Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Historic magazine archive via Google

Just when my Media History students might need one more source for their final semester projects...

Wonder what the latest technology was in 1905? Go read Popular Mechanics for that year, back when "wireless telegraphy" was the hottest thing since the "horseless carriage." (I guess "...less" was "more" back then.)

This blast-from-the-past search is thanks to a new archive of old magazine articles at

(For more about Google linking to historic newspaper archives, see my blog item from a few months ago.)

For background see this BusinessWeek article: Google updates search index with old magazines:
"Google has added a magazine rack to its Internet search engine. As part of its quest to corral more content published on paper, Google Inc. has made digital copies of more than 1 million articles from magazines that hit the newsstands decades ago."
(Many thanks to Gerald Grow, a magazine-publishing expert and one of the most "sharing" professors on the Web, for an e-mail alert about this new Google search development.)

I haven't explored enough to see what publications are included... but Popular Mechanics and Popular Science are part of the collection, which will be useful for the "Media History" course when we talk about communication technology...

And I noticed New York magazine turning up in a quick search, which will be a resource for research into more recent journalism history -- and for news writing courses. Originally the Sunday magazine of the New York Herald Tribune newspaper, New York published a lot of great "new journalism" in the 1970s, including Tom Wolfe's article "The Birth of 'The New Journalism,'" which I was just talking about in class today, and one of my all-time favorite cover stories on investigative reporters. Amazing.

Here's a surprise: I did a quick search for the words "journalism" and "politics." The top two hits were not the first magazines I expected to see. They were Jet and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is archived back to 1945. Jet -- a great resource for studying African-American culture, apparently had regular columns headed "politics" and "journalism." (Ebony and Black World are also part of the collection.) As for the Bulletin, I guess the topics just came up regularly. This quote jumped out at me from a 1985 article, titled "The Media: Playing the Government's Game":
Before the atomic bomb, journalism never hesitated to march off to war, but the news media usually were eager to demobilize once victory seemed at hand ...
I haven't stumbled on a list of which magazines are in the collection, but I've noticed quite an assortment: Ebony, Mother Jones, Black Belt, Cincinnati Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly, Log Home Living, Bicycling, Backpacker, Vegetarian Times, Prevention, Runner's World, Baseball Digest, CIO... The themes suggest that publishers like Johnson, Emmis and Rodale have contributed groups of titles.

Finally, although you can search for any words in any magazine, the results delivered are full-page images. That means you get to see full-spread advertising layouts, which will be appreciated by students and professors interested in advertising and design.

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