Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set

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Recently Oboler Library was able to purchase the Archive of Americana database from Readex.  The majority of the content of this database is the U.S. Congressional Serial Set which contains documents and reports of the United States Congress beginning with the 15th Congress in 1817 to the 103rd Congress in 1994.  The documents of the first fourteen Congresses are collected in what is known as the American State Papers.  These are also collected in the Archive of Americana and can be searched separately or together with the Serial Set.

Each of the documents that is included in the Serial Set is consecutively numbered within each Congress and within each type of document.  The documents are House and Senate Documents, House and Senate Reports, and Senate Executive Reports and Documents and Senate Treaty Documents.

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The basic material in the Serial Set are the reports for the House and Senate that are written for the various committees to accompany legislation as it passes through Congress.  Also included in the Serial Set are any documents that Congress orders to be printed as well as treaties and reports of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations  that deal with treaties and of various committees that deal with nominations.  

In the early years many Executive Branch departments’ publications were also included in the Set.  In the 19th and early 20th century you will find, for example, annual reports of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Geological Survey, and the Department of War as well as other departments.    The Official Record of the War of the Rebellion of both the Army and Navy were originally printed as part of the Serial Set.  Bulletins of the Bureau of Ethnology and the Geological Survey which encompass much early research, especially of the American West, were included in the Serial Set.  Reports of the original surveys of the West by Hayden, Fremont, and Powell were recorded in the Serial Set.
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Though not usually part of the Serial Set, when ordered by Congress to be included, you will find hearings such as those conducted to investigate the sinking of the Titanic and reports of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  Within the Serial Set can be found documents on such various topics as the building of the western railroads, impeachments, and rearing silk worms.  Almost any topic you can think of is covered in the Serial Set and it is a valuable resource for more than just the History or Political Science departments.  The Serial Set contains information for the social sciences as well as the health sciences and many others.

While Oboler Library has many of these volumes in the Government Documents collection, the acquisition of this valuable database provides access online in searchable full text to the complete collection.  Many of the physical volumes that the Library owns are extremely fragile and many were available only in microcard or microfiche formats.  

U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Wisconsin Historical Society (Emma Schroeder 2008)

Guest post authored by Beth Downing, Government Documents Librarian at Idaho State University.