More web tools for Mormon Studies

By October 28, 2013


From the Media History Digital Library comes this amazing collection of “over 800,000 pages of digitized texts from the the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound.” The site has a fresh interface and the search filters are helpful. Also, a little trick to limit the default full-text search (since the OCR [optical character recognition] of the texts can be pretty bad) enter ‘0001‘ to disable full-text search and exclusively search metadata.

Here is a typical page of search results:

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A lot of the digitized sources come from the ever-impressive collections at the Internet Archive. I can’t wait to hear what you find through this service.

[via Lattern]



Another fun tool, Serendip-o-matic, automatically extracts named-entities from segments of text you copy/paste into the input box. It then presents you with results from DPLAEuropeanaFlickr Commons, and Trove catalogs, which contain of millions of items. For instance, here’s a page of results from a snippet of text from our very own Ben Park[1]:

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The hippo with the mustache means that the service could not locate a thumbnail for the linked resource. Anyhow, it’s a lot of fun to experiment with. Serendipitous even!

[via Serendip-o-matic]


VIAF (Virtual International Authority File)

VIAF is “[a] collaborative effort between national libraries and organizations contributing name authority files, furthering access to information.”[2] This is one of numerous go-to tool for librarians but also a great way to see how certain entities (personal, corporate, geographic, etc.) are cataloged throughout the world. Also, since VIAF is built on linked data, the amount of connections between names, places, and topics is really useful. For instance, here is a search for “Church of Jesus Christ” on the homepage:

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As you can see from the autocomplete dropdown, many Mormon entities have been cataloged. Here are the results:

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We see results in numerous languages which are also the subject headings in found bibliographic records. The database also gives us sample titles. I clicked on the first result and was given this information:

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Preferred forms of the Church, as cataloged throughout the world, are given as well as a permalink URL to this corporate identity. The URL is stable, meaning it won’t disappear anytime soon. Also, these are great resource pages to link to as an alternative to Wikipedia or other online resources. The page also contains related names and additional statistics:

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More information about the VIAF can be found here.



[1] The paragraph was taken from Ben’s excellent post “The Political Culture of Mormon History”:

As much as Mormonism has intersected with politics in important and dynamic ways, Mormon historiography has rarely intersected with the theories of political history. Prior to teh last decade, most political histories of Mormonism focus on straight narrative and quantitative history—Joseph Smith’s political beliefs, the governmental structure of territorial Utah, or the John Birch-style politics of Ezra Taft Benson, for example. The prevalence of lawyers within the field has also ensured plenty of histories of basic legal developments connected to the expulsion from Jackson County, the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, or the economic models of Deseret, and the fraught context of Mormon patriotism has drawn numerous (and often flawed) explanations of Mormon political theology, particularly related to the Constitution. (See here for a collection of some essays on that topic, which often lacked academic rigor and historical context.) Perhaps the only work that engaged political culture was Marvin Hill’s still-useful Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Signature, 1989), though that work is limted based on its use of a social model that was in favor during Hill’s graduate work decades before and has since fallen out of style. The true breakthrough came from the early-aughts, both from Chapel Hill, of all places: Sally Gordon’s The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (UNC Press, 2002) demonstrated the relevance of polygamy prosecutions in capturing the culture of constitutionality and religious freedom in the post-bellum period, and Kathleen Flake’s The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (UNC Press, 2004) which poignantly captured the debates over pluralism in America’s progressive era.

[2] “Making WorldCat better.” VIAF. (accessed October 25, 2013).

Article filed under Digital Humanities


  1. Thanks, Tod! Fun stuff.

    Comment by David G. — October 28, 2013 @ 11:25 am

  2. I’ve been using the Lantern site a lot. It takes some getting used to but it’s a gem.

    Comment by John Hatch — October 28, 2013 @ 11:38 am

  3. Very cool. Thanks, Tod.

    Comment by Christopher — October 28, 2013 @ 11:54 am


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