Friday Finds: Chicago Data Portal

There’s a lot of data available on cities that you might not have realized. Want to know how much a window washer makes in the city of Chicago? It’s in the Chicago Data Portal (it’s $43,068). Want to find a list of all the street names in Chicago? Check the Chicago Data Portal. Interested in the crimes committed in the city since 2001? I’m confident you know where to look by now.

The Chicago Data Portal is part of a recent movement to make government more transparent, and it lists all things data and statistics including city budgets, 311 service calls (that’s the non-emergency number for help in Chicago), FOIA requests, building permits and many other things. If you’re interested in seeing how Chicago runs and the things that being part of local government entails, head over and sift through some of the data sets for a while.

Chicago’s not the only place working to make it’s data more accessible. New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC each have their own similar data sites.  And if you’re looking for other places, check out to additional places, including international cities.



Friday Finds: The Family of Catherine Young

You know those websites where you enter them thinking, I’ll just have a look to see what this is, and then when you look up from reading it more than an hour has passed? This is one of those websites, but the story is fantastic and well worth the time.

First some background. Lewis Hine was a teacher and a photographer. He was critical of the lack of labor laws protecting children and in 1908, the National Child Labor Committee employed Hine to investigate and photograph children working in factories.  His photographs are available in many places online, including Shorpy’s and the Library of Congress.

Nearly 100 years after Lewis Hine visited a cotton mill in Tifton, Georgia a picture of two young girls who worked in the mill caught, and kept, the attention of freelance journalist Joe Manning. Hine had taken five pictures while visiting the Tifton Mill and in each of the pictures was the little dark haired girl from the first picture.

He then started on what was to be a long journey in identifying the dark haired girl, as well as the rest of her family. The story is a heartbreaking account of the decisions and lifestyles many in that era were forced into, as well as an amazing example of what kind of research can be done with enough drive and a bit of luck. Ultimately, Manning is able to go from a single picture of two unnamed children, to finding the descendants of one family and learning the history of the family through speaking with its descendants.

Take a look at how two men, working nearly 100 years apart, were able to highlight the life of an otherwise anonymous family, and show to many people what life was like for the factory and mill workers of the early 20th century.

Mornings on Maple Street: Catherine Young and Family

Friday Find: What’s on the Menu?

Every house has one. That drawer of take out menus that are seldom used any longer, but that you can’t throw away because there’s a chance you might one day need them to place an order for fried rice or a pizza? Well, the New York Public Library has a drawer like that too, except on a much, much larger scale. And they need your help organizing it.

NYPL’s menu collection, called What’s On The Menu? consists of over 40,000 menus (that’s a lot of takeout) dating back to 1840.  The menus already exist in a digitized format, but the NYPL is crowdsourcing the transcription of the menus to provide additional information on each item listed on the menus.

Say you’re interested in a particular dish and you want to know who served it first, and a list of all the restaurants that served it. Simply go to the dishes page and search for your desired dish. For instance, cheesecake, a favorite in my house, is listed on ten menus. The homemade cheesecake at the Grammercy Park Hotel at one time was only $2.50 for a slice, a far cry from the current price of $13.

So, spend a few minutes helping out a good cause by transcribing a menu or two, and learn a little about the history of your favorite dish.

eBook Exchange: The Murders in the Rue Morgue: And Other Tales

Even though Christmas is creeping earlier and earlier in the year, October still means Halloween. And in honor of the spookiness that comes with this October holiday we are bringing to you stories from one of the early masters of horror and the alleged creator of detective fiction, Edgar Allen Poe. In this book, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, there are many Poe favorites, including The Cask of the Amontillado, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tell-Tale Heart. As an added bonus, the stories available in this version of The Murders in the Rue Morgue, are not all available in a single print volume of the work, giving you more Poe, with less effort.

So take a break from the writing or grading of papers and get into the holiday spirit by reading a little Poe. Already know everything by Poe? Hop on over to the Literature Map and find another author you might also like.

Friday Finds: Digital Dead Sea Scrolls

Through a partnership with  Google, the Israel Museum has digitized five of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Great Isiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll and the War Scroll.

In addition to merely containing the high-resolution scans of the scrolls, the site includes history of the scrolls, commentary and short explanatory videos on the scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, offer insight on Jewish society, from the birth of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

View the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls.



Friday Finds: Resources for Genealogy and Family Historians

Yes, Friday’s Find is going up a little late, but better late than never, right?

This week, we’re showcasing the Resources for Genealogists made available by the National Archives and Records Administration. Mapping your family’s history is always a time consuming process, but with the tools made available by NARA through their genealogical resources, it’s about as easy as it gets to trace your family’s history in the U.S. Some interesting tools include immigration and land holdings records, as well as military service records.

So if you’re interested in knowing when your ancestors came to the country or who in your family was the first to move to an area, the NARA Resources for Genealogy are right up your alley. Take a look and see if you can learn something about where you came from!