Last spring I had the pleasure of working with two undergraduate students, Taylor Lundeen and Catie Olson, enrolled in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. They worked on a capstone project on data visualization, using our Jane Addams digital edition databases. Anneliese Dehner, our web developer, helped out with the some technical aspects of the collaboration.
One of the many great things about digital publication is that the information we create can be reused and repurposed in ways that we might not have thought of. Making our data available to researchers to explore has been one of our goals from the start of our work on Jane Addams, and with this investigation we have learned what we can do fairly easily, and what is more complex.
Accessing the Data
Our first step was to get a copy of our data exported out so that Taylor and Catie could work on it. What they found worked the best was an Omeka plugin (Omeka Rest API) that allowed them to export data in a format that worked well with data manipulation software.
Our ultimate goal is to have a utility on the digital edition that will enable users to download all or parts of the data for investigation.
One problem that reared its head immediately is that we have a very large dataset, and it is growing larger every day. This made it difficult, using the tools they had available to work with the whole set.
Natural Language Processing
One of the approaches, which Catie worked on, was seeing what we could learn from analyzing the “Text” field in our database, where transcriptions are stored. This kind of analysis can track the frequency of words, or compare word usage over time. Eventually it could be used for topic modeling, where a digital tool tries to make sense of words that appear together. These groupings can uncover connections that we sometimes don’t expect.
An important step in working with our texts was data cleaning, the process by which HTML and special characters were cleaned out and text was split word by word. Then Catie built bar charts that displayed the most common words. She built a separate chart for each year to allow us to compare years to see what Addams was thinking and writing about.
The most obvious finding to me, was that we needed to think about stop words — words that are excluded in the results because they are too common or have no analytical meaning. Articles, like “a” and “the” are common stop words– we also had to consider “page” which we use to signify the next page in our transcriptions, and, gulp, even “Hull House” because we transcribed the letterhead that Jane Addams used. Other words like “Mrs,” “Mr.” and “Miss” and salutations like “Dear” are candidates for being pulled from the analysis.
We also got to see the frequency of that nemesis of editors – “illegible.” This comes up far more frequently than I would like, but I was gratified to see that in the years where we have proofread the texts, the frequency is much lower.
It will surprise no one that “peace” and “war” shot to the top in 1915.
In 1905, the most frequent words deal more with the plight of children and represent Addams’ work on child labor and welfare in Chicago.
Catie also worked on another way to show the content of Addams’ writings, plotting the frequency of a word over time. Similar to the Google n-gram viewer that can compare the frequency of words in Google Books over time, this gives you a sense of the chronology. We did not have the capacity at this point to allow users to type the words they want, but were able to produce n-grams for some of the most popular words.
Seen together, it is a little frightening, but on the live version on the site, you can select a single word to analyze.
The n-gram for “Illegible” shows the power of proofreading! When the data was downloaded for use, we had just finished proofreading 1915!
Social Network Analysis
Another approach was to see what we could learn from social network analysis. Using Omeka’s Item Relations plugin, we have been tracking relationships — mostly between documents and the people, organizations, and events that are mentioned in them. We also are building connections between people and organizations, tracking which people were members of which organizations, for example, or who participated in a specific event. We wondered whether the relationships between people and organizations might yield some interesting insights, or whether we could find other connections between people and the metadata gathered about them. Taylor was responsible for this project.
Our large dataset proved to be problematic for developing a meaningful social network based on shared connections. We think there is promise for this in future by controlling which people are included in the network, but the sheer number of people and the amount of common tags produced a daunting graph.
Instead, Taylor created a geographical visualization of Addams’s social networks related to several topics. We used our tags for movements like “Woman Suffrage,” “Child Labor,” and “Peace” and plotted their geographic locations. Compare Addams’ Settlement Movement network and her Peace network below to see the expansion of her work internationally.
On the live version of these maps, you can zoom in and out and mouse over each dot to reveal the name of the activist.
It was amazing to see what two talented students could do in such a short period of time! The experience has helped us think more about how we want to make our data accessible, and has uncovered challenges that we need to think about. Our database is large and complex and developing means to limit the queries is going to be important.
We are looking forward to working with other UMSI students and any digital humanists interested in advancing this work.
One of the challenges that face 20th century editing projects, especially digital ones, is the need to obtain copyright permission. We are in the midst of researching and contacting heirs to the authors of letters in the Jane Addams Digital Edition. It is a complicated process, but one that is essential for historians, archivists and editors who publish materials online.
- Documents published before 1922 are in the public domain. That means newspaper articles, journal articles, books, and other materials.
- Documents published after 1922 may be in public domain, but you will need to determine whether the copyright has been renewed.
- Unpublished documents are in public domain if the author died more than 70 years ago. If the author was a company, they are in public domain if the document was written more than 120 years ago. That means letters, unpublished reports, articles and speeches.
We have identified over 4,500 individuals and 600 organizations thus far in our work for the digital edition. Not all of these people wrote letters — some received the letter and others were merely mentioned in it. We do not need to clear permission for those individuals and organizations.
The Jane Addams Digital Edition tracks all mentions of people in documents. As our editorial assistants enter each document, they create links to the people already in the edition. For example, in a letter written to Jane Addams by Vida Dutton Scudder, we might record eight personal names — the author (Scudder), the recipient (Addams) and the names of four people mentioned.
If one or more of these people are new to the digital edition, the editorial assistant creates a new record for that person. While we don’t do a lot of research at this point on that person, we do try to secure birth and death dates. This year, the magic number is 1947. If our person died before 1947, we can mark their rights as public domain. Any documents written by them are all set for publication.
If, however, we cannot locate a death date, or we locate a date after 1947, we need to conduct some research. Editorial assistants flag the person’s record as copyright permission “pending.” We do this for all new names, whether or not they are authors.
As we move toward proofreading metadata and transcriptions for publication, we generate a list of all the documents in a given year that are not ready to publish. When we were not able to locate a death date, the editor will make another attempt to find it, and hopefully clear the documents. We are then left with a list of authors that are not in the public domain.
Our copyright research squad consists of two people, researcher Ellen Skerrett and project assistant Nina Schulze get down to the nitty gritty of copyright research.
There are a number of ways to try to locate the copyright holder of a deceased author.
- If the person’s papers are stored at an archive, you can contact them. Often times they will have some information about the person who donated the papers, or have contact with family members. A good site to search for archival holdings is Archive Grid.
- If the person is a published author, you may be able to contact their publisher, who may know who controls the copyright on the book, or who gets royalty payments. That can lead you to the next link in the chain.
- Otherwise, we hope to find the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or more distant relatives. Many people never dedicated their literary rights in a will, but they are assumed to fall to the heirs.
We use the genealogy site Ancestry.com and the digital newspaper site Newspaper.com, among other resources, to try to locate heirs. We look for the names of children in the available U.S. Census records, newspaper articles and obituaries, and other web-based resources. Obituaries are an invaluable resource because they update the names, especially of daughters who might have married, and in many cases provide the city or state where those survivors. We then use internet directories and phone books to try to locate current addresses.
Some people are easier to find than others. People with common surnames can be all but impossible, especially those who lived in large cities. When a person left no children, we try to go up the family tree. looking for a brother or sister, to find nephews, nieces, or cousins. It is usually easier to locate famous people’s families — the chances are better of finding a long and detailed obituary.
We then write a letter, hoping that we have gotten the right person, and wait for a result. These letters are fun to receive, often enclosing a letter written by an ancestor to Jane Addams that opens up a new story a family’s history. Family members are often amazed and intrigued to know how we were able to find them.
Good faith efforts
We are allowed to publish without securing copyright if we make a good faith effort to locating the heirs. For us, this means following all leads that we can find, tracking all known children. One of the ways that we keep looking after we have exhausted all leads is to post the names of people we still seek on our website. The hope is that you might Google an ancestor and find the project’s site, even if we can’t find you!
If you think your (great) grandmother knew Jane Addams….
We are still searching for more Jane Addams letters. If your family history involves an late 19th or early 20th century social reformer, peace activist, or settlement worker, or if your family had roots in Chicago or worked for woman suffrage, we would love to hear from you. We can check to see whether we have any letters in the archives we have searched, and would be delighted to include any letters your family might still hold.
I am pleased to announce that the Jane Addams Papers will be joining the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Cooperative in its final phase of work. SNAC has been hosted by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and the University Library and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (2010-2012) and the Andrew Mellon Foundation (2012-2017). The Cooperative seeks to improve the economy and quality of archival processing and description, and build a global social-document network using both computational methods and human curation.
I first came across the SNAC web portal when doing research for biographies for our digital edition. SNAC provides biographical information, links to archival collections, and to related people, families and organizations.
I decided that we would make SNAC one of our go-to resources for our biographies. We link all our biographies to the SNAC record to enable our researchers to locate an ever expanding list of resources on that person. SNAC imports data from finding aids, Wikipedia entries, and other sources. As we made links between our biographies and theirs, I started to wonder whether we might be able to contribute materials as well. I reached out to Daniel Pitti, the project director.
The Jane Addams Papers is not an archive, but an edition, and I wasn’t exactly certain how what we we would interact with SNAC. With only two years of work under our belts, we have identified over 4,500 individuals, who wrote letters to Jane Addams, received letters from her, or were mentioned in the documents. Our individuals range from historical figures, like Plato and Wat Tyler, to Chicago police George Shippy and John McWeeny. We have over 100 suffrage activists, including Catherine Karaveloff, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Zofia Golińska-Daszyńska. There are philosophers, criminals, homemakers, and union leaders, and over 200 social workers and welfare activists. About 60% of the names we have linked thus far are men and 40% are women.
The people who come up in Addams’ documents are primarily American, but we have increasing numbers associated with Europe and Asia as Addams broadened her reach and networks. The screen shot below of our map view of individuals will change as we deal with more of Addams’s international peace work.
We are looking forward to seeing how SNAC can work with data coming from our Omeka-based digital edition. We will not be the only editing project joining at this time, the Walt Whitman Archive is also coming on board.
I will keep you posted as the work begins.
This spring, the Jane Addams Papers Project was delighted to help fund two eighth grade students, Lucy Roberts and Lindsey Alexander, from Chamblee Middle School in Georgia present their ten-minute performance on Jane Addams at the National History Day competition. The students advanced through their regional and state competitions and needed some help funding their trip to Maryland and the national contest. When preparing for the competition, they relied on the Jane Addams Digital Edition to provide primary source materials.
“National History Day requires projects to have a variety of sources, both primary and secondary,” said Lucy Roberts, who portrayed Jane Addams in the performance. “The Jane Addams Papers was so organized and helpful to help with primary sources. As far as the actual sources themselves, we used her letters and speeches to learn about her thoughts and political views.” The girls used excerpts from Addams’s autobiographies, which they found on the digital edition, as well as her opinions on immigration and labor to make their performance more historically accurate.
“What I think was the most interesting thing about Addams was her work as the city’s garbage collector. To me that was not only pretty surprising but admirable as well,” added Lucy.
National History Day invites students between sixth and twelfth grade to research a historical topic based on an annual theme and present their findings in a creative style manner as documentaries, research papers, exhibits, performances, or websites. With this year’s theme called “Taking a Stand in History,” Lucy and Lindsey were assigned to research Addams in class.
Lucy and Lindsey’s performance, “Jane Addams: Taking a Stand,” opened at Addams’s funeral in Hull-House in 1935. Lindsey, portraying a resident, passionately recited a eulogy about Addams and her life. Then, the play took the audience back in time by dramatically portraying Addams’s most significant accomplishments, such as becoming valedictorian at Rockford Seminary, co-founding the Hull-House, opposing World War I, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. As Addams, Lucy used direct quotes from Addams’s letters and speeches, and Lindsey acted as a variety of Addams’s associates, such as Ellen Gates Starr, a Chicago Tribune reporter, and a poor immigrant, providing context for Addams’ views.
“Performing was much more difficult than I expected,” said Lucy. “There are a billion things you need to think about: facing the audience, speaking clearly, remembering your lines, blocking, props, etc. That’s why I enjoyed it so much. Not only do I love a challenge, but I got to see an idea turn into something tangible and real.”
Lucy and Lindsey did not win the national award, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience and their sightseeing in Baltimore. They visited Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, and Hard Rock Café. “I really enjoyed that because the hard work was over and we could finally relax and enjoy the city,” said Lucy.
We are glad to have been able to help the girls have such a rewarding experience and congratulate them on their success.
The theme for 2018 is: Conflict and Compromise in History.
We are delighted to announce that the New Jersey Council for the Humanities has awarded the Jane Addams Papers a grant of $11,400 for our “Expanding Audience Participation with the Jane Addams Papers” project.
This project aims to encourage use of the digital edition among students, teachers, and the general public. We will build a crowdsourcing site where members of the public can engage with documents, create transcriptions, and rate the documents to build a new search option to highlights the most useful documents. We also want to encourage students to work with the digital edition, and will create guides for high-school and grammar school students working on National History Day projects and school projects. These tutorials will introduce topics, provide suggestions for the best texts and search strategies for that topic, and suggest sources for further research.
We will be collaborating with students in Ramapo’s Teacher Education program, with the New Jersey National History Day coordinators, and local middle and high school teachers to develop these new resources on our digital edition site.
The Jane Addams Papers’ mission is to digitize and describe the documents, and create historical context for them by identifying the people, organizations, and events mentioned in the texts. We have received funding from Ramapo College, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Ruth McCormick Tankersley Charitable Trust to undertake this work. But we want to do more than build a site and hope that people will use it. Scholars and advanced students will find our site, but this outreach project will advance our mission by reaching out to students, teachers and the general public.
We think the best way to do that is to provide crowdsourcing opportunities and offer guides for using the documents in the classroom. National History Day is a very popular program that challenges students in middle and high school to interpret history through one of twelve general themes. For this year’s theme “Conflict and Compromise in History,” we advised students to look at Addams’ opposition to World War I, or her decision to open the Hull-House settlement, pointing them to the best documents and providing them with context. We will continue to expand the guides by adding more suggestions as we mount more material on the site. We also want to create topic guides for other issues, such as child labor, woman suffrage, and recreation.
We are looking forward to getting started on this exciting collaboration and will keep you posted on the results.
The Third Women’s History in the Digital World conference was held on July 6-7, 2017 at Maynooth University in Ireland and the Jane Addams Papers presented a panel on our digital edition. Editor Cathy Moran Hajo, Assistant Editor Victoria Sciancalepore, and our web developer Anneliese Dehner combined to present three aspects of “Editing Jane Addams.”
Cathy led off the panel talking about the “Big Picture: Conceiving a Digital Edition of Jane Addams’ Papers,” providing a short history of the Addams Papers microfilm and book projects, and the process that went into deciding to digitize the microfilm edition. The decisions to be made involved thinking through the audience for the edition and what kinds of tools and resources they needed. In addition, Cathy discussed the decision to use the Omeka database-driven platform for the digital edition rather than using text encoding using XML. Going with a web-publishing friendly system allowed the Addams Papers to design a site that not only provides deep metadata, but also manages the project’s internal workflow, tracking information on each document as it passes through our permissions and copyright checks, metadata and transcription, and proofreading. Cathy also talked about her desire to see the Addams Papers edition be flexible enough that scholars and students can use its materials to build their own research projects.
Tori’s talk, “The Nuts and Bolts: How an Omeka-based Digital Edition Works,” brought us into the back end of the project, showing how we defined the metadata and relations between the 21,000 eventual documents, and the entries on people, organizations, publications, and events that are discussed in them. She described the use of the Items Relations Omeka plugin, which we tweaked some, to build an edition that lets users move flexibly between drafts and final versions, letters written by and to a person, and individuals who were members of an organization, or participated in an event. She also talked about how we decided on a transcription policy. Because we make the images of the documents available on the site, we wanted our transcriptions to be more useful as a search mechanism. We decided to standardize our transcriptions (converting British spellings, archaic spellings, and misspellings) as long as we used brackets to signal that the editors had changed the text. Readers who want to see the original need only click to see the manuscript image. She also discussed our student workers at the Addams Papers–the engine that keeps the project moving. With editors focused on training and quality control, it is a cadre of 10-15 Ramapo College undergraduates that are entering and transcribing documents and researching and writing identifications.
Anneliese discussed “Designing a User Interface for a Digital Edition.” Coming from the perspective of a digital library developer, Anneliese talked about her experiences working on the Jane Addams Papers and the Kentucky Civil War Governors Papers, also an Omeka site. Discussing the different values that the project had, she walked through the way that developers work with editors to configure their sites, looking at who the intended users of the site will be, the kinds of searching they will need, and how much metadata should be used for site navigation. Anneliese noted that the Addams site was interested in exposing metadata, developing spatiotemporal context for documents, and creating branching paths through the edition. The Kentucky Governors project looked to create a more linear path through documents, but were more interested in presenting transcriptions alongside images of documents.
In addition to our panel session, we were able to learn about some extremely interesting projects in women’s history, both here in the U.S. and abroad. Rachel Love Monroy, Lauren N. Haumesser and Melissa Gismondi discussed the Founding Women project that seeks to build a federated documentary edition of a variety of women’s papers. Eric Pumroy spoke about Collegewomen.org, which seeks to build an inclusive resource about late 19th and early 20th century college experiences for women. Cécile Gotdon spoke about Ireland’s Military Pension Project, a fascinating look at detailed records of men and women involved in the Irish military between 1916-1923. And Alvean E. Jones’ work to provide access of the history of St. Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in a way that makes it accessible to deaf scholars, by translating digitized material into Irish Sign Language videos. Helena Byrne discussed a project to gather a digital history of Irish women’s indoor football leagues in the 1960s. And Liz Stanley gave a wonderful presentation on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online and the difficulty of representing a person from the things left behind.
Thanks to all who attended for a fascinating time!