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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Photo Scanning

    Took a break from the letters and started scanning photos yesterday; it certainly goes quicker than 6 and 7 page letters. They are beautiful and so fun to see in a larger size.

    I came across some loose pages from a photo album and have been able to reconstruct some of the original photo displays. Evidently a few photos fell off or were taken off the pages; too bad for us today.

    Total photos scanned 26.


    Scanning Continued

    I figure that I need about 100 letters for the students to work with because I plan to require that each student complete at least 2 transcriptions. The U.S. Women's History teacher heard me talking about the project and wants to have her students work on it as well. Our total is about 50 students, so 100 letters may not even be enough. More scanning. . .

    Total letters scanned is now 89.


    Establishing a Transcription Protocol

    In just a few weeks I will be at the mercy of 35 eager 17- and 18-year-old young women eager to read Arline's mail. I have decided that we need a very streamlined method for the madness for the project to succeed. The seniors should have the least difficulty, but some of the younger students may have problems with complicated instructions and reading the 19th century handwriting.

    I've developed an handout that gives the overall objective of the project and establishes a few guidelines:

    • read the letter through completely before beginning the transcription
    • be true to the text; don't add or subtract words or phrases
    • reserve judgment about the subject matter
    We will be using a Clear Text procedure; word-for-word transcription with notations on the author's corrections placed outside the text itself. This should make the transcripts more enjoyable to read, and be easier for the students.

    I'm also working on a PowerPoint presentation to give an overview of the project and the procedure.


    Square Bracket Workaround Doesn't Work

    Ugh, it just doesn't work to use alternate characters for square brackets. They look WEIRD. I think they will work in the transcriptions, and I will have to use curly brackets in the database fields if necessary. At least { and } look a little like [ and ].


    More Scanning

    I feel like a scanning machine. Thank goodness for Multi-TIFF format. It saves multiple pages in one file and it can be opened on the PC or Mac. Now I just have to find a program to convert images to JPG so I can have smaller files for presentations and printing.

    I have now scanned 55 letters!


    Scanning Success!

    I am working on catching up with the scanning and have completed 33 documents. I am scanning all docs in Multi-Tiff format (this allows multiple pages to be saved to one file), at 300 dpi, in 24-bit color. I am not sure if this is too much or too little color resolution, but the images are clear and bright and sometimes easier to read than the originals.

    The files work equally well on my PC running XP and on the Mac computers at school. They open in Media Image Viewer on the PC and in Preview on the Mac. Both allow for printing.


    Square Bracket [ ] Workaround

    One "small" difficulty with AskSam is that square brackets [ ] are unavailable as key strokes; they are reserved as field indicators in the entry forms. This morning I spoke with Tech Support and they suggested using the "pipe" key | instead of the bracket. They also warned against using the "French bracket" (and I thought they were called "curly brackets"!) because of a conflict with some other feature. I had already decided that at times I would need to insert editorially supplied information such as a month or year in a date, or perhaps place when it was known but not stated; this should be done within square brackets. Instead, I will try the "pipe" key as a forward straight bracket and another key as the ending straight bracket. If I use two different symbols, I can do a Search and Replace command if necessary in the exported document to replace the symbols easily with the appropriate square brackets.

    Added Letters to the Control File with newly redesigned entry form and found it much easier.
    Total 33 Letters. Read a wonderful letter from Maud Saunders to her sister Minnie (Arline's mother). It was 10 sheets, front and back on 8 for a total of 18 pages of detailed news about their children, life on the ranch, her health, neighbors, and so much more. She even mentions her birthdate!


    Control Files for Letters

    Last night while listening to Dear Myrtle's Family History Hour, I heard an interview with Sally Jacobs, professional archivist. It was an interesting conversation, mostly focusing on the best materials for preservation. I didn't know that CD-ROMs were so temporary and that archival bond paper was a better choice in many cases.

    -- DearMYRTLE'S Interview with Sally Jacobs 31 July 2007
    -- Sally Jacob's Blog, The Practical Archivist

    I am using archival supplies to store all of the AAK Papers, purchased from Metal Edge in Los Angeles. I started by purchasing archival file folders, but these are expensive and bulky for the number I need. I am now using paper file inserts; these are archival bond paper but cut like a file folder. I place the documents in the bond folder and then group about 10 inside an archival file folder for better support. The folders go inside a grey archival file box with flip-top lid. I started by storing the letters in the file boxes, and have purchased more to accommodate the file folders as I inventory the items.

    Entered and corrected letters in the ControlFile: Total 30 letters


    ReDesigned Entry Form for Letters

    My total progress last summer resulted in "processing" only 11 documents. Clearly, there must be a better way. I am going to try entering each item in the database without attempting to transcribe or abstract the information. The re-designed entry form includes the following fields

    EntryDate (automatic)
    Item# (automatic)
    ItemType Letter
    Date (format: 15 April 2008)
    Author Pick List: builds from entries
    FromCity,ST enter data
    Recipient Pick List: builds from entries
    ToCity,ST enter data
    People Pick List: builds from entries
    Places Pick List: builds from entries
    Subjects Pick List: builds from entries
    Note (my summary or notes)

    This seems to be working out very well. Today I managed to enter 3 or 4 letters.


    Setting Up the Control File

    I've "hemmed and hawed" long enough... looks like I will just have to jump in and set up a master control file. I am not going to revisit all my summer research; I still think AskSam is a good database for my purposes. My entry forms needed tweaking, so today I spent a few hours working on the fields and testing reports. I think they still need work.


    My Home Study Course in Editing

    Lacking a university-sponsored project, and with only Grandmother's voluminous papers available for my use, I am embarking on a Home Study Course in Editing. Like any good student, my first order of business is to acquire the necessary textbooks. I have already worked with Kline, and have two more recommendations in response to an inquiry to the Director of Publications at the National Archives Records and Administration. With all three books in hand, I feel ready to move forward:

    • A Guide to Documentary Editing, Mary-Jo Kline
    • Editing Historical Documents, Michael E. Stevens and Steven B. Burg
    • Editing Documents and Texts, Beth Luey
    I am also finding helpful material in two family history publications:

    • Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, Katherine Scott Sturdevant
    • Organizing Your Family History Search, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack


    Letters as Literature in the English Classroom

    The faculty has been charged with trying something altogether new this semester. Ideas were collected and approved and my project is to bring Arline's papers into the classroom to be read as women's literature. The students have read letters by published authors, but this should be new to everyone. I think I will have them prepare transcriptions and then work on an abstract and analysis as well. It my even provide me with some new insight as well.

    Started placing letters in archival bond folders with heading on top:
    Date To/From


    Back in the Trenches

    It is great to get back to Arline's papers after a long hiatus (getting son married, celebrating holidays, back to work teaching etc.) Thinking about editing processes and am now reading Mary-Jo Kline A Guide to Documentary Editing. The first thing I learn is that every project should start with a Control File to give each item an acquisition number and enter in an inventory. I hoped I could avoid this step, but perhaps it would be useful.


    Progress Report

    After spending nearly the entire summer on this project, I think I am beginning to get a grasp of the problem, and it isn't pretty. Just when I think I have determined a good system for filing the AAK Papers, I realize that I need more information about someone named in a letter. Then, off I go to track them down in a Census record or online search, and pretty soon my desk is covered in more paper without a home.

    I have at least two projects here: 1) Family Genealogy -- who, related to whom, etc; 2) A Biography or Family History -- the AAK Papers to inventory, archive, transcribe, and work with.

    Project #1 -- generates a mass of paper: census copies and extracts, notes, original and copies of vitals from the AAK papers
    Project #2 -- consists of all original documents needing archival attention NOW

    Most genealogy books for beginners seem to address a project from the perspective of #1, with #2 as a sideline. I have come into the Family Genealogy Project through the Biographical Project, so my needs are somewhat different.

    Funny how it has taken me over two months to figure out how to approach this. But I suppose I shouldn't be too disappointed -- my goal this summer was to investigate and select a research method, test it, and start using it. Progress thus far:

    1. Update Legacy, review sourcing guidelines
    2. Start Blog as a Journal of my project
    3. Join Legacy Users Group, learned more about sourcing, filing, etc
    4. Decide to scan all original documents
      1. buy new scanner
      2. decide on file format
    5. Investigate database programs
      1. test byGones
      2. test Clooz
      3. test askSam
      4. build entry forms in askSam
      5. buy askSam
      6. revise entry forms
    6. askSam
      1. decide to use very simple DocumentArchive form
      2. add fields for Entry Date, Place letter written from
      3. will try scanning documents, linking to docs in folder located in askSam directory folder
    7. Investigate and decide on file format for images
      1. TIFF for photos
      2. why not PDF for letters?
    8. Determine Workflow for handling documents


    Staying Organized

    It is a real challenge to keep a record of searches and research goals, but I can see that this entire project will only be as good as those records. Last week I didn't get too much done, but did manage a few rather random searches; at least they have familiarized me with the look and information available on different records.

    My goals this week

    1. get back into the AskSam database and input some of the information I am finding
    2. set up research records either in Legacy or on paper
    I like the outline set out by Val Greenwood in The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy that suggests using a Research Calendar/Record as well as a Correspondance Calendar/Record both keyed to files for the documents located. Greenwood suggests using a filing system of SURNAME: LOCALITY for each search. I have to see if Legacy or askSam make this any easier as I don't want to get too many different systems going.