Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

When the Jane Addams Papers started work in 2015 at Ramapo College, in many ways it felt like a brand-new project. We were focused on the digital edition, developing metadata rules, learning how to read Addams’s charming handwriting, and immersing ourselves in turn of the century Chicago and the work of Hull-House.  But we were not a new project. We built our edition standing on the shoulders of the original Jane Addams Papers Project, founded by Mary Lynn Bryan in 1975.

Working with a team of dedicated editors, Mary Lynn produced an amazing microfilm that became the basis for our digital edition. We scanned that microfilm in 2015 and started working with the images, beginning in 1901, on our digital edition. The  microfilm edition represented decades of work; they  conducted an international search for Addams documents in archives,  private collections and published sources, organized the documents and indexed them. At the start of our project, they had published two volumes of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams (since then Volume 3 has been published).

The microfilm headers that her team created gave our undergraduates a real head start when working with the texts. A letter to “Alice” was in fact a letter to Addams’ sister “Sarah Alice Addams Haldeman,” carbon copies of letters that had no signatures were identified clearly in the targets. They also identified the place where the letter was written from and sometimes the correct date.

We left the microfilm headers on the scans showing the work of the founding project.

And even more, we had the index to the microfilm. Unlike most other editing projects, the Jane Addams Papers Microfilm Index identified not just the authors and recipients of letters, but most time, the people mentioned in those letters, and in some cases the subjects. So, if “Edith” was mentioned in a letter and the students (or editors!) did not know who Addams was talking about, we could consult the microfilm index, and with a little adjustment, convert a microfilm reel and frame citation to our digital image files. This really helped in the early days of the project, when most of the correspondents and associates were not in our system.

This January, Assistant Editor Victoria Sciancalepore took a road trip to North Carolina to get some of the archives of the original Jane Addams Papers Project. We brought the precious boxes, filled with index cards, copies of the documents and targets that were used to create the microfilm, and archival search records. It was exciting to unpack them and fill our file cabinets (and then some!) with these records, which we immediately put to use.

While most of the scans from the microfilm are good quality, there are some that are difficult to read. In the past we identified documents with poor images with an “Onsite” tag. Slowly but surely we contacted or traveled to the archives to get a new image. Some were penciled originals or light blue carbon copies that had been copied, then microfilmed, and then scanned. To our delight, we were able to substitute the copy in the Addams Project files for a number of light scans, which will save us time and money.

Even more valuable, and appreciated by student transcribers, many of the files also included handwritten transcriptions for some of the more difficult to read handwritten documents. While the first three volumes of the Selected Papers only carry the story to 1900, these transcriptions are throughout the collection. It has helped clear up a lot of [illegible]s from our early transcriptions.

Our debt to the editors that went before us, finding, organizing, transcribing and editing these documents cannot be overstated, and we want to thank each and every one of them!

 

Data Visualizations and Jane Addams

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.

Frequency of words 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.

Frequency of words in 1905.

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 Top 50 Words, all in one place!
Tracking “peace” from 1901-1917.

The n-gram for “Illegible” shows the power of proofreading! When the data was downloaded for use, we had just finished proofreading 1915!

An n-gram of words we could not read.

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.

This plot includes only 270 Addams connections associated with Chicago. The full data on 8,000 names was too complex to load.

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.

Going Forward

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.

Addams Papers Joins SNAC

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.

 

Support Federal Funding for the Humanities

The Jane Addams Papers Project would not be possible if not for the support of the federal government, in our case, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The work that we do, bringing rare archival documents to broad audiences, serves a wide range of the public–from a scholar working on an interpretation of Addams’ philosophy, to a college student writing a thesis on the impact of women on the Progressive Era, or a high school freshman creating a National History Day performance on Hull House. (National History Day, by the way, is also funded by the NEH).

At the Addams Papers, support provided by these two agencies has funded:

  • The microfilming of the Jane Addams Papers in the 1980s, which serves as the basis for our digital edition. Without the work done finding, copying and microfilming materials, identifying dates and authors in a detailed index, our work would be much more difficult.
  • The scanning of the Addams microfilm to build our digital edition.
  • The salaries of eight students who describe and transcribe documents and conduct research. This is an added boon, because federal dollars spent on student workers pay twofold. Besides the help we get on the project, it provides the students with unique experience in historical research and digital humanities work that helps them stand out whether applying for a job or going on to graduate school.
  • The salary of an assistant editor who helps supervises student work and training, and insures quality control over their work through proofreading and verification. She also conducts research, transcribes documents, and works on clearing permissions so that we can publish the documents.
  • The salary of a part-time assistant editor who manages work on our book edition. She selects the initial pool of documents to be published as a fully annotated scholarly print edition. She also helps with proofreading and verification.
  • The work of our Chicago researcher who gathers newly found Addams documents, helps us with difficult transcriptions, and conducts research on Chicago-area topics.
  • The efforts of two web developers who have customized and designed the functionality of the Jane Addams Digital Edition and designed a beautiful site.

Our goal is to provide free public access to Jane Addams’ correspondence and writings, via a digital edition. You don’t have to be a scholar who can travel to an archive, or a student at a large research library to access these documents. The site is also building a unique resource of identifications of the people, organizations, events, and publications discussed in the documents that will provide students of the Progressive Era with a rich resource.

The Addams Papers is but one of the many projects supported by the NHPRC and the NEH that help enrich our understanding of the past.

What you can do

Once a year, the National Humanities Alliance focuses support and attention for federal funding for the humanities. Advocates from every state come to Washington on Humanities Advocacy Day (Tuesday, March 14) to talk to their representative and senators about the importance of this work and its value to all Americans. It is especially important this year due to rumors that funds for the NEH may be eliminated from the President’s budget.

You can help!

Stacy Pratt McDermott Joins the Jane Addams Papers!

stacymcdermottIt is with great pleasure that we welcome Stacy Pratt McDermott to the Jane Addams Papers team as our new Assistant Editor. Stacy comes to us with a wealth of over 20 years experience as a scholarly editor, gained at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, where she most recently served as Associate Editor and Assistant Director.

Stacy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and is the author of two books that came out of her Lincoln research: Mary Lincoln: Southern Girl, Northern Woman (2015) and The Jury in Lincoln’s America (2012). In addition, she worked on four volumes of the The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, 4 vols. (2008). She has written many articles and book reviews and given conference papers and presentations.

Stacy’s primary responsibility will be managing our work on the Selected Papers of Jane Addams, starting with Volume 1, which will cover 1901-1913, but we anticipate that she will also work on our social media outreach and other editorial tasks.

Jane Addams and an Anonymous Bull Moose

Members of the losing party of a presidential election are met with disappointment and sadness. In the following months the party is left to recuperate and reorganize. The losing and winning party must also plan how they will function with each other in the future. In the election of 1912, the election involved a variety of political parties with some overlapping and some clashing goals. Jane Addams had an important role in the election of 1912 and its many political parties as she became the first woman to nominate a presidential nominee by seconding the nomination for Theodore Roosevelt in the Progressive Party. The backlash she received for seconding the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt for the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, was astounding. It lead to some of the most interesting letters I have ever read throughout my time at the Jane Addams Papers Project. After the election, Addams continued to receive letters about her participation in the 1912 election.

roosevelt-and-addams-cartoon
A 1912 US cartoon, showing the “Big Four at the Two Chicago Conventions”. Front row (Progressive or “Bull Moose” party): Theodore Roosevelt, Jane Addams, Hiram Johnson, Albert Beveridge. Back row (Republican party): Boies Penrose, William Barnes, Jr., Winthrop M. Crane, Elihu Root.

While the Progressive Party was attempting to recover after a presidential loss, Addams received a letter that claimed that the party would potentially be destroyed by all of the other political parties involved in the election of 1912. An anonymous writer, referring to himself as “a Bull Moose,” wrote Addams on December 13, 1912 an at first seemingly innocent letter, praising Addams for her efforts with the suffrage movement. As “Bull Moose” continues, he wrote to Addams about an alleged “disaster” for the Progressive Party. In this alleged disaster the Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and Prohibitionists had created a trap for the Progressive Party to fall into and ruin the party forever. “Bull Moose” decided to take it upon himself to create five “shamtraps” for the Progressive Party, in order to expose the traps of the other parties, but the “shamtraps” needed to be dealt with before December 15th or the plan would not work.

This was not even the strangest part of the letter. “Bull Moose” then goes on to say that Addams can tell no one else about the letter except Theodore Roosevelt, who he refers to as “our future President,” despite the fact that Roosevelt has already lost the 1912 election. “Bull Moose” must have been hoping for a 1916 victory for Roosevelt. Unfortunately for “Bull Moose,” Roosevelt would not enter the 1916 election. “Bull Moose” proceeded to give Addams a list of instructions that will prevent the other political parties from trapping the Progressive Party. The first few seem pretty reasonable – instructions such as “not to side with either Drys nor Wetts,” which makes sense since the Prohibition Party is allegedly involved in this “shamtrap” plot. Instructions six and seven are the strangest. In rule number six, “Bull Moose” instructed Addams that he would come to her as a “polish tramp to wash windows, with a raincoat on” and told her all of the horrible ways to treat him. Rule number seven instructed Addams to treat a hobo the same way, perhaps worse, if “Bull Moose” should have sent a hobo in his place.

Addams was instructed by “Bull Moose” not to share the contents of this letter with anyone besides Theodore Roosevelt until 1917. So far there has been no indication that Addams ever shared the contents of the letter with anyone, including Theodore Roosevelt. The Jane Addams Papers Project works chronologically so we have not yet read and transcribed the letters from 1917. I will certainly keep my eyes peeled for any letters about “Bull Moose” once we get there.

political-humor-1912
This political cartoon follows the 1912 Presidential Election in which Woodrow Wilson (D) won in a landslide defeat over Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive/Bull Moose Party), William Taft (R), and Eugene Debs (Socialist Party). (From the November 8, 1912 issue of the Sandusky Register.)

“Bull Moose” was not entirely off the mark when he said that the other political parties were planning to destroy the Progressive Party. The Progressive Party ultimately did fall because of other parties, mainly the Republicans. The Progressive Party essentially merged back together with the Republican Party, especially after Roosevelt refused to accept the Progressive presidential nomination in 1916 and chose to campaign for the Republican Party. Maybe the Progressive Party would have lasted longer if Addams had followed “Bull Moose’s” instructions!

This document can be located on the Jane Addams Papers microfilm on Reel 7, frame 542. It will soon be freely available to read and view in digital form on our database website, which can be found by clicking the link to the right of this post.

 

Join our Editorial Team!

Swarthmore-JAThe Jane Addams Papers Project is seeking a part-time Assistant Editor to help work on the preparation of Volume 4 of the Selected Papers of Jane Addams. The position is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is renewable year-by-year dependent on funding.

The Selected Papers of Jane Addams is a six-volume, selected edition. Volume 1-3, prepared by Mary Lynn Bryan and her staff covers the years 1860-1900. Volume 4, prepared by Cathy Moran Hajo and the staff at Ramapo College of New Jersey, will cover 1901-1913. The volume will be published by the University of Illinois Press.

The assistant editor will work 25 hours per week, some portion of which may be done by telecommuting. Earliest start date is October 15. The successful candidate will help select documents for inclusion in Volume 4, prepare the manuscript, help identify and organize the annotation research process, conduct research, and assist with proofreading. Duties may also include proofreading transcriptions and identifications for the digital edition, writing blog posts, and supervising student workers.

Required: M.A. in American history or a related field or current enrollment in a graduate program. Meticulous attention to detail and familiarity with computers, including database use, is essential. Preferred: Subject specialization in the Progressive Era with emphasis on Jane Addams, the suffrage and settlement house movements; or experience in scholarly editing or the publication of scholarly materials.  AA/EOE. For more information, and to apply for the position, see job 223009 at Ramapo College’s website.

2016 Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents

Official Editing Institute Class of 20162016’s Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents was held New Orleans, LA, in a hotel on the corner of Bourbon Street and Canal Street.  Its courses promised to educate those new to the field of documentary editing, as well as a chance to ask questions about our own projects.  Just after classes ended, the Association for Documentary Editing held their annual meeting in the same hotel.  And, with a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Institute offered a stipend for accepted students.

My very first question was – Where can I sign up?

After an application process and multiple emails with the Institute’s Education Director, the excitement of acceptance to the program gave way to agonizing anticipation.  Finally, after months of biding my time and waiting until the night before my flight to pack, I was stepping off the plane into the hot and humid air of Louisiana.

The next day, we began promptly at 8am with breakfast, and at 8:30 transitioned straight into class time.  I was one of 22 classmates, and initial introductions showed just how varied our backgrounds were: There were some, like me, working on a traditional project with a print edition of selected letters, as well as a digital edition on a website.  But there were some working on solo projects, with many questions on how best an institute could help their projects.  There were librarians who had enough of helping with research, and had decided to delve into their own projects.  And there were some still in school as Ph.D. candidates who had become swept up in the world of editing historical documents.

Classes were taught by experts in their fields, and those experts were Amanda Gailey (Scholarly Editing), Cathy Moran Hajo (Jane Addams Papers), and Jennifer Stertzer (Washington Papers).  We were educated in a range of topics, from encoding text to better represent a transcription on the web, to preparing to fund your project through your home institution and private donors.  There were classes on publishing digitally vs. publishing in print, as well as the best method for indexing and annotating those published documents.  And the week of classes wrapped up with a thought on the future of documentary editing.

But there were things we couldn’t learn from our “experts”, and could only discover by talking to the other Institute participants.  Each one had their own obstacles to overcome, such as funding and staffing, and their own experiences with editing documents.  But with each hurdle, they had their own slightly unique solution, and those collective exchanges definitely helped facilitate discussions for the keys to solving unanswered questions.

ADE-2016At the end of our stay, many of us knew how to get to Café Du Monde by heart, and some had walked the length of Bourbon Street multiple times.  But each of us who attended the Institute found ourselves no longer identifying as a singular project, but rather as one documentary editor with a network of peers, never truly alone in our shared quest to preserve and interpret history.