document in bibliographies, which can often be tricky to know how to do for online resources.
The collections are still being added to, as the print publication projects are still ongoing. This is of course less relevant for Oxford users at the moment, as we will lose access after 3rd January, but if we do purchase the collection then it will continue to grow from what is currently available. There is also a complementary project, Founders Early Access, which is freely available online (and therefore available to Oxford users even after 3rd January) as well as accessible within the main site. The Early Access collection contains documents that are in the process of being prepared for both print and online publication. Once the documents are added to the main collection, they disappear from the Early Access site, but whether we do purchase the entire collection or not, it's useful to know that you can access unpublished papers here. The link for the Early Access collection is: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/FOEA.html and you can keep up with updates to it at http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/founders/FOEA-history.html. It might also be worth pointing out that the University of Virginia is working with the National Archives to make some of the Founders' papers freely available online from 2012.
The American Founding Era Collection is accessible via OxLIP+, and as a trial it is currently listed on the front page. If you are away from Oxford, you can get into the database as long as you sign in via SOLO/OxLIP+ first with your University single sign-on.