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Transcription Assignment: Exploring the (Digital) Archive
Benjamin Bankhurst and Kyle Roberts
Skill: digital archives, transcription
In this assignment you will get the chance to learn about eighteenth-century manuscript culture -- and its fantastic handwriting. Historians are very grateful that letters, journals, addresses, memoranda survive, but they can often be difficult to use. Putting a transcription in a digital archive makes these documents far more accessible. In the first part of this assignment, you will try your hand at transcribing a document from the Friendly Association Papers on Digital Paxton. In class you will select one page from one of the manuscripts in this collection that is online. After class you will complete your transcription. You will also write a three-paragraph (750-word) essay response on your experience and how this relates to the Carter article “Of Things Said and Unsaid.”
Step 1: Transcribe a manuscript/page from the the Digital Paxton website
- Locate your manuscript on the Digital Paxton site, scroll through all the pages in it. See how much of it you can read.
- Locate your page by clicking on the link of the manuscript page (under “Contents”).
- Look at the “Details” tab to see the metadata of the document.
- Click on the “Source” tab and the image will open the document in a new tab.
- Click on the image to bring up a magnified page
- Open a new Microsoft Word file or a new Google Doc file.
- Write at the top the name of the document, the page number, and paste the url for the source page.
- Transcribe line-by-line.
- Aim for fidelity: retain original spellings, capitalizations, and punctuation. (You might need to turn off autocorrect!)
- Start a new line in your document for each new line in the manuscript
- Note it is okay to ignore 20th century pencil writings.
- After you have done your transcription, put it aside and then read it over again later. Or have a friend read it over.
- When complete, go to step 2.
Step 2: Write a three-paragraph summary of your experience
- First: what was contained in the manuscript/page you transcribed?
- Second: whose voice is represented in this manuscript/page? Thinking back to the “Of Things Said and Unsaid” essay, what silences are there here? What workings of power?
- Third: what was the experience of working with this source? Was it easy to engage with? Difficult? Can you imagine writing a whole paper around these sources?
Sample Transcription: Christopher Towne to Israel Pemberton, April 25, 1756
germanton 4dm 25th 1756
I am glad to hear that friends have
proposed for an acomodation with the Indians.
and, as many ignorant as well as ill minded people are enreached
towards friends, ascribing to them all mischif done by the
Indians without any Sound reason, I should be very glad and
willing to assist in what manner I can and do belive that manny
Download a printable version of this assignment.© Benjamin Bankhurst and Kyle Roberts