Thursday, June 9, 2011
The Official Records on DVD
When thinking about possible topics for posts, I often turn to the The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, also known by most people as the Official Records or OR. I also use the Official Records when doing research for many of my posts. Of course, I can't afford all 128 volumes of the OR, nor would I have the space even if I had the cash. I also don't have the time to visit libraries to explore copies of the OR. So, I was grateful to find two free online collections of the OR. Both Ohio State University and Cornell University run websites dedicated to the OR. Unfortunately, these sites are a bit clunky, and sometimes slow. The OSU version has the unavoidable errors that result from converting the actual book to text. I therefore decided to see if I could purchase a somewhat better quality and user-friendly collection on a computer disc.
After searching on Amazon and eBay, I found exactly what I was looking for. The Historical Archive publishes a two DVD set of all 128 volumes entitled War of the Rebellion: Master Edition. (I bought my copy on eBay for a little shy of thirty dollars.) The DVDs run on a Windows or Apple operating system and require Adobe Acrobat and a web browser. Each page of every volume appears exactly like in the hard copy, including charts and maps. Loading one of the DVDs on my laptop, I can select a volume from the HTML index and easily browse through the PDF images as if I were holding the book and turning the actual pages. The search function is also easy to use, and based on my experience so far, turns up comprehensive and accurate results. I would recommend these DVDs to anyone who would like to own a complete set of the OR in digital format. Such products are proof once again of how modern technology has made primary source research that much easier for Civil War historians and enthusiasts alike.