Author Archives: Wendy Hanamura

Two major library groups join chorus of support for controlled digital lending

This week, two major library organizations affirmed their commitment to the longstanding and widespread library practice of digitizing physical books they own and lending out secured digital versions. The practice, controlled digital lending (CDL), is the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. 

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) joined hundreds of individual libraries and supporters in signing a public position statement in support of controlled digital lending

ARL and SPARC collectively represent over 300 academic and research libraries in the U.S. and Canada. ARL advocates on behalf of research libraries and home institutions on many issues and its members include government institutions, including the National Library of Medicine and the National Archives, as well as the continent’s largest land grant institutions and Ivy League colleges. SPARC focuses on enabling the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials, arguing that such access democratizes access to information knowledge and increases the return on investment in research and education.

Announcing their support, SPARC said, “CDL plays an important role in many libraries, and has been particularly critical to many academic and research libraries as they work to support students, faculty, and researchers through this pandemic.” SPARC also issued a call to action to others in the library community to add their support.

ARL concurred, “CDL is a practice rooted in the fair use right of the US Copyright Act and recent judicial interpretations of that right. During the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, many academic and research libraries have relied on CDL to ensure academic and research continuity at a time when many physical collections have been inaccessible.”

The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program is powered by controlled digital lending and we welcome the support of other libraries. As libraries are closed across the globe because of COVID-19, millions of digitized books are still available for free to be borrowed by learn-at-home students and readers.

Behind Every 78 Recording Lies a Story

by Liz Rosenberg

For the last eight weeks, our 78s Dating Team has been combing through the history of musical recordings. Among our 78s collection of 188,000 sides sat a backlog of 40,000 discs in need of more data. Our team of book scanners, locked out of their libraries, got to work, pouring through guides to find a review or publication date. Often, discographies revealed nothing. That’s when our team turned to web sleuthing. What we discovered is that behind each disc lies a story—sometimes hidden, mostly forgotten with the passage of time, often magical. 

Here are some of our favorites:

Gloria – David Miranda

Released in 1966, just two years after the original version written by Van Morrison was released by Them, this version of Gloria is a cover completely in Spanish. The long list of covers of this song throughout history, including versions by Patti Smith and The Doors, rarely includes this version. Gloria provides strong evidence that rock and roll music had gone global by the mid-1960s.

Giter Bruder nicht gechapt – Frau Pepi Litman

Giter Bruder nicht gechapt is a Yiddish theatre song from 1907. According to the translation, this song is about how to deal with sexual harassment, as told by cis-female, cross-dressing Yiddish Vaudeville star, Pepi Litman (1874-1930).

The chorus, roughly translated:

Good brother, don’t grab, grabbing is no good.

If you grab I’ll hit you back, I’ll beat you bloody.

Oy, you’ll get beaten up, your head will fall off.

Then you’ll know, young man: if you grab, you’ll get burnt.

Pepi was known for performing in men’s clothing on stage and is often considered a proto-Drag King. Really cool to find such an early example of drag performance, from a Jewish vaudeville performer popular more than 100 years ago!

Up Above My Head – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is often considered the “Godmother” of Rock and Roll guitar and singing. Rock and Roll pioneers, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis credit Sister Rosetta for inspiring their musical styles. But Sister Rosetta has only recently been recognized for her contribution to the genre—inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just two years ago. 

“The Gospel of the Blues – Sister Rosetta Tharpe” by Brett Jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A guitar prodigy in her church community, Sister Rosetta became a household name in gospel music at a young age and ruffled feathers when she transitioned to more secular music. At a time when it was difficult to be a Black, female, electric guitar player, Sister Rosetta broke every conceivable boundary on her road to success. On an early tour across the United States she had a kitchen and beds installed in what may have been the first music tour bus. Why?  Many venues would not allow her to have a meal in their establishment because she was Black. Just like her powerful voice, Sister Rosetta was a force of nature that could not be stopped.

Sitar Pooria Kalyan – Pandit Ravi Shankar

You may know Pandit Ravi Shankar as the sitar virtuoso who taught George Harrison of The Beatles how to play the sitar. While dating the 78s, we stumbled upon this fantastic record featuring Shankar’s absolute mastery of the sitar. Pressed in Pakistan and recorded in India, this 78 recording is a rare gem.

After You’ve Gone – Sophie Tucker

Known as “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Sophie Tucker was an amazing vaudeville/Jazz/Jewish singer who was hugely popular in the 1910s-1930s. She toured internationally and often played to Jewish crowds, singing in Yiddish. Her Yiddish records were banned during Hitler’s era for evoking Jewish culture. Tucker had a lengthy career in show business even after the vaudeville era died out, performing up until just weeks before her death in 1966 at the age of 80. This is a 1951 re-recording of a song from her heyday, originally recorded in 1927.

Cigareets, Whuskey and Wild Wild Women – Red Ingle and The Natural Seven

This is probably the wildest song I have found in the 78s collection! So wild in fact that it was banned from all major radio networks as “immoral and wicked.” What radio censors didn’t understand was that Ingle was poking fun at smokers, drinkers and philanderers. Thanks to their ban, his single became a big hit. Red Ingle is one of the more prolific novelty and comedy performers of the late 1940s and early 1950s, having started with Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Enjoy this lovingly restored version!

Pittsburgh Press article from February 27, 1948

Pis satoes selaka logang (One Hundred Coins in a Silver Bowl)

This record comes from a complete set of Balinese gamelan music from 1928. Gamelan is a type of percussion ensemble traditional to the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese cultures. Described as music for temple festivals and death rituals, the set is the first and only commercially released Balinese music prior to World War II. We were able to find the descriptions captured by the ethnomusicologist who recorded this set and even found films made of the performances in the early 1930s!

The Okeh Laughing Record

One phenomenon that the 78s Dating Team discovered was the “Laughing Record.” Throughout the collection we kept coming across records with seemingly little content aside from people laughing hysterically (or manically depending on your impression). As we discovered more and more versions of these slightly creepy recordings, we looked more deeply into their origins. It turns out that The Okeh Laughing Record is one of the most enduring novelty records ever recorded! The Library of Congress researched its origins and traced it to a recording made by an opera singer in Germany in 1920. Nobody knows why the original performers were laughing, but that is the beauty of these recordings—laughter is a universal language. The Library of Congress estimates that more than one million pressings of this record were sold. To learn more about this mysterious, maniacal genre, read the Library of Congress essay here.

Hound Dog – “Scat Man” Crothers

Everyone knows the famous Elvis Presley tune Hound Dog that skyrocketed to fame in 1956, but they may not have heard of this version sung by “Scat Man” Crothers. That’s because Crothers is a sound-alike singer for the Tops budget record label! Tops was one of many record labels that made its profits by recording knockoff covers of hit songs with sound-alike singers, for sale at a discounted price. Tops would even squeeze four songs onto each record—a big bang for your buck (or rather, 39 cents, the price tag on a Tops record in the 50s)!

Got a Great Big Shovel – Shorty Muggins

We discovered this fantastic record from 1949 by someone named Shorty Muggins and immediately wondered about Shorty’s background. It turns out Got a Great Big Shovel is one of only four sides recorded by jazz performer and member of The Rat Pack, Sammy Davis Jr., under the pseudonym “Shorty Muggins.” He only recorded under this name for Capitol to separate his blues recordings from his other work. This record is a great early snapshot of a little known part of Sammy Davis Jr.’s prolific career.

EPILOGUE: To date, the 78 Dating Team has added 13,272 reviews to the 78 Collection, including recording dates and interesting historical information. You’ll find our 13,000 reviews, like hidden nuggets of gold, tucked away after the item description.

78 DATING TEAM: Alex Paananen, Annie Coates, Anthony Young, Cheryl Creed, Chris Moses, Joe Ondreicka, Mike Wankoff, LaDonna Hartmann, Lauretta Doellman, Mandy Weiler, Osamu Sueyoshi, Richard Greydanus, Tabby Garbutt (for a few days!), Taylor Kelsey, Zelda Lacoss, Tim Bigelow – manager!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Liz Rosenberg is an audio engineer and audio archivist based in Philadelphia, PA. She helped start the Great 78s Project as a transfer engineer and project lead and now leads the 78rpm Dating Blitz Project. Liz also enjoys operating audio, video, lighting and projection for live events in Philadelphia, as well as producing music in her home studio.

Revered Buddhist Monk Reflects on Transformational Change

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, before the righteous uprisings for racial justice swept across the world, the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi decided to open his new memoir with this quotation:

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”


–J. Krishnamurti

As a six year old, the young Tenzin began having visions of an unknown place and the face of a man draped in saffron robes. At ten, he left his boarding school in India to set off—Huck Finn-like—in search of an answer to those waking dreams. As the scion of a prominent Brahmin family, Venerable Tenzin could have remained “well adjusted” to the role Indian society had created for him. Instead he leaned in toward the unknown. He followed his instincts, which led him to a small Japanese Buddhist Temple near Vulture’s Peak, Buddha’s favorite retreat in Rajgir, India.

Thus begins the new memoir, “Running Toward Mystery: The Adventure of an Unconventional Life,” by the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi. On June 5, 2020, the Internet Archive invited this ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk to explore what his life lessons have to say about this tumultuous moment in history. The Venerable Tenzin selected June 5th because it is Saka Dawa, the day celebrating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing—said to be especially auspicious for acts of kindness and compassion.

The event began with a moment of reflective silence, “in solidarity with all that is happening around us and affects us deeply,” Venerable Tenzin proclaimed. “Reflective silence hopefully generating a sense of compassion.” He was joined in conversation by former diplomat and human rights policy leader, Eileen Donahoe. “The hope is we can explore how inner spiritual transformation plays a role in the world,” she laid out. “And it’s potential to bring about understanding of our common nature and common destiny.”

Ven. Tenzin Priyadarshi is the first Buddhist chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CEO of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values

“Lack of empathy is a public health issue.”

–Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi

An encounter with Mother Theresa challenged the Venerable Tenzin’s sense of certainty about his true path, teaching him to reevaluate constantly learning and unlearning. “One of the things we are recognizing today in a world full of false certainties and biases is that there is a lot of unlearning to be done,” he said. “Unlearning is important as a process before we can learn anything new.”

For the one hundred audience members, the question weighing most heavily on their hearts and minds centered on justice and social change. The author challenged the notion that banking, legal circles or law enforcement could “magically” change without deep unlearning and learning within those ranks. “I, as a Buddhist, am a big proponent of training,” the Venerable Tenzin explained. “Empathy training is as important as financial training. Compassion training is as important as learning about science, math and literature. Criticism of systems is not enough. We must respond with training mechanisms. Lack of empathy is a public health issue, and we must treat it as such.”

In this moment when millions are in the streets demanding change, this Buddhist monk acknowledged the profound tension between action and contemplation. “Introspection must be a precursor to action,” he proclaimed. “Deeper changes will actually come from this sense of awakening.  When we truly recognize that there is no I without you. That there is no I without the other. That our sense of happiness is deeply intertwined, is deeply interconnected.  As long as we ignore that lesson of life, everything else is window dressing.”

When An Island Shuts Down: Aruba & the National Emergency Library

The island nation of Aruba, population 110,000, lies 18 miles north of Venezuela, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

On March 15, the small island nation of Aruba, part of the Dutch Caribbean, closed its borders to visitors. Cruise ships packed with tourists stopped coming. Casinos, libraries and schools shut their doors, as Aruba’s 110,000 residents locked down to halt the spread of COVID-19.

That’s when the Biblioteca Nacional Aruba (National Library of Aruba) swung into action. 

Librarians quickly gathered reading lists from students, parents and schools. With high school graduation exams just a month away, the required literature books would be crucial. Aruban students are tested on books in Dutch, English, Spanish and their native language of Papiamento. “Just before your literary final exams, you need to re-read the books,” explained Peter Scholing, who leads digitization efforts at the National Library of Aruba. “The libraries are closed. Your school libraries are closed. You can order from Amazon, but it takes weeks and weeks to arrive. If you are in an emergency, then you hope your books are online.”

Peter Scholing of the National Library of Aruba also works with UNESCO, preserving cultural heritage

Scholing was relieved to discover that most of the required literature in English and Spanish was available in the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library. As library staff moved to work from home, they grabbed the tools to digitize the books in Papiamento that were missing. Many local authors were easy to track down and most gladly gave permission for free downloads or loaning their works. Scholing reports, “Some of them choose digital lending. But a lot of them  say, ‘Well it was a limited print run….I’ve sold all the copies of my books, now you can just make it available for download.’

Preservation Pays Off

Classroom in Aruba, 1944, filled with children of expatriates, working in oil refineries.

For many years, the library’s small Special Collections staff had been diligently digitizing key collections: photographs, historic texts, newspapers, and perhaps the world’s largest collection of texts in Papiamento. But with few technical resources, the National Library of Aruba had no way to provide access to those works. Scholing says the Internet Archive proved to be the “missing link.” In March 2019, the Library was able to unveil its new Digital Collection, 18,800 texts, videos and audio now accessible to the world on archive.org. Today, with libraries and schools closed, these materials are the keys to unlocking the doors to online learning.

 “We didn’t imagine something like the Covid crisis could happen,” said Scholing. “But for our preservation efforts, this is the Big One. We are really lucky to be able to provide access to information that we couldn’t otherwise without the Internet Archive.”

This Papiamento literary journal is among the 18,800 items now online thanks to the Biblioteca Nacional Aruba

When Waitlists Won’t Work

Novels, biographies and non-fiction titles in Papiamento are part of the Aruban curriculum and now many are accessible online

Although Scholing had permission from the authors to lend their recent books, several times we accidentally reinstituted the waiting list, since the National Emergency Library does not include books from the last five years. That meant students reading the work suddenly would have had to wait, sometimes for weeks, to move up the waiting list. Scholing wrote to us immediately:  “There must be an alternative. I’m getting emails from students and teachers already.”

Eventually we worked out the kinks so Aruba’s books in the National Emergency Library wouldn’t get taken down. In addition, hundreds of texts in Papiamento from 1844-2020 are now available without waitlist. It’s part of a bigger vision on the island to teach students to read and write the language they speak at a higher level. “A lot of textbooks come straight from the Netherlands…you are reading about snow, trains and windmills,” Scholing explained. “It’s better to use something from a newspaper or magazine produced locally…It’s their own context. It speaks more to them.”

He even received this note from a local author, written in Papiamento:

Peter aprecia, (Dear Peter,)

Hopi admiracion pa e trabou cu bo ta desplegando pa Aruba y nos hendenan.

(A lot of admiration for the work that you are carrying out for Aruba and for our people.)

This week, schools in Aruba are scheduled to reopen. Since March, the library has tripled the number of items in its digital collection, and visitors have increased by 300%. Scholing sees this as evidence that  the National Emergency Library will have lasting benefit. “All the thresholds and barriers to access this unique information have been lifted, once you put it online.”

You can now access newspapers, photos, maps, government publications, literature and rare books from Aruba in their collection at the Internet Archive.

Observations From An Author & Librarian

Barbara Fister has authored four novels, many works of non-fiction and countless articles in her 30+ year career.

She’s an author of crime fiction. A college librarian. A recently retired faculty member at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. For more than 30 years, Barbara Fister has felt the opposing pull from her publishers and the call of open access; from the need for books to make money and the desire for her published work to live on into the next century. Plus, this author and librarian has authored five books now available in the National Emergency Library

Because Fister resides at the nexus of authors and libraries, we wanted to understand why on April 15, 2020, she posted this to her Twitter account:

From her home in rural Minnesota, Fister (who is “not a fan of Zoom/Skype/etc”) and I corresponded by email.  “Honestly, I was surprised,” Barbara wrote. “When I started poking around the National Emergency Library I did a vanity search and—hey, look at that! I had to tweet that my books were there, because it made me happy. Then I started looking for things I would check out of my academic library if it were open, and many of those books were there, too. It’s very gratifying to have that access.” 

As Fister sees it, “Regardless of the legal issues, I think the Internet Archive has the moral high ground in launching the National Emergency Library. There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis.”

Throughout her career, Fister has been a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction. “I’ve been able to indulge my curiosity in everything from women’s literature from the Majority World (formerly known as the Third World) to how students learn about how information works to popular literacy practices, to the impact of technology on society, to the critical analysis of crime fiction. Basically, it’s the ‘oh look, a butterfly!’ approach to scholarship.” she explained. “I also have enjoyed reading crime fiction so much that I started writing it, and was lucky enough to find an agent and publisher. I was tickled to find two of my mysteries available in the National Emergency Library.”

One reason Fister is “tickled” is because her novels, published in 2008 and 2010, are hard to find, even in libraries. “They were published a while ago, so a lot of public libraries have no doubt weeded them to make room for more recent titles, which is totally understandable,” Fister explained. “I have worried a bit about the disappearance of non-academic books from the public cultural record. There was a time scholars could rediscover overlooked women writers long after their books went out of print, because they were on the shelves of academic libraries. In recent decades, however, academic book budgets have been strained and very few libraries purchase and retain popular literature.” She believes this “gradual forgetting of the popular” makes a shared digital collection like the Internet Archive’s even more valuable. “Even without a pandemic, it’s a need that I’m happy the Internet Archive is tackling.”


This collection of essays from the Library Babel Fish blog at Inside Higher Ed is open access and licensed through Creative Commons, and downloadable to the Internet Archive.

Fister has made many of her publications completely open access, and downloadable through the Internet Archive. It’s a value she embraced as an academic librarian. “As a library, we consciously promoted open access because equitable access to information is a core library value. For that reason, I have tried to make as much of my work open access as possible. This gets tricky with books, because both authors and publishers put a great deal of work into a book, and since I respect the value editors and publishers add, I sympathize with the need to have a business model that supports that critical hand-crafted work.” 

But as both an author and a librarian, Fister doesn’t subscribe to the notion that libraries in general and the National Emergency Library in particular are cutting into author revenue.”It’s not a competition, it’s a symbiosis.” she wrote. ”I don’t think they understand how unlikely it is that allowing multiple users of these versions of their books will adversely affect their income, but it seems many authors view it as a moral argument. ‘You can’t scan my books, period. It’s my property, and you didn’t ask my permission.’ Admittedly, like most authors I don’t depend on my writing for a living; perhaps if I did I would feel differently. But as it is, I’m delighted if anyone discovers my books and enjoys them.”

There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis. 

–Barbara Fister

As an academic, Fister has spoken and written extensively about information literacy, the “understanding of how information is produced and valued…ethically in communities of learning.” She points to Congress and the current copyright laws as the source of current tensions between open access advocates, libraries, authors and publishers, writing:

Launching the National Emergency Library has been risky for the Internet Archive, and I appreciate that act of risk-taking as a person who would like us to do a better job of balancing social and individual interests in the original Constitutional purpose of copyright – “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Congress has tilted much too far against society’s legitimate interest by making “limited time” for copyright owners nearly unlimited. This is actually bad for authors – and for all of us. Copyright isn’t working as it should, but people are too nervous to make full use of fair use because losing a lawsuit could be ruinous. The Authors Guild does not represent all authors. It certainly doesn’t represent my interests. I’m more aligned with the Authors Alliance.

You can find both nonfiction and fiction, podcasts and open access works by Barbara Fister in the Internet Archive.

Some day in the future, when COVID-19 is defeated and libraries are once again open, Fister believes that scholars of library history will examine this moment and “be pleased that their research is available to Americans who are learning and working from home during this historic pandemic.” 

Barbara Fister is one of those working from home. 

Fister says she often uses the National Emergency Library to “browse and sample” books for her research.

Earlier, Barbara returned a library book she needs for her research, Wayne Wiegand’s A Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of American Public Libraries, but now that her library is closed, she was delighted to find it in the National Emergency Library.  “’I’m scrolling through on my laptop, typing out quotes I want to note down; no copying and pasting or downloading the file for keeps allowed, all limits which makes it not at all like piracy,” she wrote. “This effort to make so many books available for the duration, legally risky and technically challenging, is beyond what any single library could do. While the National Emergency Library isn’t the same as our local libraries, it’s a wonderful thing to have available in these challenging times.”


Free Hand Sewn Masks at 300 Funston Ave in San Francisco

One of the few people working in our headquarters building, Roxana Alfaro Rodriguez has been busy sewing cloth masks to give away.  We now have a dozen ready and they are available for free in a box in front of the Internet Archive.

If you would like one, please come by 300 Funston Avenue.  Please only take one or maybe two.  They take about 30 minutes apiece to make.  Thank you, Roxana, for your amazing sewing skills!


Stay Safe, Everyone!

24,444 Thank yous to Better World Books Customers for Round-Up Tips!

Thanks to the 24,444 book lovers who sent us a “round up” donations through Better World Books.

Our friends at Better World Books, the wonderful online bookstore (which is shipping during the current crisis) added a “round up your bill” feature so that purchasers could add up to 99 cents to their order as a donation to the Internet Archive.   

Thanks to the generosity of their customers, Better World Books sent us a check for $11,000 in donations!  The average donation was 45 cents. Thank you to 24,444 customers of Better World Books for supporting our nonprofit library! 

Better World Books, is a B-corp, a social benefit corporation, dedicated to social good projects including supporting literacy programs, the Internet Archive, and Books for Africa. And they are now owned by a non-profit charity, Better World Libraries, making it now completely mission aligned with the non-profit Internet Archive.

A big Internet Archive thank you to Better World Books customers! A great way for our community to support them in these times would be to buy a book from Better World Books.  And remember, please round up if you are able!

Remembering the Sultana: A Great-Great-Great Grandaughter’s Quest

Earlier this year, I received a letter from Dee Cody of Columbus, Ohio. She wrote to the Internet Archive, asking  for our help in keeping alive the story of a Civil War-era tragedy. 155 years ago today, on April 27, 1865, the steamship Sultana exploded on the Mississippi, killing more than 1100 passengers—most of them Union soldiers returning home from Confederate prison camps at the end of America’s most bitter war. Dee writes:

Daniel Garber’s induction photo when he joined the 102nd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1862.

The story of the Sultana is personal to my family, for my paternal great-great-great grandfather survived the disaster. His name was Daniel Garber, a private in the 102nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He enlisted in 1862, was captured in 1864, and then sent to the Cahaba prison camp in Alabama. His first-person account of enduring the tragedy can be found in a book called Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors which was compiled by fellow survivor Chester D. Berry and first published in 1892. 

The story of Daniel Garber and his fellow soldiers intrigued me. I discovered in the Internet Archive this Librivox Audiobook of “Loss of the Sultana,” where you can hear Garber’s first-person account from 1892. To honor Dee’s wishes to preserve “this almost forgotten story,” we put together the Sultana Maritime Disaster Collection of books, audio and even the Cincinnati Daily Gazette, April 29, 1865 edition, recounting the “Shocking Steamboat Disaster” in vivid detail:

The story of the Sultana Disaster was relegated to page 3 of the Cincinnati Daily Gazette, overshadowed by tributes to the nation’s assassinated president, Abraham Lincoln.

The scene following the explosion was terrible and heart-rending in the extreme. Hundreds of people were blown into the air and descending into the water, some dead, some with broken limbs, some scalded, were borne under by the resistless current of the great river, never to rise again. The survivors represent the screams as agonizing beyond precedent. Some clung to frail pieces of the wreck, as drowning men cling to straws and sustained themselves for a few moments, but finally became exhausted and sunk.

Daniel Garber was one of those survivors, who in Chester Berry’s 1892 Loss of the Sultana recalled:  

By this time, all was confusion and men were jumping off into the river to get away from the flames. I looked around for a clear place to jump, for I knew if I jumped in where men were struggling, they would seize my board and I would be lost, because I could swim, but very little.

This was the last photograph taken of the Sultana, overloaded with 2100 passengers on a ship built for 376.

That night, the Sultana was carrying 2100 passengers, even though the ship’s official capacity was 376. Dee explains that avarice was the blame. “The Captain would have lost out on the money,” she told me. “He was paid $5 for every enlisted man transported and $10 for officers.” Although the death counts vary, anywhere between 1100-1700 people died due to the sinking of the Sultana, making it the worst maritime disaster in US history—more deadly than the Titanic or the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

And yet, who today remembers the Sultana? Why isn’t this story in textbooks, or captured by Hollywood on the screen? One reason may be timing. The Sultana exploded just hours after John Wilkes Booth had been captured and killed, while Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train was still winding its way cross country to Springfield, Illinois. In April 1865, after 620,000 soldiers had lost their lives during the Civil War, perhaps the Sultana was just one more tragedy.

Dee Cody at the 2015 Sultana Association reunion, held at the Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion, Arkansas.

But not to Daniel Garber’s great-great-great granddaughter. By her own account:

In 2016 I came up with the idea of sending letters to museums, newspapers, civil war roundtables, and any other group that might be interested, to tell the story of the Sultana and help raise awareness about the annual meetings of what is now called The Sultana Association. While I’ve stopped keeping track of the exact number of letters I’ve sent, I estimate there have been over 500 altogether.

Including the letter Dee Cody sent to the Internet Archive. From Dee I learned that after Daniel Garber jumped from the burning deck of the Sultana, he went on to work as a shoemaker and a farmer in Ohio, fathering eight children, 29 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren by the time he died in 1906. A century and a half later, his story lives on thanks to Dee, who shared this simple wish: “My hope is that anyone who hears the story will always remember the Sultana.”

Remembering the Sultana: this new collection at the Internet Archive is just the beginning. We invite you to upload more artifacts documenting this important piece of Civil War history.


Ways to Engage on Earth Day 2020


This image taken from Apollo 17 in 1972, captured first view of the south polar ice cap.

Fifty years ago, the Apollo spacecrafts brought back the first images of the “Whole Earth,” sparking a new consciousness about humankind’s relationship to our planet. Today, on Earth Day 2020, we stand at a pivotal moment. COVID-19 has led to cleaner air, clearer waters, and huge reductions in our use of fossil fuels. But what comes next?

On that very first Earth Day in 1970, this is how television anchor Walter Cronkite framed it:

A day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival: Earth Day….the message is clear:  Act or die.

— Walter Cronkite on the CBS News

Whether you are a gamer, teacher, environmentalist or just an avid learner, here are a few of our favorite Earth Day resources from the Internet Archive to use and share. 

From NASA: Our Planet & Beyond in Image and Sound

This picture of the Earth and Moon in a single frame was taken by the Galileo spacecraft from about 3.9 million miles away. Antarctica is visible through clouds (bottom) and we can see the far side of the Moon.

Back in the 1960 and 70s, when the Apollo Missions were in full throttle, these images from NASA of Earth and the polar ice caps were jaw dropping. The Internet Archive is proud to partner with NASA to preserve their rich archives—more than 100 collections of  audio, video, and images of space exploration.

Games to Defend the Earth

From our Software Curator, Jason Scott, here are some vintage software packages you can play to either learn about, save, or fight for the Earth. Jason suggests starting with the classic from 1990, SimEarth by Maxis, a simulator where you try to keep the entire Earth (Gaia) happy.

Next up a classic from 1985: Your Universe Volume 2: The Planet Earth. Apple II educational software from Focus Media.

Finally, why not end with a nice Earth Defense arcade game? U.N. Defense Force: Earth Joker (Japan), is a 1993 SHMUP (Shoot ’em Up) where you use one of four pilots to defend the Earth.

Gifs to Enjoy the Earth

Back in the day, Citizens of GeoCities loved to create GIFS, and we’ve pulled them all together in a nifty search engine that we call GIFCities. If you want to use and see an archive of Earth Gifs, here they are for you to enjoy:

https://gifcities.org/?q=earth

Books to Understand the Earth

For young readers:  

The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair, by Denis Hayes

This useful guide was written back in 2000 for a new generation of Earth Day activists by Denis Hayes, the national coordinator of the very first Earth Day. Chock full of quizzes, interesting analogies and painless steps to reduce our own energy use, The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair has as much to offer on the 50th Earth Day anniversary as it did on the 30th.

The book that started it all…

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, “environment” was not even a concept, let alone a movement. As Al Gore writes in his introduction to this edition:

Silent Spring came as a cry in the wilderness, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched, and brilliantly written argument that changed the course of history. Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all.


For readers willing to think metaphysically:  

The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

Back in 1989, Bill McKibben was already trying to wake us up to the problems larger than any single environmental issue: ozone layers, air pollution, the diminishing rainforests. In The End of Nature, this deep thinker and tireless activist asked us to step back to understand humankind’s relationship to nature itself, to turn off the destructive path we were on. Twenty-one years later, it’s not too late to listen.


And while we are separated during this pandemic, Earth Day reminds us: our lives and fates are connected across one Earth. Today, tune in to virtual gatherings that are “flooding the world with hope, optimism and action” at https://www.earthday.org/.