New Grants to Support PWD

December 18th, 2017

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) received two grants in 2017 that will ensure the long-term stability and accessibility of the Papers of the War Department (PWD).

The first comes from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) as one of five digital extension grants to migrate PWD to Omeka S that will offer efficient upgrade of the infrastructure and will provide a path for long-term preservation and access, while also allowing the team to redesign the user interface. This will enable greater use and discoverability of these early federal documents. Once fully migrated to Omeka S, the project’s existing metadata, which includes the names of thousands of individuals and geographic places referenced in correspondence, will be connected across the semantic web as linked open data.

The second grant, awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities (NEH-ODH), funds an upgrade to Scripto, the transcription tool used by the PWD and many other community transcription projects. The new Scripto will be available as a module for Omeka S. Both projects will fund the creation of new documentation, lesson plans, and best practices that will increase the accessibility of sources within PWD and put the technology used to build the project within reach of cultural heritage organizations in managing their own community transcription projects.

We are extremely grateful to ACLS and NEH-ODH for these opportunities to extend and sustain access to these important documents from the early American republic. Sheila Brennan, RRCHNM’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, is leading both grants and is working together with a talented team. Jim Safley, PWD’s original web architect, leads the migration and Scripto development process; Kim Nguyen, RRCHNM’s lead web designer, is redesigning the PWD public-facing website as well as the user experience for the Scripto module; PWD’s Editor-in-Chief Christopher Hamner is working with Sheila Brennan to develop educational resources for upper-level high school and undergraduate students and teachers; Alyssa Fahringer is PWD’s Project Manager and an Assistant Editor who is coordinating the work on both grants, and is working together with Digital History Associate, Megan Brett on audience research, user testing, and outreach.

Since June, the team has made significant progress on assessing and preparing for the migration and in researching the needs of our uses. This fall, we surveyed current users of Scripto and our valued community of PWD transcribers about their experiences with the current website and its workflows. We will post a summary of the feedback we received early in the new year.

We are excited for these opportunities to continue to improve and enhance the PWD, and will be posting periodic updates on our progress here on the PWD blog.