Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Dan with a Plan

On of the highlights of last week was touring the Center for History and New Media with Director Dan Cohen and interviewing him for a scholarly multimodal hypertext about civic participation and new media that I have been working on for the past year in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Vectors journal. (Other participants include Henry Jenkins, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Ian Bogost, Chris Kelty, Christopher Soghoian, Chris Swain, and Wendy Chun.)

Cohen showed me the file folders and work stations where the Papers of the War Department are being digitized. Of course, fire destroyed the office of the War Department and all its files in 1800, along with details about the day-to-day workings of the early federal government that included primary sources about Indian affairs, veteran affairs, pre-1798 naval affairs, and a number of militia and army matters. For the past two centuries both professional and amateur historians have been reconstituting the 55,000 documents in the collection. The Center is also using this archive as a case study for developing an online transcription tool that uses crowd-sourcing to improve letter recognition, which is funded as part of the We Are the People project.

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