Social Welfare History Image Portal Wins CRL Access Award

May 25, 2018

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) announced the winners of its annual Primary Source Awards in the Spring 2018 issue of its journal, Focus on Global Resources. The Social Welfare History Image Portal, which contains digital resources from nine partner institutions including the Baylor University Libraries, was recognized with the 2018 CRL Award for Access. According to the CRL website, the Primary Source Awards "recognize innovative uses of primary source materials by faculty, librarians and library staff, students, and other researchers in the CRL community."

The Social Welfare History Image Portal is a collaborative, freely available online discovery tool that increases awareness of ephemera and other archival materials related to the history of social reform and social welfare. Hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Libraries, the Image Portal provides access to a rich assortment of items related to suffrage, civil rights, labor, public health, immigration, and public education.

The Social Welfare History Project website, launched in 2010, was the vision of innovative social worker John E. (Jack) Hansan, who created the site to help the public appreciate the history of social reform and social welfare services in the U.S. Research materials related to this history include the papers, records and publications of individuals, local volunteer groups, national private organizations, and the state and federal government agencies that have provided and regulated social services. The site includes links and references to key archives, libraries, scholarly websites and other sources of reliable information intended for students, scholars, and the general public.

The Image Portal, created as a companion to the website, is a networked version of a “vertical file.” It is neither a repository nor an online exhibit with an interpretive layer. It presents an array of ephemeral publications, excerpts of larger works, and interesting and provocative images from pamphlets, placards, handbills, comics and photographs sourced from the collections of VCU Libraries and participating institutions. Like a vertical file, these materials are suggestive of further avenues of inquiry and can be used to instruct students in the use of primary sources. In addition to single items, the Image Portal presents a variety of Discovery Sets—curated groups related to particular topics. Hyperlinks in the extensive item-level metadata direct users to the greater riches in partners’ collections.

The Image Portal has received over 4,000 visits since its July 2017 launch. Together the Social Welfare History Project and Image Portal receive over 1 million visitors during the academic year. Current partners include the American Labor Museum, Baylor University Libraries, Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives, Simmons College Library, Union Presbyterian Seminary Library, University of Mary Washington Libraries, University of Minnesota Libraries, and The Valentine (museum in Richmond).

Visit the Social Welfare History Image Portal at

About the Center for Research Libraries

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is an international consortium of university, college and independent research libraries. Founded in 1949, CRL supports original research and inspired teaching in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences by preserving and making available to scholars a wealth of rare and uncommon primary source materials from all world regions. CRL created the Primary Source Awards program to promote understanding of the role primary historical documentation and evidence play in research and teaching. By identifying and recognizing innovative uses of primary sources, CRL seeks to better support the practices and the needs of scholars.

CRL's deep and diverse collections are shaped by specialists and experts at the major U.S. and Canadian research universities, who work together to identify and preserve unique and uncommon documentation and evidence, to ensure its long-term integrity and accessibility to researchers worldwide. CRL is based in Chicago, Illinois, and is governed by a Board of Directors drawn from the library, research and higher education communities.