UC to Debut Free Online State History Database

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The UC system announced Monday that it has launched a Web site offering free access to more than 150,000 images, documents and primary source materials relating to California's history and culture.

The Web site Calisphere, which UC officials described as a "learning tool," doubles as both a database and a search engine. Internet users will be able to look at materials such as diary entries, artwork, cartoons and transcripts that have been gathered from cultural heritage organizations across the state and 10 UC campuses.

"The Calisphere Web site is a remarkable learning tool that will provide students with a rich experience of California's multicultural heritage," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "It puts the libraries and museums of the entire UC system, along with rich historical resources from cultural heritage organizations, right at the fingertips of California students."

Unlike other databases such as the scholarly archive JSTOR, Calisphere does not require a subscription fee and its use is not limited to UC students and faculty.

"First of all, Calisphere is free, so it's open to anyone in the world," said Rosalie Lack, manager of public content at the California Digital Library. "It's not restricted information at all and anyone doing research will have Calisphere freely available."

The intent of Calisphere was to promote California's diverse history and its role in the world, Lack said. One of Calisphere's special features is the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive, a comprehensive database with over 10,000 primary resource materials related to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Lack said Calisphere would have its most profound impact on K-12 classrooms.

"We've created something called Themed Collections," she said. "We use California content standards to organize subjects by content. Calisphere's (Themed Collections) will emphasize topics that will be taught in K-12 classrooms."

Teachers from all across California, including Bay Area middle and high schools, were included in focus panels to determine Calisphere's layout and the contents of its database.

Lack said the Calisphere's objective post-release is to find more content to include in the database.

"Today it's up and running but we will always be adding new content and undergoing new improvements such as new K-12 theme components," she said.

Jennifer Colvin, a spokesperson for the California Digital Library, was also excited about Calisphere's prospects.

"It's a great place to go to find new information with over 150,00 materials online," she said.

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