NJ History Comes Alive Online

New Jersey turns 350 this year and the state is in the middle of a year-long schedule of special events to mark the occasion.  New Jersey 350 has the theme of innovation, diversity, liberty – showcasing New Jersey as a center for technological invention with a diverse cultural makeup and as a seat of the country’s fight for liberty.  So it is no surprise that there are a few places one can turn to online to find out more about our state and local history.

Start with the state’s Newjersey350 website, which has the expected list of events and information about the 350th celebration, but also includes a lot of educational materials that cover all kinds of topics from the state’s first 350 years.  The site is still growing, but already has a lot of information to get you started on exploring the state’s history.  The Resources section includes videos, time capsules and a Garden State Greats section.  If you are a reader, the Garden State Greats page includes 101 New Jersey books.  Moving over to the Teaching and Learning area, you will find a list of topical resources that pinpoint an event, theme or person of interest related to New Jersey.  Finally, take a look at the 350blog under the Community section to find a selection of articles about the state.

Next, move over to the New Jersey Digital Highway website.  This site is maintained by the NJDH Project group with help from Rutgers University.  The site is a virtual clearinghouse for online resources about New Jersey history, including digitized copies of items held in small local history collections.  Without NJDH, many of these items would not be available online or they would be scattered over several websites.  On NJDH, there is a consolidated search box on the main page so you can dig right in with a keyword search.  Or, you can opt to limit your search to text, images, audio or video.  The site, however, is a lot more than a repository of documents and media about the state’s history.  It also includes specialized sites for librarians, teachers and students as well as a lot of information in the Links For Everyone section to the left of the page.  The links include help for genealogists, a section devoted to oral history resources and a directory of local organizations that can help you discover even more about the Garden State.  As if that was not enough, the site also includes spotlights on New Jersey history topics and a news section so you can see what is happening in the history field around the state.

A project related to the NJDH is the re-launched New Jersey History journal.  Previously published as a paper journal, the new digital version is published twice a year and features peer-reviewed articles.  Historians around the state use the journal to report on their research and post scholarly articles about the state’s history.

The New Jersey Historical Society website includes some digitized material on the site, but is more useful for its information about how to research history in New Jersey.  In addition to links, there are resources such as how to use primary sources and curriculum materials for teachers.

As the designated state university, one would expect Rutgers University to have a large New Jersey history collection and they do, in the Special Collections and University Archives.  While the vast majority of material held in the archives must be viewed in person, there are links to other New Jersey history-related websites that have already digitized some materials.  One excellent resources is the Rutgers Cartography website, which features scans of historic New Jersey maps.

The official website of the State of New Jersey has plenty of resources for the history buff.  The main one is, of course, the State Archives page.  In addition to the searchable catalog of records, the website provides topical areas of interest, such as genealogy, governors, and state constitutions.  Some of the topical areas provide digitized images, while others will provide full text of documents relevant to the topic.  The site also details all of the services the archive provides as well as ways to contact the reference services department for more help.

If you are interested in visiting some historical sites this summer and are looking for ideas, the New Jersey state website has a list of historic attractions.

For children, check out the NJ History Kids site on the New Jersey state website.  The interactive site lets kids discover more about their home state by letting them follow the NJ History Kids characters as they talk about the different regions of the state.

-Laura N.


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