The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds the Japanese American History Digitization Project

Japanese Americnas

Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

The Japanese American History Digitization Project at California State University will help us better understand the story of Japanese Americans in the 20th century by digitizing the archives of several collections and placing them on line for researchers.

Here is a description:

The story of the Japanese Americans in the 20th century – their migration to this country, the Alien Land laws under which they lived, their incarceration during World War II, the redress movement – is a complex local and state topic as well as a national subject of great historical impact. The accumulation of archival materials telling these “local” stories has enormous potential for scholarly interpretation and forms a humanities topic of national importance. The California State University System (consisting of 23 campuses, once called “the 1000 mile campus”) and the local CSU archival collections scattered throughout California are too disparate to offer scholars a complete story or easy access. It is not serendipity that so many CSU archives have a great deal of material focused on this issue. Immigration patterns that determined where Japanese Americans (Nikkei) settled also relate to where CSU collections are located. Sacramento, San Jose and Fresno had early Japanese American agricultural populations. The Nikkei populations of Little Tokyo, Gardena and Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County are directly connected to the extent of materials that CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Fullerton have collected. Grants to digitize and describe these archival collections are beginning to bring these local stories of national significance together for worldwide access.

Learn more here.

 

Anti-Suffrage Records Digitized

anti-suffrage

As the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment approaches (2020) more and more students of history are going to want to learn about the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

“The Beehive,” the blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, reports on the Society’s online collection of documents from the The Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women (1894-1920).  Yes, there were organizations opposed to women’s suffrage.

Here is a taste of Nancy Heywood’s post:

The records of this organization are now fully digitized and available on the web, thanks to a grant provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

All pages of this manuscript collection have been digitized and they are presented as sequences of pages linked to the folders listed on the collection guide.  Website users may explore any or all administrative records, committee meeting minutes, typescripts of lectures and reports, and various printed items including by-laws,  and printed lists of standing committee members from all over the state.

The records date from 1894 to1920.  The Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women was formally founded in 1895, but stemmed from a committee formed in 1882.  The Association actively recruited members, opposed legislation that would have granted voting rights to women in Massachusetts, and also held events and lectures promoting their cause. 

Women working so actively against voting rights for women seems curious and perhaps even incongruous.  Some of the reasoning and context for their motivation is found within the organization’s own records. Within the Loose papers, Legislative history section, there is a typescript document of a speech given at a hearing before committee on constitutional amendments in Feb. 1905 which states four reasons for opposing woman suffrage:  many women in Massachusetts don’t petition for it, Massachusetts wouldn’t benefit from it; it is a “most inopportune” time to change the Constitution, and suffrage hasn’t proven to be beneficial elsewhere.

The AAS Printers’ File Is Being Digitized

Printers fileThe American Antiquarian Society‘s Printers’ File contains information on 6000 people who were involved in the early American book trade. Emily Wells, a staff member at the AAS and an incoming College of William and Mary graduate student, will be working on the project this summer.

Here is a taste of her report at the AAS blog, Past in Present:

At present, this resource is only available to researchers who are able to visit the reading room and peruse the cards in person. To make the Printers’ File more easily accessible, AAS is working to digitize and transfer the information recorded on these cards to a linked open data resource. Not only will this resource make the Printers’ File available to anyone with a computer and internet access, but it will also allow researchers to answer complex research queries and draw connections between the people and places recorded within the scope of the project.

As the person hired to enter data, I am working to interpret and transfer the information written on the original typewritten cards to a digital environment while also helping to formulate guidelines that will standardize the data entry process. Through my work with the Printers’ File, I have discovered that there is a fundamental difficulty that arises when attempting to fit biographical information into a standardized format. To create a working dataset, one must determine the best way to field a person’s life experience, something that is inherently messy and complex, within the limits of a data entry form.

Read the entire post here.

Historians are very excited about this development, perhaps none more than Joseph Adelman of Framingham State University in Massachusetts.  Here is a taste of a post he wrote at his blog:

A few weeks ago I was grouchy about the prospects of closed digitization projects in early American history. This morning I’m ecstatic. At the Past is Present blog of the American Antiquarian Society, Emily Wells writes today about her experience working to digitize the AAS Printers’ File, a massive compendium of information about participants in the American printing trades from 1639 to 1820.

I’m particularly excited about this project because the research for my dissertation/first book so heavily relied on the twenty or so drawers of salmon-colored cards in the AAS reading room. In fact, the first summer after I moved to Massachusetts I spent several weeks doing nothing but go through the card catalog, drawer by drawer, to build my own database of printers from the 1750s to the 1790s for the purposes of my research.

If you read Wells’s post, you’ll see just how sophisticated she and her AAS colleagues have had to get in order to capture the complexity of biographical information on the cards (for which we all owe an enormous debt to Avis Clarke). To give you a comparison, let me show you the slide I used in a few job talks to discuss my database:

Read the rest of Joseph’s post here.

The Colonial North American Project at Harvard University

Harvard is digitizing its archival and manuscript collections related to 17th and 18th century North America.


From the website of the Colonial North American Project:

When complete, the project will make available to the world digitized images of all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America. Scattered through twelve repositories, these documents reveal a great deal about topics such as social life, education, trade, finance, politics, revolution, war, women, Native American life, slavery, science, medicine, and religion. In addition to reflecting the origins of the United States, the digitized materials also document aspects of life and work in Great Britain, France, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The ‘Essays’ on this website are the work of a Summer 2015 Arcadia Fellow, Alicia DeMaio, who was one of the first researchers to connect thematically related material from among the images digitized to date.

This website is updated continuously. Check back regularly for new content and features.

The Next "Librarian of Congress" Should Be a Librarian

This is the argument of Portland Community College librarian Meredeth Farkas in a piece at The New Republic.

Farkas chides outgoing Librarian of Congress James Billington for, among other things, not modernizing the Library and bringing it fully into the digital world.

She writes:

President Obama will soon appoint a new Librarian of Congress, a position that requires Congressional approval and could impact the everyday lives of most Americans. This position has the power to provide exemptions to a copyright regime that currently limits what consumers can do with their media, software, digital devices, and even vehicles. The next Librarian of Congress could ease copyright restrictions, provide improved access to federally-funded research, and embrace cooperative efforts toward making our nation’s history available online. On the other hand, the new Librarian could limit what Americans can do with the content and technologies they have lawfully purchased by choosing not to make exemptions to copyright law. It all hinges on the values and background of the person the President chooses to appoint….

In a 2014 speech, former Deputy and now Acting Librarian of Congress, David Mao stated that the Library of Congress is “the de-facto national library of the United States and so… it’s actually your library.” Over the past few decades, public access to the Library of Congress has increased and the Library has carved out a role in preserving, digitizing, and making accessible the cultural history of the United States. Projects like American Memory (begun in 1990) and THOMAS (begun in 1995) were early trailblazers in providing historical artifacts and legislative information on the Web.
In the two decades since the birth of those projects, however, digital initiatives at universities, cultural institutions, other national libraries, and Google have eclipsed the work of the Library of Congress in terms of both scale and design. Although programs like their newspaper digitization initiative, Chronicling America, have great value, only a very small proportion of their collection has been made available to the public online. The Library of Congress has also been notably unwilling to participate in major cooperative digital library initiatives, including the Digital Public Library of America, which has brought together the digital collections of public libraries, university archives, and diverse cultural heritage institutions, including the National Archives and the Smithsonian
A public intellectual would likely be an easy sell to Congress as Billington was beloved by members of Congress even as they criticized his Library. The next Librarian of Congress, however, needs to not only be well-credentialed, but someone who can run a very large and complex agency of over 3,000 employees. They will step into an organization that has beenwidely criticized for mismanagement. They will need to know when to lead, delegate, collaborate, or gracefully get out of the way. They will not only need to bring the Library of Congress into the 21st century, but they will have to administer a large institution that has been poorly run for decades.
Many in the library world are advocating for a fellow librarian to be appointed Librarian of Congress. A librarian could be expected to capably administer The Library of Congress, which serves many of the same functions as an academic library, albeit on a much grander scale. There are many distinguished and innovative librarians who have successfully run large, complex organizations and are well-versed in issues related to scholarly publishing, copyright, digitization, technology trends, and fundraising. However, the next Librarian of Congress could still embody and support the values librarians hold dear, whether she or he is a librarian, a scholar, a university administrator, or a software executive
Read the entire article here.

Transcribing and Digitizing Early American Sermons

This looks like a wonderful project. It appears to be the brainchild of Zach Hutchins of Colorado State University.  Here is what it is all about.

Transcribing Early American Manuscript Sermons, or TEAMS, is a collaborative scholarly effort to make the voluminous archival record of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century ecclesiastical worship more accessible to academic researchers, pastors, and the general public. This digital archive houses dozens of sermons transcribed from the papers of Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Congregational ministers who preached up and down the Atlantic coast of North America.
Many of these sermons combine theological instruction, public reporting, and political persuasion. Early American preaching brought communities together in public assemblies and is an invaluable resource in reconstructing the prevailing religious beliefs and social attitudes of the British colonies of North America and, later, the nascent United States of America. While scholars have long had access to a relatively small and homogenous selection of published sermons, the preaching record made available in this database provides a new and invaluable perspective on early American history and culture. As Yale University historian Harry Stout has argued: notwithstanding the popularity of printed sermons, “Only from the vantage point of unpublished sermons, however, can the full range of colonial preaching be understood.”
See the TEAMS website for more info.

The New York Public Library’s Map Collection Will Be Digitized

435,000 maps in all.  What a time to be a historian!

From Mental Floss:

Thanks in part to a grant from the Knight Foundation, the NYPL is currently in the process of digitizing their extensive map collection. So far, the institution has only processed 33,000 maps, but by the time they’re finished, a staggering 435,000 documents will have been uploaded online for the public’s perusing pleasure.
Many maps in the collection were drawn after New York City’s Great Fire of 1835 destroyed 17 blocks of Manhattan. Surviving insurers employed a cartographer to sketch a series of maps depicting wards and neighborhoods they couldn’t scope out themselves. The artist’s detailed renderings depict small businesses, streets, and buildings, revealing snapshots of a long-vanished city.
The NYPL might be the brains behind the project, but a volunteer task force comprised of more than 1000 members is responsible for manually inputting or double-checking map data that the institution’s computers don’t recognize. Interested in lending the library a hand, or simply love looking at old maps? Find out more about the crowdsourced project on the NYPL’s website. 

Digitizing St. Augustine, Florida

There is a lot of great digitization work going on these days. The Washington Post is running an article on efforts underway at the University of South Florida to digitize St. Augustine parish documents dating back to 1594.  Here is a taste:

Inside a Catholic convent deep in St. Augustine’s historic district, stacks of centuries-old, sepia-toned papers offer clues to what life was like for early residents of the nation’s oldest permanently occupied city.

These parish documents date back to 1594, and they record the births, deaths, marriages and baptisms of the people who lived in St. Augustine from that time through the mid-1700s. They’re the earliest written documents from any region of the United States, according to J. Michael Francis, a history professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Francis and some of his graduate students in the Florida Studies department have spent the past several months digitizing the more than 6,000 fragile pages to ensure the contents last beyond the paper’s deterioration.

“The documents shed light on aspects of Florida history that are very difficult to reconstruct,” Francis said.

Eventually, the digital images of the records will be put online for anyone to view.

Francis’ project is timely because the state is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year.

National Digital Stewardship Residency Program

This looks like a great opportunity for recent master’s degree graduates.

There is only a short time left to apply for the National Digital Stewardship Residency program. The deadline is April 5th, 2013!  Interested applicants can apply to the program on the USA Jobs website.

The NDSR is a new field experience program developed by the Library of Congress and the Institute of Museum and Library Services for recent master’s degree graduates interested in digital preservation and stewardship.

NDSR will pair residents with ten affiliated host institutions for a nine-month program that will provide them with an opportunity to develop, apply, and advance their digital stewardship knowledge and skills in real-world settings.  The Smithsonian Institution Archives , the World Bank , the Library of Congress, and the Public Broadcasting Service are just a few of the renowned institutions that will host the founding NDSR class.

To learn more about the NDSR program, including how to apply, please visit our website.