“Archival Access Online”: Nancy Heywood

My  notes on the talk given at Archival Access Online:  The Promise, The Problems, The Payoff by Nancy Heywood, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Massachusetts Historical Society:

  • content (what to select), production (what methods to use), and delivery (what tools to use)
  • although labor-intensive, they offer high-quality images and transcription
  • Adams Family Papers – three generations of this family
    • John Quincy Adams kept several different diaries at once for different parts of his life, including a “line-a-day” diary and “rubbish volumes” which were drafts, lists. masshist.org/jqadiaries – 14,000 diary pages –  this is fascinating!
    • problem:  budgets force us to look hard at tradeoffs.  they wanted to digitize all the diaries.  this was so costly, it meant they couldn’t also do transcription.  only some is transcribed.  “authoritative transcriptions”
    • search tools offered:  browse by volume, date search, timeline (because to search for a date, you have to know the date)
    • moving to a new server required rebuilding the search tools, but because standards are used, it wasn’t impossible.
  • The Annotated Newspapers of Harbottle Dorr
    • he saved newspapers, annotated them by hand in margins.  wrote hilarious introductions
    • his annotations include naming anonymous writers
    • he creates “links” (cross-references) like “see page 42 for…” so the online tool also offers links
    • transcription of his index
    • crowdsourcing idea: add tags for names, products, and advertisements in these newspapers. would increase discoverability and would engage users
    • Professor Keith Grant tweeted about assignment he created having his students use the newspapers and a student said “you mean we don’t need special access to the collection? I LOVE primary sources!” ..so this is an active site/project.

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