Have scanner, will travel

As you may have heard from this blog and other sources, the CW 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access  is an effort to locate Civil War-era materials held by private citizens, digitize them, and place them online.  It is a joint project between the Library of Virginia (LVA) and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.

Now that the project is underway, the motto “Have Scanner, Will Travel” aptly applies to my colleague Renee Savits and me. We are the CW 150 Legacy Project archivists, often seen in the LVA building rolling large plastic travel boxes containing our scanners, loading up our vehicle for the latest event. Renee is responsible for the project’s Eastern Region, and I am responsible for the Western Region.

In September, Renee and I hit the road, beginning what will be nearly two years of traveling across the commonwealth in search of these materials. We knew people would be interested in the project, but the level of interest we are encountering is beyond our expectations. At most of our events, all appointment slots are filled. We meet wonderful people who are excited to have the opportunity to share their items with us.  A story about the project in the Washington Post in November generated even more interest.

A typical scanning event is scheduled through a given locality’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, which is responsible for securing the location for the event, publicizing the event, and setting appointments. On the day of the event, Renee or I will arrive with another member of the LVA staff to set up the equipment, prepare the necessary paperwork, meet with people, and begin the scanning process. The amount of time we spend in a locality varies, from one to two days, depending on what the local committee feels is appropriate based on the level of local community response.

Once we are back at the LVA, we perform basic editing of the images (adjusting contrast, etc.) to ensure a uniform level of quality. We catalog each item and load it into our digital asset management system, DigiTool. At that point, it is available on the Virginia Memory Web site, on a page dedicated to the Project: www.virginiamemory.com/cw150.

We found some wonderful items in the six scanning events held so far.  For example, the following is one of several letters that John Keefer of Franklin, Pennsylvania, wrote to his family back home while traveling to the various encampments where his son, Union soldier George Keefer, was stationed. (You can obtain a transcript of the letter, provided by the letter’s owner, by contacting the blog editors).

Another example of a great find was a letter from Linton Perkins to “Brother and Sister.”

In this letter, Perkins is writing from Fort Worth, Texas, describing preparations for the secession vote in Texas and inquiring about the vote in Virginia. Perkins later writes about his experiences in Texas and compares life there to life in Virginia. You can read a transcript here: Perkins transcript.

To see materials contributed to the CW 150 Legacy Project, please visit our Virginia Memory page to search the collection. The cataloging process is ongoing; please check back frequently as the online collection is continuously updated. If you have materials you would like to contribute to the CW 150 Legacy Project, please visit the Project’s Web site to learn about how you can participate.

We have more than 40 additional events scheduled so far through June 2012, and dates are added on a regular basis. Renee and I will be blogging more about the CW 150 Legacy Project as we continue our travels, so stay tuned!

-Laura Drake Davis, CW 150 Legacy Project – Western Region

1 Comment

  1. Dale said:
    7 December 2010 at 7:12 am

    I am not sure if this will help or not, and it may already be at LVA, but there is a book titled _A Different Window…a different victory” subtitled “The Civil War Records, Diaries and Letters of Captain Z. T. Ross, Company B, 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment, A History of Company B, Rosters, Marches, Battles and Casualties (The Culpeper Minutemen)” privately published by “the author” (who is otherwise not named) for the Orange County Historical Society in 1997. It is chocked full of images, photos, maps, letters and the like. They did not reproduce very well for this book, but they obviously exist somewhere (probably with “the author.”)

    The diary tells a gripping tale of this unit as a whole and of Capt. Ross personally (he ended up at Pt. Lookout.) Many friends, family members and neighbors weave their way in and out of his diary, especially when the unit was encamped near Culpeper.

    Hope this will help, and I realize you may already be aware of this source.

    Craig Kilby

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