Week one!

APS Fellowship

The start of June marked my first work week as the first annual Martin L. Levitt Fellow at the American Philosophical Society Library. The fellowship is a joint venture between the American Philosophical Society Library and the Temple University History Department to honor Dr. Martin Levitt, an alumnus and faculty member of Temple’s graduate history program and longtime APS librarian. I’m honored and excited for the opportunity to work at this esteemed institution for the summer of 2017.

My project will focus primarily around creating open data from one of Ben Franklin’s sensibly named “Post Office Account Books.” Here’s the finding aid entry:
Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 9.50.52 PM

The first step has been to digitize the book, a surprisingly lovely and tidy volume written in manuscript. I will likely finish this task in the next week. It entails scanning the book in high resolution using an overhead book scanner, then performing light image editing on the resulting scans to make them as legible as possible. The leaves and binding of the ledger are in quite good condition, and Franklin used a non-acidic ink, so the scanning has gone smoothly without the need for conservation work or convoluted repositioning measures to hold the book open. I have done work like this before at the Maryland State Archives, but I hadn’t worked with materials so closely linked to American colonial history before now. It has led to some mildly interesting discoveries, like the doodles shown below.

There are best practices for scanning and editing procedures (image resolution, file formatting, file naming conventions, etc.), but as for now, I haven’t encountered much clash between public history theory and practice, so I don’t know if I can write about that as of yet. This phase of a digitization process almost always happens “in private”- and especially so because the volume in question is a monetarily and historically valuable one. I expect that as the project moves forward I will encounter some situations in which theory and practice interact more directly- perhaps in the transcription and data organizational phase, which is intended to suit the needs of the public that will eventually consume and use this data.

Hours for this week: 13
Total hours: 13