A documentary editor’s top priority is unwavering accuracy to their collection’s text.
Wait, that doesn’t sound right.
A documentary editor’s goal should be the regularizing of words and writing styles so as to be easily read and searched by a reader.
But that doesn’t sound quite right, either.
These are the two schools of thought that a documentary editor grapples with when deciding on an editing style early in a project’s life. Fidelity: digitally representing an object exactly how it was created. Accuracy: changing characters or words to standardize and correct mistakes for various purposes. Humans are imperfect beings, leading us to make mistakes every so often, but also giving every person their own unique form of expression. But when someone’s written work, along with the imperfections it will undoubtedly have, is being prepared for increased access by being digitized and transcribed, how faithful should we be to their exact pen strokes?
A common mistake made by over 400 authors in our digital edition so far, Du Bois spells Addams with a single D. In this case, as per our transcription guidelines, an editor would place [brackets] around the misspelled word and correct it. Our practices lean more toward accuracy than fidelity in this case, and would be applied to any incorrectly spelled name or word. After lengthy discussion, we felt this rule would aid with online searches . We also know that the spelling written above is factually wrong, and feel that correcting the mistake lessens confusion with names that may have been spelled 10 different ways across 10 different documents.
But what about another rule we have, concerning abbreviations:
Here, in a closing of the letter to Mary Rozet Smith, Addams writes, “Always yrs J. A.” which is exactly as we have transcribed the line. But wait, “yrs” is decidedly not how you spell “yours” in which case it should be bracketed and corrected, right? In this case we are leaving the spelling as is, arguing that expanding and regularizing abbreviated words changes the tone of the writing too intrusively. By leaning more toward fidelity rather than accuracy here, we hope to retain the unique style of writing that an author may have had.
Our transcription guidelines include dozens of rules about how to treat difficult to read texts or irregularities in spelling and punctuation. With each rule, editors hope to keep the delicate balance between fidelity and accuracy in transcriptions. One rule that is visible across the site is the use of brackets. By using brackets around changed words, editors can easily inform readers that something about the text may be different than the original, and by providing an image the reader can quickly check the spot that the change took place.
The bright side to editors working on a digital edition is the ability to easily change project guidelines. If, for some reason, we decide to change any of our rules, it would be entirely possible, though perhaps time consuming. This allows our relationship with our transcriptions to continue to grow as our editors develop a deeper connection with our texts.
When the Jane Addams Papers Project came to Ramapo College in September 2015, space was a concern. The project was designed with the idea that undergraduate student workers would be an integral part of our work and in the early years, we were not quite sure where we would be able to fit them. Ramapo College has been a great partner to the project, giving us new space and increased capacity as the project has grown.
Our first office was a small faculty office, into which we squeezed three computer stations — one for Cathy, one for me, and one for a student. A short time later, Ramapo provided me with an office next door. We squeezed in three more computer stations and were now able to have four (or sometimes five) students working with us. We had to stagger schedules to make it work, and it got a little tight sometimes, but we built great camaraderie at close quarters. When we had too many students to fit, the Dean allowed them to use a conference room and sometimes we flowed out into the Library or student lounges.
In 2018, with the Project hiring between 8-10 students per semester, Ramapo upgraded our space. We moved into a Project office, a large space where up to six students and two staff can work together. This space has become a hub of activity and attracts attention from faculty and students alike who pass in the hall. Working from home during the pandemic meant missing the collaboration that goes on in the office every day.
When the construction is finished, we will have a new home at the Peter P. Mercer Learning Commons. Ramapo’s newest building, an expansion and enhancement of the George Potter Library, has been under construction since 2019. While it seemed the project would never end, and we feared that the pandemic would slow construction, the end is in sight: Fall 2021.
The Jane Addams Papers will occupy the Library’s Digital Humanities suite, with a large workspace that can fit eight or more students at a time, as well as space for my desk, files, and books, and a separate attached office for Cathy. We will be located on the Learning Commons’s second floor, close to the College Archives. All around us will be a brand new, four story library with abundant private and group study areas, smart classrooms and conference rooms, a café, outdoor seating, and a maker space. The hope is that this new lively space will become the heart of the campus and we are delighted to have a place there.
Cathy and I were recently given a hardhat tour of the construction site so that we could see our new space. Guided by Ramapo’s Director of Capital Planning, Daniel Roche, and Ramapo’s Construction Project Manager, Kosta Svarnas, we finally saw our new space! We are so happy that Ramapo gave us exactly what we wanted and needed in our new offices, and we could see all the possibilities of the space even while still under construction. Cathy’s office,
connected to the main workspace, will allow her easy access to the staff while also being able to conduct private meetings with students and others. My space, just outside her office, will allow close work with both the students and Cathy, and we will finally have enough space to store our document images in our offices. We have an overhead projector and screen which will help train students and give presentations about the project. And we will have a neat graphic presence that we will reveal once we are in the space.
While we don’t have an exact move in date, we are extremely excited about the future of the Project at the College and in this new space. And that, I think, is what really excites us the most.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual; an equal world is an enabled world. There are many women we could discuss today: Jane Addams, of course, for her work in the immigrant communities of Chicago, among many other areas she championed in the name of equality. Carrie Chapman Catt, who heavily campaigned for women’s suffrage rights. Lillian D. Wald, who taught women valuable skills out of the Henry Street Settlement. And Emily Greene Balch, a staunch supporter of peace as a central leader in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. But there is, I believe, a group of women whom we often forget to include when discussing Addams, especially her work for peace — the women who aided Addams outside the United States.
It is easy to forget that many of Addams’s contemporaries were
located outside the United States. Dr. Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs, a Dutch physician and suffrage activist, had multiple achievements to her name, including her life-long struggle for women’s equality. Jacobs was the first woman to attend a Dutch university, inspired by her father, physician Abraham Jacobs. Jacobs became a pharmacy assistant, continuing on to University of Groningen. In 1879, Jacobs set up a practice in Amsterdam, offering free appointments to poor residents, struggling to maintain large families. In a controversial move, in 1882 Jacobs offered birth control advice at her clinic, the first clinic ever to do so in the world. She paved the way for Dutch women to seek an education outside finishing school, and control the size of their families, lowering the infant mortality rate and improving women’s health in the process.
Chrystal Macmillan was a British pioneer, one of the first woman to graduate from the University Edinburgh in 1896 then finishing her studies in Berlin and Edinburgh. MacMillan fought for women’s rights at Edinburgh University. When World War I began, Macmillan threw her energies into providing food for Belgian refugees. Her staunch pacifist views made her a leader in
the English movement against war, and brought her into the international drive to end war. Macmillan was one of only three British women who attended the 1915 International Congress of Women and throughout the war worked for peace and a negotiated settlement. In March of 1919, Macmillan attempted to lessen the surrender terms to be implemented for Germany in the Treaty of Versailles, but no changes were made. Chrystal Macmillan dedicated her life to the equality and fair treatment of women and oppressed peoples, regardless of their country of origin.
Rosika Schwimmer, a Jewish-Hungarian activist, was a powerhouse in the peace movement; her unswerving belief in peace and women’s equality were seen by some as abrasive and they found her difficult to work with. Before becoming a peace activist, Schwimmer worked as a governess, and bookkeeper, a correspondence clerk, and finally became president of the Nőtisztviselők Országos Egyesülete (National Association of Women Office Workers), in 1901. After an international mentorship with American suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, Schwimmer returned to Hungary, founding the Hungarian Feministák Egyesülete (Feminist Association). Their goals included equality for women in education, employment, and healthcare. Schwimmer was a driving force in the efforts to stop World War I. She convinced Henry Ford to mount a peace mission in 1915, and attended meetings to the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women in 1915. Schwimmer fought against anti-Semitism and sexism during the early twentieth century to secure better living conditions for Hungarian women and beyond.
With so much history right here in the United States, it’s easy to push international affairs out of our minds, preferring to learn about our own country’s struggles. But, as Jane Addams and her contemporaries have shown, the fight for equality for women encompasses is an international fight and women need to keep working until equality has been secured for all. As Addams wrote: “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” This International Women’s Day, we remember the women working abroad for the equality of women worldwide.
2016’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.
At 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.
When thinking about the issue of police brutality in Chicago, many of our first thoughts find their way to the incidents of the recent past. The images that still burn freshly in our minds are those of Laquan McDonald being fatally shot from behind by Officer Jason Van Dyke, or a recently discovered history of gruesome torture by former police commander Jon Burge. While Chicago certainly has a history of police misconduct – Burge had reportedly been using torture to provide false confessions from his suspects since 1972 – that history sees its true beginnings in the early 20th century, as Jane Addams attempted to make sense of the violence she saw in her city of Chicago.
Addams’ first published opinion on file of a police brutality incident comes during the time of the “Averbuch Incident” in 1908. The chronicle, told in the papers from the point of view of Officer Shippy, begins with Lazarus Averbuch, as the press called him, though in realty his name may have been Harry or Jeremiah, a Russian born Jew who had recently immigrated to America. Averbuch was a young man, almost 19, who in the early morning of March 2, 1908 called upon Chicago’s Chief of Police, George Shippy, at his home in Chicago’s North Side. Shippy, having been informed that this was the fourth time Averbuch had called upon him in two days, became suspicious; assuming Averbuch was an anarchist bent on assassination, Shippy seized Averbuch by the arms. Before Shippy could disarm him, Averbuch drew a knife and stabbed Shippy in the arm. As Shippy’s son, Harry, ran downstairs due to the commotion, Averbuch drew a revolver and fired two shots, one of which struck Harry. At this, James Foley, an officer assigned to be George Shippy’s driver and bodyguard, entered and attempted to seize Averbuch. Before being embraced by Foley, however, Averbuch fired a shot into Foley’s hand. Very shortly after, both Foley and Shippy emptied their revolvers into Averbuch’s body, who then fell dead.
Funds were raised by prominent Jews for a private investigation into the claims made by Shippy that Averbuch was an anarchist intent on assassinating the Chicago Chief of Police. Jane Addams organized an investigation to be led by young Chicago attorney Harold Ickes, who later served as Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At the same time, the Jewish press, mainly the Jewish Courier, tried to argue that Averbuch was following foreign protocol in order to obtain a letter from the chief of police indicating that he was in good standing and of good character in order to obtain a job outside his community. All shots, the Jewish press argued, were the result of wayward bullets fired from either Foley’s or Shippy’s guns. Addams witnessed the aftermath of the Averbuch Incident from an immediate proximity. Addams’ Hull-House was located near Averbuch’s community, and the settlement often served as an interpreter between foreigners and the city’s native populace, and vice versa. She understood that foreign-born anarchists were feared in the city of Chicago after their involvement in the Haymarket Riot two decades prior. Addams, however, was not convinced of Shippy’s story, believing there to be too many inconsistencies.
In the wake of the aftermath of the Averbuch Incident, Addams wrote a piece for Charities and the Commons, a publication created to help charities give and receive information and advice, called “The Chicago Settlements and Social Unrest”. This article, while spurred by the Averbuch Incident, also gave Addams’ opinion on the cause of and solutions to the growing unrest around immigrants with varying political and religious beliefs. Addams believed that she had a unique vantage point as the head of a settlement house – as a member of a prosperous family, Addams understood the points of view of the fearful public, as well as those of the fearful immigrant population. “This settlement interpretation,” she said, “may be right or wrong, but it is at least based upon years of first hand information and upon an opportunity for free intercourse with the foreign people themselves.” (Addams, 1908) She attempted to assuage the fears on Chicago, reminding the city that
“the more excited and irrational public opinion is, the more recklessly newspapers state mere surmises as facts, and upon these surmises arouse unsubstantiated prejudices against certain immigrants, the more necessary it is that some body of people be ready to put forward the spiritual and intellectual conditions of the foreign colony which is thus being made the subject of inaccurate surmises and unjust suspicion.” (Addams, 1908)
Addams reminded the public that Russian-Jews, like Averbuch, had escaped very harsh treatment from police while in their home country; she also argued that the treatment they received from American police was no better. “The older men,” she stated, “asked whether constitutional rights gave no guarantee against such violent aggression of police power, and the hot-headed ones cried out at once that the only way to deal with the police was to defy them; that that was true of the police the world over”. “It registered,” she said, “a conviction that in a moment of panic a republican government cared no more for justice and fair play than an autocratic government did” (Addams, 1908).
In true Addams fashion, the philanthropic philosopher gave her own homegrown solution to the problem at hand. “The only possible way to break down such a persistent and secretive purpose,” she said, “was by the kindliness which might have induced confession, which might have restored him into fellowship with normal men” (Addams, 1908).
Addams’ theory of kindness as an eradicator of terrorism has never really been tested in the city of Chicago, or anywhere else. One of the most recent stories about police brutality, mentioned above, states that former police commander, Lt. Jon Burge oversaw a torture ring of detectives from 1972 until 1991. In October of 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot fatally in the back 16 times by Jason Van Dyke – an officer who alone has accumulated 20 complaints, all of which have gone undisciplined. Citizens are so concerned about the escalation of crime in Chicago, that a website has been created to chronicle police misconduct spanning the years 2002-2008 and 2011-2015. The Citizens Police Data Project’s findings are astounding. Without revealing the entirety of the Project’s report, of all 56,384 of the allegations in the study, 54,089 of these, or 95.93%, were found to be “Unsustained”.
In another disheartening flurry of statistics, we also know that violence in Chicago is the highest among all US cities with 2,900 shootings in 2015. How much of a correlation do these two numbers have? And if the statistics are intertwined, is the answer to employ and release more officers into a populace that obviously entertains varying degrees of fear for their “protectors”? Or should we attempt to appeal to our better natures and try actions of kindness? Perhaps another of Addams’ solutions can be used, an effort to better educate officers, citizens, and members of immigrants and working class communities in lessons of cultural assimilation and understanding could be implemented to foster partnership based on harmony rather than discord.