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No Time like the Present, For a Timeline

As some readers may know we have been diligently working with students and staff members here at the library to provide transcriptions for handwritten letters. This project was piloted with the Sherman-Thackara collection and the number of letters transcribed continues to grow. At this point those letters are not available for viewing in the Digital Library software but excerpts have occasionally been posted to this blog.

The first long transcription project was completed last March by an undergraduate intern, Brittany Dudas. As a history major here at Villanova University she worked with the digital library on transcription during a for-credit internship. A talented transcriber, she was able to transcribe far more letters than we were able to review at any given time so it was decided that perhaps a longer project was in order.

In 1872-1873 Alexander Montgomery Thackara wrote a diary while out to sea on the USS Nipsic. His tour of duty brought him to the then “West Indies.” Among other places, he visited Key West, Samana Bay, Puerto Plata, Havana, and St. Thomas. His journey lasted roughly six months and resulted in nearly 50 pages of diary entries. This entire diary has been transcribed and reviewed, but is much too long to post here. Instead, I would like to share snippets of the diary as used in a timeline.

Dipity LogoDipity is an emerging software that allows users to create an online, interactive timeline. You can include links from any number of online sources, such as Google books, Wikipedia, Flickr, blogs, and much, much more. Moreover there is a feature that allows you to “map” locations on your timeline. This seemed like the perfect venue to create a resource that would allow users to experience Mont’s Journal in a completely new way.

Most entries are titled with the page upon which the text appeared in the actual diary. Next, the date was added for that entry, and usually a link to either the scanned page from the digital library, or to a Wikipedia article that helps explain the location or subject at hand. A fun addition was linking the book, as scanned in by “Google Books”, that Mont was reading while on this voyage. Locations were also added to most entries so they could be mapped and images were used to brighten things up. Dipity allows users to view timelines in four different ways, as a timeline (the standard way), a list, a flipbook, or as a map. The map feature is especially fun for this project as it allows users to “play events” and view the events as they are listed on the map. In this case it allows users to virtually sail around with Mont.

This was certainly an enjoyable project and something that could be an asset for some of our other long transcription projects. I hope that you will check out the timeline and I would love to hear any feedback you may have.

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Last Modified: July 17, 2008