A Lovely Display of Letters

At least to an academic, this digital collection of “The John McCoy Family Papers” at the Dartmouth College Library is lovely. View the documents and letters from this page: http://collections.dartmouth.edu/teitexts/jmccoy/index.html

Here’s a nice example of what I find so inviting in the display. The transcription on the left is clear and easy to read, without too many interruptions except where words are illegible. The actual letter image is available on the right in a nice viewer that does not allow readers to copy or download the document, to prevent distribution. I don’t think I’ll ever have the skills or resources to do something like that (you never know), but this would be a nice format in which to display my letters once transcribed. I’ve heard (I have connections) that the collection will eventually offer a toggle to the full TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) markup, something I’d like to learn in my coding adventures.

Dartmouth Library Document Collection Display
Dartmouth Library Document Collection Page Display







13 July 2020: I will never do anything like this, because I got old, I guess. How did that happen?

Going Home

At the end of June, I’m retiring, and this weekend I’m doing what my father wanted so badly to do when he was in Korea—I’m going home. As I’ve already written, I have moved the computer and since then the desk and most of my belongings. I even bought a new computer, which is still in the box, waiting to be the new workhorse of the project. Next weekend my remaining furniture will be moved home and I will be driving back and forth to work from there until the end of June. You can read about my failed career in my portfolio or not if you aren’t into dystopian literature.

I’m anxious to get back to the project which has been on hold while all my stuff has been scattered between two states, but I still pay attention to how other letter collections are cared for (see the next post for an example) even though I haven’t been doing the actual work for a while. I have also put off the annoying learning curve and transfer of data to FileMaker Pro, who now wants a hefty $179 upgrade to a newer version that looks a tiny bit better, but is still not what I enjoyed with Bento. Unfortunately, no one else has stepped up to the plate to replace Bento and most of my letters data is already there, so I need to learn to live with it.

If you have the opportunity to go home, take it.

13 July 2020: I eventually abandoned the database idea, even though such a thing would have been nice. But I also abandoned the publishing idea, unless you consider a website like this to be publishing, and that is where a database would have been handy in setting up an index of topics.


Taking the letters on vacation.

On vacation for a week at home, but I toted the box of letters, both those scanned and recorded and those still in the envelopes, with me, because now that they are more than just those letters under the bed, I was conjuring all sorts of scenarios of fire and smoke and water damage or vandalism if I left them for a week.

It’s funny how small a package of over 350 letters seems, maybe more so to you than to me now that I know what a time-consuming task it all is and what a huge body of work is represented in the text of the letters.

I hope the remaining letters enjoy their last weeks in their comfy envelopes before coming out into the light of day.

process markers

Until I get those folder labels I should have ordered with the folders (duh!), I’m going to mark the folders with little dots–pink for scanned letters; green for transcribed letters. Today, I’m doing an assembly line chore of scanning letters and placing them in folders, as well as creating the database file for each one. At first I did the whole process per letter, but the transcribing is the task that slows everything down, and I really want to get them out of the envelopes and scanned.

13 July 2020: This process worked for a while when I was scanning a lot and putting off transcribing them into pages on the site. I’m not sure at what point I went into scanning several letters, creating drafts of pages with the scanned letters, then transcribing that bunch, but it worked better and kept me on track.

keeping my technology up to date

Of course, just when you get started using any technology, along comes a new version, and so it is with the Bento app where I am recording data for each letter. Bento 4 for iPad is just out and I didn’t waste any time wondering if I should use it, but paid the $4.99 before I got too used to the old app. The forms on the new one are a little different in appearance on the screen, but luckily–and here I crossed my fingers–the new app recognized that the old version was on the iPad and imported everything, so I didn’t have to start from scratch.

The new app includes a spreadsheet view of the data in any file, but as my colleagues would tell you, that just makes me cringe. Perhaps my view of spreadsheets will evolve or a spreadsheet fairy will come along and help to make it useful.

I still have that nagging question about keywords, though. I have only one text field for keywords in each record and type all the ones for that letter into it. Since I don’t really understand search protocols or databases, I don’t know what I will eventually be able to do with all the keywords or even if they should be in separate fields or separated by commas (or not). Might be time to crowdsource that question.