Introduction to James T. McCain

By: Chauna Carr, Kaylin Daniels, and Laura Stillwagon

James T. McCain (1905-2003) was a Civil Rights activist remembered for his selfless volunteering and organized marches. One of his main endeavors was making it possible for African Americans to register to vote during the Civil Rights era. As a very active Civil Rights leader, he was incredibly organized, making note of everything he did, down to his car mileage. His collection is housed and maintained by the South Caroliniana Library here at the University of South Carolina, and consists of yearly calendars and notebooks used as day planners to organize his Civil Rights endeavors.

McCain was a huge supporter of the War Resisters League – many of his calendars held at South Caroliniana Library are from this organization. For those who do not know, the War Resisters League has been around since 1932. They work to spread nonviolence and advocate to end war. As shown by their calendar covers, the League supported other movements and prominent non-violent figures of social justice, like a calendar in the McCain collection that includes a dedication to Mahatma Gandhi, and one to Jessie Wallace Hughan, an American educator, social activist, and radical pacifist.

Another calendar supports equality for women, and another promotes Civil Rights peace with the gospel song lyrics “We shall overcome”. One of our favorite calendars includes a photographic collection of the Civil Rights Movement and some other fun features like rock and roll music lyrics and an uplifting message for peace. The calendars themselves are very inspiring; with many motivational poems and quotes included throughout. McCain interacted extensively with his calendars and each one shows what he believed and aligned with. Illustrated with the pacifistic nature of Gandhi, equality for women, and using one’s right to protest, the calendar covers were a reminder of what McCain was fighting for.

“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League

McCain used his calendars to plan his events, track his meetings and travels, and record other miscellaneous things about his daily life; for instance, he logged his speedometer readings, meal prices, and resting days. On top of recording local community accomplishments, he always tried to acknowledge the achievements of people of color by taping or stapling news coverage of their successes directly into his calendars. For example, he wrote:

“Sumter schools reopen today – black parents and citizens negotiated with school authorities not to dismiss students to roam the streets again but try to deal with protesters at sch. Mission successful.”

 

 

Here are some other examples:

“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9,

James T. McCain was a prolific figure working behind the scenes during the Civil Rights movement. The South Caroliniana Library is in the process of preserving and displaying McCain’s collection, and Digital Collections is working in collaboration with them to digitize his work. We’re digitizing this archival collection of day planners as part of a university awarded ASPIRE II grant, written by Graham Duncan, Head of Collections and Curator of Manuscripts at South Caroliniana Library; Bobby J. Donaldson, Associate Professor and Head of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research; and Mēgan A. Oliver, Digital Collections Librarian.

There’s still more to come! This project is still in process and on track to being completed this semester. We are looking forward to learning more, and sharing more, about James T. McCain!

 

“Fifteeners”: Early Printed Books (Incunabula) at University of South Carolina Libraries

By Laura Stillwagon

"Opus", book top
“Opus”, book top

*Sigh* … Alas, books are no longer what they once were. To the readers of the 15th century in Europe (i.e. medieval Europe), bound works were both tools and art; heavily designed with functional and ornate elements. Bound items were prized possessions and served the purpose of recording information and looking great while doing it. In the Department of Irvin Rare Books and Special Collections, there are a number of these beautiful items, called incunabula (bound works created and published before 1501 in Europe), which were digitized and made available online by a graduate assistant here at Digital Collections, Kelsey Andrus. Her work on the Fifteeners digital collection emulates how luxurious these books were, and are still.

During the summer of 2019, Kelsey picked up the process of digitizing the collection after my work during the previous semester, and took it in stride. The previous spring, she endured trainings with me and the Qidenus SMART Book Scanner, an Austrian image capture machine that utilizes the power of two DSLR cameras. She also learned the post-processing procedures I had created for the project. To improve the experience of at-home users looking to view how well constructed these works are, she added scans of the edges and spines of the books. It took some ingenuity on her part to do this, for the image capture machine was intended only to photograph books laid flat, open or closed. To capture some attractive angles of the aged edges of the pages and binding, she gently leaned the book vertically against stacked pieces of foam—professional troubleshooting at its finest. The results come close to simulating the experience of viewing the book in person, showing not only the colors and contrast on the pages with ornate type, but also the detail in the binding.

"Opus", prologue
“Opus”, prologue

Through digitizing these books, Kelsey has made it possible to see the handmade details of each page. She measured the size of type, making note of the differences between titles, headlines, capitals and other instances. Some of these books do contain color and gold details (called illumination), and many have remained in remarkable conditions, sustaining minor damage and wear.

There are hardly any books that look like these on the shelves of stores or in peoples’ homes. Granted, publishing and reading are much more common now, making books and other materials much more available. However, all that aside, there is nothing like taking out the ol’ leather bound and turning the richly adorned pages to make reading a little bit more immersive.

See the  incunabula we reference above, “Opus postillarum et sermonum de tempore”, here: https://cdm17173.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p17173coll37/id/480/rec/1

Introduction to the M. Hayes Mizell Papers

By Stephanie Gilbert

My name is Stephanie Gilbert and I am one of the new Digital Assistants here at Digital Collections. Perhaps some of you have heard of Hayes Mizell. For several years, Mizell was a prominent Civil Rights Activist.  He served as director of the South Carolina Community Relations Program of the American Friends Service Committee from 1966-1982, and in one of his speeches likened his role to that of a “professional advocate”.  Mizell traveled all over the U.S. delivering speeches in support of school integration and educational improvements for students from low-income families. His collection includes personal images of himself and his associates as well as letters, programs, and copies of his many speeches.

Three Negative Strips from a Photoshoot for Hayes Mizell 
Three Negative Strips from a Photoshoot for Hayes Mizell
Hayes Mizell Giving a Speech 
Hayes Mizell Giving a Speech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what exactly is my role when digitizing this collection?  As the digital assistant, the first step is always scanning.  I ensure that each item is clearly scanned, edited, and stored in the proper format. Next, I create metadata that is entered into an excel spreadsheet which will then be run through a series of programs to polish the data.  It then gets loaded online through ContentDM which makes it public so that researchers have full access to the materials.  Though this process is lengthy and detail heavy, it ensures that another format of the materials exist, so the documents are preserved physically and digitally.

Speech by Hayes Mizell to AFSC Middle Atlantic Regional Office Fall Retreat, October 2, 1976 
Speech by Hayes Mizell to AFSC Middle Atlantic Regional Office Fall Retreat, October 2, 1976

New job + new skill set = amazing!  I am thoroughly enjoying my time here at Digital Collections.  I have found it quite refreshing to meet new people and learn more about a different area of information science.  The environment is quiet, peaceful, and filled with friendly people who are a pleasure to work with and learn from.  I am also enjoying the Mizell Collection.  I find that I always become fond of whatever collection I work on.  I tend to form an emotional connection through physically handling documents, and the items in this collection to me serve as the physical embodiment of Mizell’s influence in the community.  It is so easy to form an attachment when you think of his work in this way.  It is also eye-opening to preserve items digitally as opposed to physically rehousing with folders and boxes.  I look forward to what else my future spent with Digital Collections and the Hayes Mizell Collection will hold!

‘At-risk Digital Materials’  

By Kate Foster Boyd

In Digital Collections, we scan and create digital files from analog materials every day.  It is exciting and fun to make these rare and special collections, such as old maps, diaries, books, and photographs available online for a wide audience.  The University of South Carolina Libraries has been digitizing special collections for fifteen years. Not long, but long enough to watch as archives have begun grappling with born digital materials, faculty have asked for the Libraries to preserve their digital projects, and donors have requested that their emails and social media be preserved. 

USC Libraries’ Special Collections are receiving digital at-risk materials more and more. Irvin Department of Rare Books now has a few collections from current or recently deceased authors that are on hard drives. One donor has requested that their social media be saved, and two collections have email preservation needs. South Carolina Political Collections receives a lot of their collections on hard drives. University Archives must manage digital photography, born digital reports, and web site preservation. The management of these new types of digital materials require new skills and processes by the curators and archivists. 

Some of our most at-risk materials are current newspapers in our state. About a year ago, several of us received phone calls and emails from vendors telling us they would no longer send microfilm copies of the newspaper titles we purchased, only the digital files. This has prompted many meetings and much discussion about next steps with managing modern newspaper access and preservation. We are currently working on new workflows for acquiring and making available these online, digital resources. 

The Libraries has made efforts to preserve digital information and materials for years. Initial backups were on CD-ROMS and then a RAID server. Policies and procedures have been formed through attending conferences and joining appropriate consortia, like LOCKSS, MetaArchive, the POWRR Workshop, and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, and following the Library of Congress and the Digital Preservation Coalition’s web sites. We are now following the North East Document Conservation Center’s latest handbook, working on updating our policy and workflows, ensuring people know their roles and the administration supports our efforts. A colleague is investigating Archivematica, an open-source application for processing archival materials, and better cloud storage solutions. Digital preservation is not done once, but constantly. As Trevor Owen’s says in his book, Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation, it is a vocation.  

My hope is that starting in 2020, we will have a solid plan for preserving this digital material into the future. Software, web sites, email, research data, digital collections, date sets, born digital documents, and more are all a concern and academic libraries must have a plan for taking care of these formats. To me, if the collections are made accessible by librarians and used by patrons, there is a chance that they will be maintained into the future. When people stop studying and learning from these materials, then they will disappear. 

Fresh Batch of DBQ’s!

By Kate Boyd & John Quirk

Calling all Social Studies Teachers! As you begin to think about returning to the classroom, please consider using a document-based question from this Fresh Batch!

Those of us working in Digital Collections spend our days providing access to rare and unique materials from the various Special Collection libraries on campus. We often marvel at the potential educational value of the digitized primary source materials. We have long sought to broaden the awareness of our digital collections to elementary school and high school teachers and encourage them to incorporate some of these materials into their lesson plans.

In 2017, Digital Collections and the S.C. State Department of Education’s Social Studies Coordinators received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for a Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records grant. This grant funded three workshops for a total of forty-five teachers to write document-based questions using the Libraries and SC Digital Library’s digital collections. The workshops were conducted during the Summers of 2017 and 2018 with great success.

Thanks to a lot of support and help from Social Studies teachers, coordinators, and outside reviewers, we are finally at the stage of making these resources available online. The S.C. State Department of Education’s Social Studies Associates assisted throughout the project. Carolina Yetman and Lewis Huffman wrote the grant with USC Libraries’ Digital Collections. Jeff Eargle and Elizabeth King conducted the first workshop; and Stephen Corsini assisted with the last workshop and final stages of the grant. Three outside reviewers (Greg Grupe, Fay Gore, and Franky Abbott) with pedagogical backgrounds in K12, reviewed all the DBQs to ensure their integrity and Elizabeth King made sure they are up to the 2020 Social Studies standards. We were lucky to have the same excellent teacher, Matt Rose of Lexington Richland 5, teach the teachers for all three workshops.  Thank you, Matt! Also, thanks to those teachers that attended the Middle School and Social Studies conferences to share their work. We hope teachers across the country will use these to engage students in learning about South Carolina history.

The DBQ’s are presented in the South Carolina Digital Academy, a web-based resource, hosted by the University of South Carolina, that makes it easy to browse by grade level and subject matter. The lesson plans incorporate a wide variety of digitized materials such as maps, correspondence, photographs, moving images, posters and more. These types of primary source materials can bring history to life for students, giving them a window into the thoughts and feelings of generations past. By providing divergent view points and opinions in contemporary materials they encourage critical thinking. These tangible connections to the past can also create empathy for students who might otherwise feel distanced from it.

The S.C Digital Academy portal acts as a detailed catalog for the DBQ’s featuring easily accessible standards, vocabulary, time required, questions, contextual information and support materials. Each entry links to downloadable pdf documents that are designed to help make it easy for teachers to incorporate digitized primary resources into their classroom activities.

We are in the process of adding forty-four DBQs to the site, so check back frequently to see what is new. Some of the ones just up:

 

A New Map Discovery

By Chauna Carr

Greenpond map
Greenpond map

Recently the South Caroliniana Library contacted us with some feedback from a patron who discovered a mislabeled map in the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of South Carolina. The map, seemingly identical, to the one with which it was grouped, was actually from an earlier time. However, this wonderful patron, Tom Fetters, who has spent decades studying railroads in the United States and South Carolina specifically, discovered that the map, was actually for the Westmoreland Lumber Co., formerly Charleston Lumber Co. He also provided some excellent background information on the company below:

“Westmoreland Lumber dates from 1911. They did later have a mill at Green Pond, but this is not it. Charleston Lumber was only [located] at Wiggins and built there sawmill in 1903. [The] Post office came in 1905 and Mary E. Wiggins was Postmistress. Charleston Lumber was a Norfolk, VA company. They had a 17-mile logging railroad with 3 locomotives and 40 logging cars. They sold out in 1909 when R. G. Wiggins severed his connection and decided to go into business for himself. He was VP and Manager for Charleston Lumber at Wiggins. The first sawmill was built by Robert Wiggins.”

Thanks to his findings, we are in the process of correcting the metadata for the two maps. Now Colleton County has a new link to its past. This is just one example of how valuable user feedback is to our department. We love when patrons find things and connect the dots to history we were unable to see. Thanks Mr. Fetters!

Spring internship reflection: South Carolina & the Civil War digital exhibit

By Kendall Hallberg

My internship with Digital Collections had me working on a digital exhibit entitled “South Carolina and the Civil War”.  These collections are curated in the Visual Materials department at South Caroliniana Library, and are digitized and published online by Digital Collections. This project gave me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have collected during my Master’s program in library and information science, as well as learning important new skills. This semester in general has been a wonderful chance to work closely with issues related to User Experience (UX). I am glad to have had a role in bringing this collection to the public in a new way.

The research phase of this project allowed me to explore the collection and develop an understanding of what it had to offer to the intended audience. These exhibits are an opportunity to explore the collection unencumbered by the metadata and confusing nature of our collections repository, ContentDM. The items selected for the exhibit reflect this intention by needing little to no interpretation to be explored and understood for their significance. Organizing these items into coherent categories took a bit of consideration. The existing digital exhibits are done either by theme or the type of material. Considering the end user, I had to plan for the ways in which the items would be used. The decision to group by theme was made because it offers better browsing and variation with the pages.

Designing the WordPress site was a chance to learn and explore more about User Design and UX. Learning Adobe XD, I was able to plan the layout and features of the exhibit. Adobe XD is a great, free software for UX when communicating ideas to a programmer. Though I was working with certain limitations, I was also able to explore the look and feel of the site with the prototype I designed. This prototype also meant that I was able to give viewers the chance to see how the exhibit would act. During my pitch (internship requirement to pitch an exhibition mock up), I received helpful feedback and questions that improved the final product. I loved working with Sarah Funk from Library Technology Services and having her bring all of my ideas to fruition.

Loading the content into WordPress (our choice of collections web portal) was simple enough and it was great to see all of the items I had selected really come together and shine in such a visual way. The real challenge in loading came in terms of titles and descriptions. There were many instances, especially regarding the Dr. Robert S. Chamberlain collection of Civil War covers, where the titles needed to better describe the material for the sake of exhibiting. I ended up finding those key elements for titles for each material type and keeping it consistent across all the selected items.

I really enjoyed working with the awesome people in UofSC Digital Collections who helped me make this exhibit. Mēgan really trusted me to do a great job and I think I was able to accomplish that with their input and encouragement. I truly look forward to working with them in the future.*

 

*We did not pay Kendall to say these wonderful things! 🙂

Our Qidenus SMART Image Capture Machine, Part III

By Laura Stillwagon

The Operation: How the Qi Works

The Qidenus works by using remote shooting technology provided by Canon’s EOS Utility. EOS Utility employs tethered shooting which connects DSLRs to a computer so images can be taken by using a computer at a distance from the cameras. Freshly taken images are immediately viewed and stored in the computer and related image processing software. Paired alongside with the Qi’s own operation software, QiDrive, both cameras are used simultaneously to capture a bound item with each having their own page to capture. And despite the name, the SMART Book Scan does not use smart technologies, but it does employ the use of fairly new processing technology to coordinate the necessary software and function of image capturing.

The Canon EOS 5DS digital-SLRs are mounted at high angles inside the Qi so they are pointing directly at the bed at which the items are set for capture. The bed itself lays inside the machine under a set of LED lights, and it consists of two panels or leaves that overlap to form a 100-degree angle. At a constant angle, bound items that may be delicate or tightly bound are well supported, allowing any detail on the pages to be viewed without much distortion as the result of the curve of an open bound item. To further secure the item, and to ensure pages lay flat, a large piece of glass that is parallel in size and angle is held on a vertical track so that it may be pulled down to rest on the item laying on the bed. The construction of the Qi itself also allows for a small light environment to be maintained; with the LED lights and the DSLRs set within the ceiling of the machine behind the walls and awning of the hooded structure, the cameras and light are relatively unaffected by any interrupting light from the room in which the machine is kept. In this way, Qi-users are able to reach inside the Qi to adjust the focus of the cameras under the cover of the roof of the machine and to make minor adjustments to the bed in order to best support a bound item of any given size.

Both Sides of the Moon: Perception

Besides learning more about image-capture settings and exposure, I found it necessary to take into consideration light and perception. There are many variables that contribute to what ends up seen in frame of an image and the exposure. From the photographer, the camera, the lens, the light environment, to the subject, each point allows for distortion from what is actually present in front of the camera lens. Beginning with the photographer, all us humans (for the sake of argument) share the same construction in our eyes in order to see what is around us, we all have differences in perspective (in the psycho-neurological sense) that accounts for much of the variability across the view we have of the world.

For the most part, all our eyes take in and transcribe light from the world in the same manner. It is only when the acquired information is translated by neurological processes that differences arise due to mental associations and the like. Just as we perceive things differently, cameras do as well, especially with the innovations in sensors, algorithms, and image post-processing. But there are limits to technologies and skills. Settings that are true to the light environment will yield highly detailed images indicative of reality. And images on the Qi do just that: users can magnify digital images of pages in a book or journal on their desktops and see things they would not normally see merely viewing the item in person.

Optimum image quality achieved by the Qi is a result of EOS and CMOS technology. Over the years, the Electro Optical System (EOS) model and complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology have increased the sensitivity of Canon digital-SLRs to optimize focus and performance. These two developments plus complementary processors help transcribe and translate the light information from the lens to the image file producing clear images. Not immune to the prevalence of digital technology and innovation of today, Canon EOS cameras using CMOS sensors use computer technology to both broaden and sharpen the function of digital-SLRs with better data uses.

These images depict the differences in quality determined over time with the first image being produced with the settings established when the Qi was set up; the second image being one of the results of experimental changes in camera-capture settings; and the third the veritable surrogate more true to how the item looks under the Qi’s LED light. The camera-capture settings used to produce these images are as follows: image one had shutter speed of 1/5, aperture F10, white balance (WB) of K (or color, 6000K), an ISO of 100, evaluative metering, and standard picture style; the second image had 1/5, F7.1, overcast (WB), 200 ISO, evaluative metering, and landscape picture style; the final image had 1/5, F7.1, overcast, 200 ISO, center-weight metering, and fine detail picture style.

A part of my research in understanding DSLRs, EOS, photography, and light was not to simply learn definitions of things, or what happens when the dial on the camera is turned to another setting, but also what experts determined were the best settings for the light environment of the Qi, or one similar. With the Qi’s LED lights, I had to determine what temperature reading the lights had and where the focus of the lenses would be the strongest. LED lights are interpreted by camera sensors, generally, like the different varieties of sunlight: sunlight, sunrise, cloudiness, overcast, etc. This discovery greatly improved the images which often either had a golden tint, or sepia like quality to them, or a blue-ish tint. Another more important change in the settings was metering, which determined which areas inside the frame will be given more weight or priority for exposure as a result of what is in focus. Picture style and metering tend to go hand in hand with metering determining the focus and level of detail within the frame and picture style the hues of the colors therein.

The image capture settings now yield images that require little to no post-processing or major editing that adjusts the exposure or look of the image beyond cropping or tilting. Thus, the images, no matter the file, retain RAW image quality, or the most detailed image first generated by a camera and stored in it.

In the End

No image can replace the experience of observing a bound item physically, but the extent of visual detail that is observed in physical reality can be attained with the Qidenus. Digitization and digital archiving have long struggled with and debated over the creation of ‘surrogates’, or the image file counterparts of items, and their legitimacy. Those who perform digitization understand the purist perspective that maintains that any representation of the item is nowhere near as close to providing the wealth of information as the original. But, they consider the deterioration of the item as well as the possibility of wider accessibility in digital versions as more valuable reasons to continue digitization, particularly as technologies that access digital things and perform digitization improve. The digital initiatives taken here in Digital Collections share these concerns, but still carry on knowing their services benefit the University of South Carolina and surrounding communities. The Qidenus is simply another tool fostering the awareness and increased accessibility of rare and valuable archival items.

Justice For All: A Digital Exhibit for South Carolina Civil Rights

By Mēgan Oliver

In December of 2018, Digital Collections Librarian, Mēgan Oliver, and Library Web Developer (Library Technology Services (LTS)), Sarah Funk, met with the exhibition team from the Center for Civil Rights History and Research.  The civil rights team was planning an exhibition entitled “Justice for All: South Carolina and the Civil Rights Movement“. The team members, Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Jill Found, Patrice Green,  Jennifer Melton, Celeste Minor,  and Jonathon Johnson, expressed their needs for a digital exhibit, and we in Digi and LTS laid out what digital exhibition options are available (we’re building digital exhibits in WordPress currently). The civil rights team chose their layout, essentially the digital look and feel of the exhibit, and expressed their goals. As the Director of the Center, Dr. Donaldson communicated what was most important, in terms of the collection’s context and emphasized how he wanted to highlight visually compelling digital archives to support the physical exhibit of Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement. With these parameters, Digi and LTS began working to support this traditional exhibit structure with an online component.

The exhibit opened in the Ernest F. Hollings Library in February of 2019,  complete with civil rights speakers, tours of the collections, special events, and a variety of press releases. This summer, the exhibit will see it’s final few months. Don’t miss the incredible collections on display! Justice for All is open until August 31. If you can’t make it to Columbia, SC to see it in person, not to worry: there’s a permanent digital exhibit with the same title, Justice for All.

 

A Team Effort

By John Quirk

The creation of a digital collection always demands some amount of collaboration. Content matter experts, scanning technicians, metadata librarians, web developers…all working together to bring a project to fruition. The size of the team varies from collection to collection but it is always a collaborative effort.

UofSC’s Digital Collections has been involved in a project lately that not only exemplifies this spirit of collaboration but pushes it to unusual lengths. This project is the Abstract of Voter Registrations Reported to the Military Government, 1868.

This 31-volume abstract of voter registrations was originally created by order of the commander of the Second Military District who had ultimate responsibility for the registration of voters and the conduct of elections. The volumes record the name and race of each registered voter arranged by county and registration precinct. It is a fascinating and historically valuable snapshot of elections in South Carolina in the years just after the Civil War. The process of bringing these documents into the digital world has demanded the efforts of an unusual number of dedicated souls.

These historic volumes were originally microfilmed in 1987 by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. The South Carolina State Library recognized their significance and the potential value of having them digitized and made available on the web. The University of South Carolina’s Digital Collections department scanned the microfilm, creating the digital files using its Mekel Microfilm scanner. The South Carolina State Library then created the metadata describing each volume. UofSC’s Digital Collections used that metadata to upload the digitized Abstract of Voter Registrations to its CONTENTdm database make them freely available online. The road often ends there…but in this case the road has a few more twists and turns…

Having such historic documents digitized and online certainly extends their discoverability and accessibility well beyond volumes on an archive shelf or in a microfilm drawer. However, if a text can be made fully searchable the usefulness and discoverability is hugely improved. When scanning text that is printed or typewritten it is possible to create a searchable text file using an optical character recognition program (OCR) that can decipher text in a still image. However, automated OCR is not an option when the text is handwritten as it is in this Abstract of Voter Registrations. This is where the collaborative aspect of this project grows exponentially.

Richland County Library’s Walker Local and Family History Center has been marshalling a phalanx of intrepid volunteers and librarians to manually transcribe each page of the entire 31 volumes. These transcribers are peppered across the state and as they complete their efforts the transcriptions are sent to the Walker Local and Family History Center to be collated.  Those transcriptions are then sent from Richland Library to UofSC where they are integrated into the digitized items online. In the end, this process will make the entire Abstract of Voter Registrations fully searchable for names and locations thus improving its reach and usability.

One example of the broad reach these files can have is the recent featuring of an item from this very collection on a segment of Henry Louis Gate, Jr.’s PBS program Finding Your Roots. Click here to see a clip: https://www.pbs.org/video/michael-k-williams-immediate-voter-registration-p9xcw3/ After so much coordination and concerted effort, it is quite rewarding to see the fruits of those labors pay off in such a way.

All of this cross-institutional collaboration is aided by established relationships developed over time as partner members of the South Carolina Digital Library. The SCDL is a statewide search portal that aggregates digital collections from over 60 institutions bringing together over 300,000 digital items. The UofSC Digital Collections department is the  scanning hub helping to coordinate collections being created in the Midlands and hosts collections for smaller institutions that do not have the means to do that.