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A Treasure Trove of Research – UNZ.org offers scanned archives of thousands of magazines

New Masses. Image: Courtesy of UNZ.org.

Apart for writing for To Be Read, I am the online editor of an art, craft, and design publication. However, my true writing love is fiction. This month, I’m taking that love and attempting to write at least 2,000 words a day along with the thousands of writers worldwide to get a 50,000 word draft completed during National Novel Writing Month otherwise known as NANOWRIMO or NANO.

Although I’m shooting for 2,000 words per day, my goal is more on quality than quantity. And that means stopping to edit instead of going for a surge of words that will eventually go right into the rubbish bin.

I also stop when I need to do some research, and here’s the point of this post. Last night while I was working on a scene, a question came up that needed to be researched.

Most of what I’ve found about this particular individual I already had in my files, but I came across an article he had written in 1941 in the long-defunct New Masses. So I clicked on the link and, much to my surprise, I discovered that 16 years worth of the New Masses magazine or 638 issues had been scanned and turned into PDFs. A little more digging into the site, I found that many long-gone publications were made available to scholars.

For writers who are interested in historical fiction, the folks at UNZ.org have provided us a valuable resource and as they note on their site, the purpose was to compile a “a near-complete archives of  publications which were once among the most prestigious or influential in America, but disappeared many decades ago, and are today almost totally forgotten, including (RS note: I’m listing these with the links so you can all get an idea of how vast this collection is and its value to writers):

The authors of the site also note that “these periodicals once carried just as much influence and weight as their few modern surviving contemporaries of those days—The NationThe New RepublicHarper’s Magazine, and The Atlantic—and their disappearance means that a huge fraction of our historical knowledge has disappeared along with them. Furthermore, current access to the archives even for surviving publications is often expensive and inconvenient, greatly reducing their effectiveness as a mainstream research tools.”

Not only will it put history in perspective, but writers will have a keener sense of how contemporary writers of that age expressed themselves, as well as an understanding of popular culture via the advertisements in the publications. If you love reading history, bookmark UNZ.org. Guaranteed that you’ll spend hours reading great magazines.

 

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