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UNLV Libraries Announce New Digital Collection, The Historic Landscape of Nevada

By Cory Lampert on August 8, 2011 2:22 PM | Permalink
The Historic Landscape of Nevada: Development, Water, and the Natural Environment, is the latest digital collection offered by the University Libraries. This new digital collection documents the struggle of early Southern Nevada settlers to establish a community within the harsh environs of of the region by following their attempts to procure and manage that most essential of resources: water. Whether through irrigation, ranching, agriculture, wells, dams, railroads, highways, towns, cities, or federal installations, the people of Nevada have challenged the environment in their persistence to endure, and flourish, here in the desert.

The Historic Landscape of Nevada provides online access to the most diverse digital collection offered by the University Libraries to date. With nearly 1300 documents, the collection possesses a variety of materials including maps, photographs, correspondence, legislation, technical reports, data charts, newspaper clippings, and postcards. The collection is unique in that it is an interdisciplinary effort that involved UNLV faculty from various departments. The collection is geared toward providing teaching tools for educators and includes documents from the University Libraries Institutional Repository.

"I am particularly excited about the potential for this project to provide a open-access repository for research being conducted not just at UNLV but by all institutions and agencies which are engaged in problem-solving," stated Ronald W. Smith, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Graduate Dean, "And this, not just for research faculty and graduate students, but for our undergraduates, teachers and the K-12 community and all citizens." 

Despite the amount of historical information about the Nevada landscape, much of the information and literature that was digitized by this project was not previously known or accessible to those outside a narrow group of specialists. The development of a sustainable urban and regional water system to support the unparalleled, unexpected, and unplanned growth of the Las Vegas metropolitan area has dominated and continues to dominate regional planning. The more information that is made broadly available, the better our understanding and more efficient our search for answers.

According to Margaret N. Rees, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Educational Outreach, Executive Director Public Lands Institute, "Consolidation of and providing electronic access to historic and current  documents and other materials associated with water management in Southern Nevada are increasingly  important. Increased demand for water resources by a dramatically increased population, lingering drought affecting water levels in the Colorado River system, and the invasion of non-native species... have been the sources of new resource management and research questions that require the examination of historical data."

The primary goal of the collection is to provide online access to a critical mass of significant primary source material to community members, educators, and historians. On a broader level, it allows every concerned citizen in Nevada to have easy access to information and research conducted about the land they live on, and presents such materials in a contextualized and searchable setting. By creating this new globally accessible collection, it is hoped that the resources will promote a greater awareness of the environmental challenges of Nevada in particular and the arid West in general.

The project was made possible through funding from the Nevada State Library and Archives under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant.  Special thanks go to Project Archivist Aaron McArthur, who was hired on through the LSTA grant and educational consultant Dr. Christy Keeler, who designed all educational content including inquiry questions and primary source kits for the collection. Three interns (Selena Chau, Amy Hunsaker, and Heela Naqshband) were also hired through the LSTA grant to assist with digitization and metadata work for the collection.

---Blog entry written by Project Intern, Amy Hunsaker


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