Each year I work with University of Washington undergraduate interns to transcribe and encode primary source historical material, much of which is previously unpublished. This material includes diaries, letters, images and other ephemera related to archaeology and Egyptology at the turn of the last century. Students often have no previous experience with this type of work, in fact none is required. I train each new group in the following skills:
- Best practices for transcribing 19th and early 20th century handwritten documents; making editorial decisions, working in plain text, dealing with insertions, deletions, damage and marginalia.
- Encoding plaintext documents in XML-TEI and validating against a schema.
- Using the Omeka content management system to create biographical entries for historical individuals.
- Creating uniform and consistent Dublin Core metadata for items added to Omeka.
- Working with open source and copyright-free material: where to find it, how to name files, best formats for saving material.
- Collaborative working using Github, Basecamp and Google Drive.
- Preparing to present work: writing abstracts, applying for funding, creating poster and oral presentations, tips and tricks making an effective and engaging presentation, creating interesting and informative slides.
Since we began Newbook Digital Texts in 2012, we have worked with around 150 students from over 33 departments across campus. One of my students this morning told me that our weekly in-person meeting is her favorite part of the week. It’s certainly mine too.
Working with the Emma B. Andrew diary group at the University of Washington was an unforgettable experience. My intern position allowed me to work with historical texts and manuscripts while learning practical technical skills necessary for modern life. The approach that the Newbook Digital Texts takes to preserve and disseminate historical primary sources is increasingly necessary in our technology driven world. I enjoyed being part of the process of curating pieces of history and sharing our mission with other interested institutions through research conferences and publications.
Throughout my time with EBA, I learned time management skills, communication and public speaking skills, and learned basic computer programing skills. I forged relationships with fellow interns, mentors, and members of my community that have lasted long after I left the program to pursue law school. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of such an interesting program, and would encourage any University of Washington student to become involved.
Sarah Johnson, University of Washington History Major 2016