MESDA Subject Database FAQ

subjectdatabase02How do I use the MESDA Subject Database?

The keyword search window returns results of records that contain your search term(s). Refer to the Index to the MESDA Subject Database for a complete list of category headings.


How can I read the cards before or after the one in my search result?

Many of the entries in the Subject Database span several cards. To read the cards before or after, make note of the Catalog # assigned to the one that your search returned and then search for the Catalog # sequentially before and after. For example, if your search result was Catalog # 3334 then in the Catalog # search window enter 3333 to read the previous card or 3335 to read the card that follows.


How do I save images from the MESDA Subject Database?

Right click on the image and select the “Save Image As” option. Then save the .jpg image file to your computer.


How do I print my search results?

Use your internet browser’s “Print” function (usually found under the “File” menu item) to print pages. If you have a PDF creator or virtual printer installed on your computer you can “Print” to your search results to a PDF document.


What do I need to know about the racial terminology and category headings?

There are racial terms used in the MESDA Subject Database that are now understood to be offensive, displaying insensitivity and ignorance. Such terms are in constant evolution and what is in common use at a particular time may be seen to be unacceptable at another point in time.

Due to the historical nature of the Subject Database, direct quotes from the eighteenth and nineteenth century will often include words that are today considered inflammatory. Such words are used only as a direct quote from a period document.

A more difficult situation is the use of the term “negro” as a category heading in the Subject Database. The term “negro” is inappropriate in the twenty-first century but was common parlance in the 1960s and 1970s when the Subject Database was begun. As such, the category headings have been updated to reflect today’s accepted and appropriate term (African American) but researchers should understand that the images of the card records will include the dated and no longer acceptable term “negro.” The same solution has been applied to the term “Indian”—the Subject Database category headings have been updated to reflect today’s accepted term “American Indian” but the card images will include the less sensitive “Indian.”


How many subject records are there?

There are nearly 30,000 records and the collection is growing. The records begin as early as 1585 and extend through 1860. New records will be added as MESDA’s researchers continue to read period documents. As new information is identified, those digitally born records will not contain images of typed cards.