Women's Studies Section

Association of College & Research Libraries / American Library Association
Women's Studies in Digital Archives
Background and Scope


To heighten awareness of and promote access to freely available non-women’s studies open access, digital archives that may be of interest to women’s studies researchers.

In 2004, the members of the Electronic Resources and Access Committee of the Women’s Studies Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries discussed the need for a website that helped web-users wade through the ever-increasing primary resource material being digitized and made freely available online. While such collections that were devoted to women’s studies material were easily accessible, the committee agreed that it was more difficult to find equally relevant sources that were housed in digital archives whose primary focus was not women’s studies.


The first step was to identify a list of potential archives to be reviewed. The archives to be reviewed had to conform to four criteria:

  • freely available, online resource
  • non-women’s studies specific resource
  • at least 50% of the content primary source material
  • at least 50% of the content in English

The next step was to develop a standard form for reviewing each archive. This review form has transformed over the life of the project as additional relevant and significant information is discovered, but its primary goal has remained constant: to give a brief but detailed description which allows a user to:

  • know whether or not a given source will likely contain relevant information
  • immediately identify relevant and like archives through the use of controlled subject headings
  • understand how to effectively search the archive

The Reviews

The reviews reflect the information that was available at the time the archive was reviewed. Each review includes the following information for the respective archive:

  • Types of primary sources with women's studies content
  • Subjects with women's studies content
  • List of digital collections, when applicable
  • Date range of the primary source materials
  • Status - is the archive ongoing or complete? If ongoing, what is the frequency of updates?
  • Publisher
  • URL
  • Latest Date of Search for Review Purposes
  • Brief description of the archive as a whole
  • Brief description of sources of interest to women's studies
  • Searching tips, searching quirks, and other information including:
    • Is truncation allowed? Are searches truncated automatically?
    • What, if any, boolean operators are allowed?
    • Is proximity searching available?
    • Is phrase searching available?
    • Are there help screens? How extensive?-
    • What, if any, controlled vocabulary is used?
    • Do results show keywords searched in context?


Archives included in the project are listed on the Home page which includes a link to each archive as well as a link to each review.

Subject access to materials identified for women's studies is available thorough the Subject Index

Materials identified for women's studies are accessible also by Primary Source Type of the material.

Kristi Palmer
Indiana University - Purdue University

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