Jane Addams Papers Receives Federal Funding

I am delighted to announce that the Jane Addams Papers has received two federal grants, one from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We are extremely grateful for this support!

These grants are critical to our work which centers on bringing Jane Addams’ story to the public. Our digital edition (https://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu/) provides free access to documents (letters, speeches, articles, and reports) along with resources that make them accessible to every American. Jane Addams (1860-1935), America’s preeminent social worker, peace activist and progressive philosopher, was an icon of her time — called by some “the most dangerous woman in America,” and by others “the world’s best-known and best-loved woman.”

One thing that sets the Jane Addams Papers apart from other projects is its reliance on undergraduate students to create its digital edition. Ramapo College students learn how to work in digital humanities by analyzing and entering data on each document, transcribing it, and researching the people, organizations, and events that are mentioned in it.  With a grant from the New Jersey Humanities Council, teacher’s education students at Ramapo have also worked to build student and teacher resources using the digital edition. The unique hands-on experiences we provide make a difference as students look to joining the workforce or apply to graduate school.

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!

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.