Newberry Transcribe

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Transcribing Modern Manuscripts allows users to transcribe letters, diaries, journals, and other material from the Newberry’s Modern Manuscripts Collections, a repository of American manuscripts from the mid-18th through the 20th centuries. The materials comprise a range of items, including letters exchanged by three generations of an immigrant family, the Everetts, and the Civil War diaries of Private Ferdinand Kilbourne, of Covington, Pennsylvania.

Kilbourne Civil War shorthand diaries

The site includes two pocket diaries that belonged to Private Ferdinand Kilbourne, of Covington, Pennsylvania, who was a member of the state's famous "Bucktail Regiment." Recounting his experience in the Regiment's 1st Rifles, Company 1, the diaries cover two different years--1861 and 1864--and are composed in Pitman shorthand. After joining the Army of the Potomac, Kilbourne's unit fought in many battles, including Harrisonburg, Mechanicsville, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Gettysburg. In addition to providing accounts of action, the diaries include reading lists, fragments of poems, lists of clothing issued by the army, summaries of debts, and much else.

The Everett family

After emigrating from Wales to America in 1823, Robert Everett made his way to Utica, New York, where he began working for the Welsh Congregational Church. Though Everett spent most of his life in New York, his children journeyed south and west, establishing homes and participating in some of the century's major social movements. Mary Everett graduated from New York Medical College and Hospital for Women before becoming involved in women's suffrage. Sarah Colgrove Everett moved to Kansas in 1854 and devoted herself to the abolitionist movement. Cynthia Everett taught freedmen in Virginia and South Carolina following the Civil War. Scattered across the country, Robert Everett's grandchildren grew up during one of the most consequential eras in American history. Their letters provide a deeper understanding of life in the United States--and the Midwest--in the latter half of the 19th century.


Crowdsourced transcription projects like Transcribing Modern Manuscripts give participants the chance to engage with manuscripts in new and exciting ways while also contributing to scholarship and expanding public access to previously inaccessible documents. By providing digitized images of manuscripts, transcription projects make it possible for users to read and analyze centuries-old letters, diaries, and other compositions that are often locked away in library archives. By allowing users to transcribe these documents, transcription projects make it possible to create searchable digitized texts for scholars to use in their research and members of the public to examine at their leisure.
 Transcribing Modern Manuscripts allows users to transcribe letters, diaries, journals, and other material from the Newberry’s Modern Manuscripts Collections, a repository of American manuscripts from the mid-18th through the 20th centuries. The content of the more than 800 physical collections mirrors the library’s collecting strengths, including all aspects of the history and culture of Chicago and the Midwest, American Indians, American History and Culture, Printing and Book Arts, Music, Religion, Genealogy, and Maps, Travel and Exploration. Holdings are strongest for Chicago and the Midwest, with over 500 collections in these areas. Consequently, many of the items included on this site are drawn from our Midwest Manuscripts Collection and provide first-hand accounts of everyday life in the Midwest during the 19th century. However, the site also includes items not specific to a single region, including the collected papers of a multi-generational family, the Everetts, whose members crisscrossed the country, settling in South Carolina, Kansas, and beyond. Though the items included in Transcribing Modern Manuscripts are likely of great value to historians, sociologists, and other scholars, none so far have been transcribed. In order to hasten this process and make the collections searchable by researchers, the Newberry is turning to the public for help.
 To get started, visit our Guidelines page for a comprehensive overview of the transcription process.
 Completed transcriptions will be added periodically to catalog records at our Modern Manuscripts digital collections site, where they can be searched and browsed. Additionally, to encourage digital scholarship projects, we will be adding the transcriptions as a data set at our crowdsourced data download site at GitHub. In the meantime, feel free to contact the Newberry's Department of Digital Initiatives and Services for additional information and updates.
 Transcribing Modern Manuscripts is powered by: Scalar, an open-source tool developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture for scholarly publishing; and Omeka+Scripto, open-source tools developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media to enable community transcriptions of document files.