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The one that got away…

Not all artifacts of material culture are able to be readily digitized; there are a number of physical and intellectual hurdles to be crossed before an item makes it to the scanner. Each candidate item must evaluated to determine if it can by scanned without damage to the object, at the same time each item is examined to see if it is even possible to scan the item due to some physical characteristic such as the nature of a very tight binding, or a binding that obscures the text. Finally each item is examined to determine the copyright status. Here are some sample items from Villanova’s Special Collections that are candidates for scanning but due to a physical or intellectual impediment scanning is not possible:

Too fragile
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Too tightly Bound
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Too small (and too tightly bound)
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In copyright
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(This copy of the Secret Life of Salvador Dali has the author’s distinctive signature with hand-drawn illustrations).

Scrapbooks and albums present unique challenges in digitization. Component parts of these works often are physically and intellectually possible to scan, but display and presentation issues make it difficult to show the interrelationships between distinct objects. As well, objects contained within other objects often are physically connected, making opening and closing the parts and pages and scanning the front and back of each item problematic. Below are 4 images from two scrapbooks in Special Collections that highlight these difficulties. Images 1 and 2 are pages from a scrapbook created to show the related early historic preservation efforts in the creation of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia and the U.S. National Park at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. This work contains bits of wood from buildings at both locations along with photographs, postcards, and pamphlets. Thus it is possible to scan all of the component parts of this work but showing the physical relationships of the component works in our existing digital library software is problematic. Another scrapbook from Special Collections, depicted in images 3 and 4, collects the hundreds of congratulatory letters (still contained in their stamped envelopes), and telegrams sent to Robert Maitland O’Reilly upon his appointment as Surgeon General of the United States on September 7, 1902, as well as the newspaper clippings announcing the appointment. Image 4 is one of these letters, authored and autographed by the then President of the United States – Theodore Roosevelt. The letters can be scanned individually but then they lose the relationship to the scrapbook as a collective whole. Some libraries have experimented with creating a distinctive scrapbook interface to present these works in a more complete and rich form; this is an area of future investigation and development for us at the digital library. For now these rare works must still be accessed in person.

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Usage Statistics point out growth and unique treasures

Implemented during the summer of 2008, the usage statistics module of the Digital Library provides a glimpse of the active user population, currently and back to the inception of the Digital Library in Fall 2006. In addition to the number of users and their paths through the Digital Library, and the most viewed items and collections, the most searched for terms and keywords are also identified. All of the collected statistics are for users that are accessing the Digital Library from off-campus locations, this is done in order to eliminate the page views used by staff in describing the specific materials. Given that the Digital Library does have many additional users on campus, these statistics and patterns are qualified and conservative.

In January 2007 the number of monthly unique visitors to the Digital Library was 1,797; by January 2008 that number had risen to 2,343 and by March 2008 had grown to 4,163. September 2008 showed a near equal figure to March with 4,100 visitors. The busiest days of the week are Wednesday and Thursday, and the busiest times are 1 to 5 PM.

In 2007, the most frequently visited collections were the Joseph McGarrity Books Collection and the Image Collection.

In 2008, the most frequently visited collections are the Catholica Collection, the Joseph McGarrity Personal Paper Collection, and the Cuala Press Broadside Collection. For 2007 and 2008, the most frequently visited item is the Portrait gallery of pugilists of America and their contemporaries from James J. Corbett to Tom Hyer. This Philadelphia-published richly illustrated volume, from the Pennsylvaniana Collection, provides biographies and photographs of the best boxers of the late 1800’s. A search of the national bibliographic database Worldcat shows only 8 other institutions beyond Villanova University owning a print copy of the work.

The next most popularly viewed title and the one linked to the most frequently searched keyword phrase – “Baldwin Locomotive Works” – in the Digital Library search software is the Baldwin locomotive works : illustrated catalogue of locomotives. This work provides a richly illustrated view of the sale offerings of the Philadelphia-based Baldwin Locomotive Works for the year 1871, the perfect work for a railroad tycoon to read in their own Pullman compartment while contemplating the newly opened (1869) Transcontinental Railroad!

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Irish Film features Digital Library Images

The 2008 film, Cromwell in Ireland, also marketed as Cromwell: God’s Executioner, features numerous images, plates and maps from Villanova University’s Digital Library. In 2007, writers and researchers working on the script of the film were looking for archival images depicting individuals, locations, and events pertinent to the story of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland in the 4 year period from 1649 and 1653, an event in which an estimated 500,000 people, one quarter of the population of Ireland, died from war, disease and starvation making this the greatest catastrophe ever to befall the country.

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After browsing through the Joseph McGarrity Collection of the Digital Library they noted several specific images that were of interest for their educational enterprise. The writers, after contacting the Digital Library staff for permission to use these images, asked for assistance in locating other images which were proving difficult to find. An extensive search of the print Joseph McGarrity Collection and the Early European Rare Book Collection found a considerable number of rare sources with plates and maps that fit the needs of the film makers. These materials were soon digitized and added to the Digital Library for use by the international film makers and for scholars studying these tragic events.

The film produced by Irish national broadcaster RTE and the UK’s History Channel aired on Irish television in September 2008 and is scheduled to be broadcast on the UK History Channel in November of this year. The film makers hope that the series will be broadcast on a North American channel such as Smithsonian Networks or the History Channel in 2009. Directed by double IFTA Award-winning director Maurice Sweeney, the cast includes a host of international stars and features commentaries by leading historians of this period of Irish history including: Micheál Ó Siochrú, John Morrill, Professor of History at University of Cambridge, Jane Ohlmeyer, Professor of History at Trinity College, Dublin, Pádraig Lenihan, Lecturer in History at University of Limerick, Nicholas Canny, Professor of History at NUI Galway, and Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at University of Bristol.

Cromwell in Ireland is presented and largely authored by Dr. Micheál Ó Siochrú, a vibrant young Irish historian who has just published a full-length study of Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland: God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland. Throughout the film, he and the other historians guide the viewer through the historical narrative and action, offering challenging new insights into the war and its legacy.

The historical figures that feature most prominently in the film are: Oliver Cromwell, England’s greatest general and a Puritan deeply inimical towards the Irish Catholic Church; Henry Ireton, his second-in-command and successor; Sir Charles Coote, his uncompromising lieutenant in Ulster; Owen Roe O’Neill, Gaelic Ireland’s greatest leader; his kinsman Hugh Dubh O’Neill; and the Marquis of Ormond, the ineffectual leader of the doomed Royalist coalition.

The film consists of 2 52 minute episodes, each episode including credits featuring the contributions of Villanova University’s Digital Library.

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Poems, Songs and Pictures from the Cuala Press

The latest issue of Compass has a Blue Electrode article written by our own David Burke.

Check out the piece at:

http://newsletter.library.villanova.edu/283

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Demand Drives Digitization / Three Shafts of Death

We use a number of different strategies to increase the number of available offerings beyond those physically held at Villanova University including individual Digital Donations and contributions from Partners, like the American Catholic Historical Society. On the other hand, in selecting which materials to digitize from the Villanova University collections and the order and priority of digitization of these materials the needs of readers and researchers must be weighed heavily in calculating what and when to scan. While many scholars have a need to physically touch and manipulate a rare book or artifact to hunt out an elusive watermark or other textual evidence, others may be quite satisfied with a digital surrogate of a work. Distance can stand in the way as a hurdle to scholarship in this matter and sending rare books and manuscript materials via Interlibrary Loan presents significant difficulties in maintaining appropriate care and custody of the ofttimes fragile and monetarily valuable works. A way around this conundrum is to digitize materials that scholars request and to do so as immediately as practicable so as to provide the greatest access possible. We use demand driven digitization as a way to provide remote access to unique Villanova University materials, materials that have been collected through the years and which serve as a physical treasure chest of our collective wisdom and community heritage. Note the earlier article by Bente Polites on the Digital Library’s first request for remote access to a manuscript.

With the publication in 2007 of William Mahon’s Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in Villanova University, Pennsylvania new scholarly attention was focused on the Irish language materials held at Villanova University. Over the last year, 5 different scholars all working at colleges or universities in Ireland, have requested either entire or partial access to 7 of these manuscripts. Just a few years ago that would have meant expensive flights to Philadelphia; today we are able to provide the high level of access demanded by textual scholars by digitization at high resolution. And not only for access by one scholar, all can share in looking at these works, which can be viewed in the Digital Library Manuscript Collection.

One noteworthy requested item is the interesting Tri Biorghaoithe an Bhais or the Three Shafts of Death.

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Written in the Irish language in 1630 by Geoffrey Keating (known in the Irish tongue as Seathrún Céitinn), the manuscript copy at Villanova was scribed by Diarmuid O’Connail in 1824 and so serves as a witness to the continued literacy and written tradition of the Irish language in this period. The work itself is a series of three meditations on death. Drawing on the Fathers of the Church including St. Jerome and St. Augustine, Keating held forth that there were 3 forms of death: bodily death, spiritual death, and eternal death. In describing death eternal he provided a tour of the hell of eternal suffering.

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From Ellie with Love

Posted for Scott Grapin, Digital Library Team:

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Sometime in the 1890s, the love letters shared between Eleanor Mary Sherman (Ellie) and Alexander Montgomery Thackara (Mont) were donated with the rest of the Sherman-Thackara Collection to Villanova College, presumably by Ellie herself. Surely, Ellie saw the value of preserving documents pertaining to her famous father, General William Tecumseh Sherman, as well as to her husband Mont, who was appointed to serve as a U.S. Consul at Le Havre, France in 1897. As the library and its patrons have been discovering, this collection also reveals much about Philadelphia and the Main Line toward the end of the nineteenth century and is a rich primary source for studies of middle-class Victorian life. Because they are available in both Falvey’s Special Collections and Digital Library, these letters are also situated to reflect how different technologies might impact the ways we write and receive personal correspondence.

Although Ellie could not have envisioned their digitization, wide dissemination, and nearly instantaneous accessibility, her donation ensured that letters to Mont would become letters to each of us. At the same time, personal letters are characteristically private. We generally ensure this privacy by sealing a letter in an envelope intended for one recipient. Privacy, therefore, also personalizes the document. Letters may be sealed by drops of wax imprinted with a unique stamp or by glue moistened with the sender’s own mouth. In her letters, a young Ellie repeatedly claims this sort of private intimacy with her “own dearest, dearest Mont” , anticipating the days when she would be his wife in singular devotion. Until that time, the tangible letters would often serve as a surrogate presence when Ellie and Mont were apart. Just as we can see, touch, and smell one of these letters in Special Collections, Ellie would repeatedly delight in her beloved’s epistolary touch, even were Mont unable to drop by to share one of their customary four o’clock walks.

Combined with Special Collections, digital availability might seem to compromise the private intimacy of these personal letters. However, while electronic communications are popularly blamed for the handwritten letter’s fall from favor, the Digital Library potentially balances the direction of influence between electronic and written texts. Generally, the investment of personal time, energy, and attention valued by letter writers is deemed an unnecessary expense by digital correspondents. But a digital transcriber steadily gains an intimate appreciation of Ellie’s letters as he faithfully reconstructs them, collaboratively renewing her creative energy and attention. Any reader can likewise peruse digital images of Ellie’s letters and participate in the slower pace of time and human correspondence in which intimacy deepens.

A reader will also witness the impassioned frequency of Ellie’s letters, sometimes several in a day (see, for instance, March 12, 1880; letters 381, 382, and 383), whose impatience is necessarily tempered by the tension of time required for Mont’s response. Ellie creatively delights in these spans of time. In one instance, she opportunely poses an impromptu riddle to Mont and promises an answer for when they next meet, thereby sweetening the expectation of their intimacy. This game may seem quaint in an age of truncated text and instant messaging, when cascades of emails often overwhelm our ability to respond, let alone contemplate, our textual relationships. Here in the Digital Library, however, some of the best qualities of electronic and handwritten correspondence complement one another. Right now, everyone can repeatedly examine and enjoy any image in the collection, much as Ellie would have pored over Mont’s letters. In time, users will be able to search transcriptions for particular keywords with a virtual familiarity akin to Ellie’s attentive devotion. In the process, the digital medium will preserve and exhibit—and possibly inspire us to participate in—the kind of correspondence we can savor like an intimate walk with a companion … perhaps Ellie, Mont, or someone else we’ve been meaning to write.

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“Digital Donation”

One of the greatest success stories of the digital library is exposing hitherto unknown or extremely rare works to an audience comprised of scholars and the international public. At Villanova’s Digital Library a source of these works includes the many individual donors that have decided to both preserve and make accessible historical treasures through “Digital Donation”. Our team digitizes the original items and places a preservation copy of the work in our digital collection; the original items are promptly returned to the owner. This ensures both exposure of the work to an audience of over 4,000 unique visitors a month (March 2008 statistics) and continued digital curation of the work even if disaster or the ravages of time erode the original physical copy to fragments. Digitally donated items are also fully described by professional catalogers using metadata standards to enhance the individual work’s findability. Finally, the work is exposed to the community of scholars via several metadata aggregators, including: OCLC’s Worldcat and Registry of Digital Masters; the Pennsylvania Digital Library (PADL); and OAIster using Open Archives Initiative.

Items that have been digitally donated include copies of published works, some annotated by notable personages:

by Walt Whitman (these are his memoirs from the time of the American Civil War; the donated copy is hand signed by Walt Whitman for Miss E.N. Morris):

(donated copy was owned and annotated by Herman Melville):

by Scott Grapin (signed and illustrated by the author).

Other works originally unpublished, and now published by the Digital Library for the first time as online works, include digitally donated letters, property and government documents relating to the history of the United States (Nagy and Humbert Collections), and local Radnor Township history (featuring donated works related to the Radnor Memorial Library and the Radnor Friends Meeting). And immediately waiting in the wings to be added to digital library collections later this year are other donated works including Villanova faculty scholarship, English genealogical research materials, and an extensive manuscript detailing the journey of a young man, there-and-back, to the California gold-fields in the Gold Rush.

If you own heritage materials, including letters, pamphlets, newspapers, rare books, or photographs, that you would like to see preserved and made accessible, please contact the Digital Library Team at: digitallibrary@villanova.edu

Of course, not all materials are able to be digitized due to fragile or incomplete physical condition; in some cases works are not suitable for donation due to collection focus or intellectual property rights. All donated works must be in the public domain or the donor, who owns the intellectual property rights to an unpublished or in-copyright work, agrees to make the work accessible via a Creative Commons license. Many works in the Digital Library that have been digitally donated (or are owned by Villanova University ) are thus made available to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

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What the 2008 Olympic Ceremony says about digital texts

Posted for Scott Grapin, Digital Library Team:

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Beijing’s spectacular celebration of textuality in the twenty-ninth Olympiad’s opening ceremony for the summer games surprised me. But why should it have? After all, the Chinese invented paper. They were printing texts hundreds of years before the West. And they have long esteemed calligraphy among the highest forms of expression. Textuality variously illustrates China’s cultural history, making it a natural centerpiece for welcoming the sporting world to the country’s capital.

It was somewhat more surprising that Beijing reconstructed some of my earliest impressions as a student employee in the digital library. The ceremony proposed a harmonious integration of textuality’s multiple technologies. A giant scroll was unrolled on the stadium floor to frame a blank sheet of paper. Modern dancers proceeded to paint a shan-shui, or “mountains and water,” picture on the blank page with their dancing bodies while the scroll, an LED screen unrolled to 230 by 70 feet, appeared to continuously unfurl digital highlights of China’s cultural history. The painted page was then raised to reveal an assemblage of movable-type settings rising from the digital scroll, undulating like waves in the wind, and intermittently forming the Chinese character for “harmony” in astoundingly precise choreography for a collection of individual gray blocks. If there was any impression of impermeable divisions between textual technologies in these transitions, the movable types dismantled them by forming an impression of China’s Great Wall and then transforming the wall and its opposite sides into a blooming field of flowering plum blossoms. Finally, for this initial part of the ceremony, each of the hundreds of movable-type tops sprung open to reveal a human animator waving from inside. It seems that every individual textual endeavor that manifests upon the cultural scroll is a collaborative production. Each text is also continuously transformed. Historically, Chinese viewers of shan-shui landscape paintings have appended commentaries and poems to the scrolls that have framed the paintings. Likewise, the framing scroll of history, providing a context of constant flux and alteration, contributes its own instability to the collaboratively produced text. Fittingly, throughout the Olympic ceremony, the shan-shui painting continued to be transformed. Even the global parade of athletes trailed a rainbow of footsteps across it when entering the stadium.

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If the scroll on which the painting is mounted comprises part of the work itself, then perhaps the digitization of a text collaborates in a work’s continued creation. One of my first projects in the digital library was to scan and crop Historia Deorum Et Heroum, a fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript written on vellum and bound in oak and leather. Unable to locate a printed equivalent of this particular manuscript, I was initially excited to think that this particular volume was making a giant leap, over roughly four hundred years of print, from manuscript culture to digital culture. Moreover I was one of the cyber-type-setters determining its new shape and form to post on the digital library mainframe. In one moment, the manuscript would abandon its centuries of hidden obscurity for instantaneous global accessibility. But while this manuscript can now be altered in myriad ways through digitization and potentially limitless contexts, I’m also inclined to believe Beijing’s suggestion that this transformational potential is inherent in manuscripts and printed texts themselves. Historia Deorum Et Heroum even seems to invite the suggestion. No singular author takes credit for this compiled history of gods and heroes. Such compilations are collaborative and intertextual by nature, depending on a collective capital of textually-inscribed myth and history (here, in lieu of a title page informing modern print-readers of the title, author, and publisher of a work, there is an index of the subjects themselves). Finally, a poised surplus of lined vellum at book’s end awaits a stylus that never arrives. Or perhaps, rather, the creative implement is always arriving, in contemporary forms of context and technology, to collaborate in a culture’s self-expression. I’ve been just one kind of digital typesetter among many, in a library among many, popping out his head in this entry and waving as we collectively contribute to the ever-unscrolling textual dance.

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For related Chinese textual studies, see:

Cherniack, Susan. “Book Culture and Textual Transmission in Sung China.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 54.1 (Jun 1994): 5-125.

Lee, Sherman E. and Wen Fong. Streams and Mountains Without End: A Northern Sung Handscroll and Its Significance in the History of Early Chinese Painting. 1954. 2nd ed. rev. Ascona, Switzerland: Artibus Asia, 1967.

Printing Museum of China, The. An Illustrated History of Printing in Ancient China. Ed. Luo Shubao. Trans. Chan Sin-wai. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press, 1998.

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World War I Pro-German Newspapers Published in America

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Joseph McGarrity, the Irish-American revolutionary who lived in Philadelphia area during the era of the First World War was an active collector of books and periodicals about Ireland. Within this collection, now housed in Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections, are a number of rare pro-German books and newspapers. These were largely published in Philadelphia and New York and chronicle the viewpoints of Imperial Germany and German-Americans in the United States, as war raged in the trenches of Europe and the sealanes of the Atlantic. At the same time as Germany warred against Great Britain, McGarrity and many members of the Irish-American community were actively raising funds to foment Irish independence from Great Britain. In 1916 these effort would help start the Easter Rising in Dublin. McGarrity’s collecting of German materials can thus be seen as an actualization of the proverb: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Vital Issue

Villanova’s Digital Library has completed the digitization of these newspapers collected almost a hundred years ago by McGarrity, and which consist of nearly complete runs of 3 titles: The Fatherland; Vital Issue; and World War. These titles are rich in articles ranging from hortatory arguments about continued American neutrality and perceived war crimes of the British to narrations of current events from an “unbiased” source, like the armament carried by the Lusitania. These titles also contain elaborate photographic spreads and polemical illustrations as well as pro-German advertisements including specific ads for German war bonds, war trophies, and aid packages (The Fatherland Needs Coffee); even games and apparel (Iron Cross Stick-Pins) were included. On noteworthy advertisement from 1916 for the “Deutschland Game”, claimed that this “game will interest grown-ups as well as the children. Two German submarines try to reach the United States and return to Germany in safety.” Indeed some of the ads are not so much pro-German as pro-Irish with titles such as The Gaelic American featured.

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As an effort to publicize these titles Digital Library staff have composed a Wikipedia entry about the most notable of the three titles: The Fatherland; in edited form it is here reprinted :

“The Fatherland was a World War I era weekly periodical published by poet, writer, and noted propagandist George Sylvester Viereck (1884-1962). Viereck reputed to be the child of the Kaiser William I, was born in Munich, Germany, and moved to New York City in 1896, Viereck graduated from the College of the City of New York and directly entered the world of publishing.

Viereck outspokenly supported the German cause at the outset of World War I, and his poetry reflected his pro-German zeal. Drawing on experience gained while working on his father’s German-language monthly, Der deutsche Vorkämpfer (The German Pioneer), later called Rundschau Zweier Welten (Review of Two Worlds), the younger Viereck now channeled his German sympathies into his own publication. He founded The Fatherland in August 1914, a weekly publication in English that reached a circulation of 75,000, by some estimates, and 100,000 by others, to promote American neutrality in the war and give voice to German support. The Fatherland was advertised on the cover of its first issues as a magazine devoted to “Fair Play for Germany and Austria-Hungary.”

Three German-American banker friends helped Viereck with the fifty dollars needed to start up The Fatherland. The first edition of ten thousand copies sold out quickly in New York. The publication grew to thirty employees almost immediately and “took upon itself the task of exposing the malfeasance of the Allied countries, of revealing the prejudices and distortions of the American press, and of rallying German-Americans in their own defense.” The weekly received part of its funding from a German propaganda cabinet set up in New York Society, with which Viereck worked closely.

Viereck was accused by the New York World of receiving German subsidies for propaganda purposes, but the Department of Justice was unable to prosecute. Still, Viereck faced social censure, being driven from his house by a lynch mob and expelled from the Authors League as well as the Poetry Society of America.

Surely, Viereck’s personal circumstances affected the publication life and reception of The Fatherland. He continued the publication’s German bias until 1927. However, after America entered the war, he subdued the publication’s tone of German sympathy and changed its title. It was New World and Viereck’s: The American Weekly in February 1917, Viereck’s American Monthly in August 1918, and American Monthly in October 1920.”

The Fatherland

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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