CWGK Welcomes Natalie C. Smith

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) is pleased to announce the addition of Natalie C. Smith to the project’s editorial staff.

Smith’s position is funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and is focused on preparing both texts and annotations for publication in the newly expanded CWGK web interface.

Smith brings skills in publishing, textual editing, and digital database research from her work on a Master of Letters in Romantic and Victorian English literature from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Most recently, Smith has served as a program assistant for the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, where she was involved in civics educational outreach and gained archival experience working at the center’s Mitch McConnell and Elaine L. Chao Archives.

Smith’s academic and professional work has placed her at the center of collections management, digital research and publication, and creative public outreach within the Commonwealth. These linked missions lay at the heart of CWGK, and allow the project to play a dynamic role in the life of the Kentucky Historical Society and national organizations such as the Association for Documentary Editing. “Academic research today is fundamentally different than it once was,” Smith says, “and the expansion of digital humanities responds to the ever-constant cry that the humanities are in crisis.” Smith will add momentum to CWGK’s ongoing efforts to address that crisis on multiple fronts. “Together with my work coordinating professional development opportunities with Kentucky social studies teachers, my passion for making Kentucky history more accessible to the public has grown.”

“I desire to give back to my home state of Kentucky,” the Elizabethtown native and University of Louisville alum concludes. CWGK and KHS are excited to afford new opportunities for Natalie to do so.

Using CWGK Annotations

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) team is happy to announce the launch of the new, annotated CWGK website! The updated and expanded site publishes for the first time 350 fully annotated documents and combines the previously launched Omeka platform with the power and versatility of our annotation tool—Mashbill—to produce complex social networking visualizations for each entity (person, organization, place, and geographical feature). The CWGK team worked with Brumfield Labs and Dazhi Jiao to complete this latest digital publishing platform.

Let’s explore the entity page of Governor James Fisher Robinson. You can see Robinson’s social network and a visualization of this network—for example, his connection to G. F. Cook (circled in black).

And looking at the entity page for G. F. Cook, we see his connection to Governor Robinson.

The legend on the left depicts the different types of entities you will see in the visualization and the different types of relationships that link them together.

Back to Robinson’s entity page, there are many more important pieces of information. First, you can see the full biographical entry for Robinson and the citation for the sources consulted in writing his biography.

Below the visualization are a series of tabs that will give you access to additional information and tools about each entity. There are four tabs: Metadata, Citation, Documents, and Download.

The metadata tab will give you access to the entities birth date, death date, gender, race, and entity type.

The citation tab will give the full entity citation for the convenience of the researcher.

The documents tab will give you a list of EVERY document that this particular entity is linked to throughout the CWGK website. The list is quite long for Robinson.

The download tab will allow you to download the XML code for that particular entity.

This is just the beginning of publishing fully annotated documents and visualizations on the CWGK website. Eventually, tens of thousands more documents and hundreds of thousands more entities will be published. Updates to the site will appear continually as the editing process continues and each document is completed.

So stay tuned and visit often!

CWGK Annotation is Live!

2017 wraps up with a triumph for CWGK. The project published its first 350 annotated documents, with each of the people, organizations, places, and geographical features mentioned in the documents linked in the text. The basics of CWGK’s document viewer interface look the same, with the addition of the links to the annotated entities highlighted as they appear in the transcription.

When a user clicks on an highlighted name, they will navigate to the entity’s page. Whatever CWGK researchers have found about the individual will be written in a short biographical statement, with a full citation just below it. Most strikingly, for people and organizations, the user will see a social network visualization drawn from the relationships found in CWGK documents. These can range from the simple:

to the spectacular:

These annotated documents aren’t the only new edition to the CWGK site. The project has also updated over 1,600 transcriptions, delivering users the most reliable representation of the text possible.

Stay tuned for more, too. CWGK’s new system allows for rolling publication as new transcriptions and annotations are approved. From this time forward, CWGK will be an ever expanding and interconnecting network of primary and secondary material that allows new and deeper access to the lives of everyday people caught in the middle of the country’s greatest conflict.

A great deal of this editorial work was funded by a grant from the Scholarly Editions and Translations program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Development of the annotation and visualization systems were funded by two grants from the Publishing Historical Records in Documentary Editions program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

To “Serve this Long Term at Home”: Robert Buffum, Mental Illness, and the Prison Trap

CWGK Project Director Patrick Lewis writes a new piece in Nursing Clio about troubled Civil War veteran Robert Buffum.

[I]f some veterans can never escape the battlefield, Robert Buffum could never leave his cell. He spent more time behind bars of one sort or the other than he did as a free man after leaving the army. … The man continually reached out for help. And even when his society tried to do right by him, those treatments had the unintentional effect of moving him from one subconscious nightmare to another, lived one.

What does his experience in asylums and prisons mean for contemporary American veterans? Visit Nursing Clio for the full story and check out the CWGK reader and discussion packet, “Where I Now Stand” to bring the conversation to your classroom or community group.

An Alternative History of Sally J. Chinn

Cross-posted from the KHS Chronicle.

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky project is deep into annotation, the phase of the project where each of the people, organizations, places and geographical features mentioned in every CWGK document is tagged, researched and linked together in a vast social network. I’ve written elsewhere about what that will look like from a research and technical perspective. Today, I want to focus on the research finds and unexpected questions that this work brings.

This week, I was working on this document, a letter from some Hartford, Kentucky, bankers, looking to have one of their own named a notary public in December 1860. Routine state business. Then I started researching cashier John C. Morton.

Not surprisingly, given the way small-town businesses work then and now, he is the older brother of the Alonzo L. Morton who has recently taken a job in the circuit court office. The two young professionals lived together with their father, Isaac Morton, when the census man came to town. Except he wouldn’t be living with his parents for long. On June 30, 1860, John C. Morton had travelled east to Frankfort to marry Sally J. Chinn, the daughter of prosperous farmer, Franklin Chinn. Everyone called her Jennie.

Jennie Chinn Morton c1910, KHS Collections, 1917.1

Now, the name Jennie Chinn Morton carries a certain connotation at KHS. She was the secretary-treasurer and later regent of the revived KHS of the late 19th century, the first editor of the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society and the driving force behind the establishment of this organization in permanent state offices in Frankfort, first in the capitol annex and later in the Old State Capitol itself. She shaped publications, research and collections. Jennie Chinn Morton was the Kentucky Historical Society.

This is not to hero worship. I have issues with her interpretation of the past and whose Kentucky stories she valued. I question the history she wrote and why she wrote it. But, her legacy as an institution builder is a model for any public history administrator. The Kentucky Historical Society has grown and evolved since Morton, but without her, the seed would never have been planted.

So, could this 21-year-old newlywed be that Jennie Chinn Morton? A quick search through our digital collections confirmed that it was. The finding aid to an 1893 diary, mentions that she was “Soon widowed after her marriage to John C. Morton of Hartford, Kentucky in 1860” after which she “turned her time and attention to literary pursuits.” Did she ever.

I still haven’t puzzled what happened to John Morton. Did he die of some summer disease right after their marriage? Did he rush off to enlist in one of the contending armies in 1861? Whatever the case, his death allowed one of Kentucky’s most influential femmes sole in 19th and early 20th century Kentucky to pursue work that was meaningful to her.

I wonder what would have happened if he had lived?

CWGK Reviewed in Journal of American History

Mississippi State University Associate Professor of History Anne E. Marshall reviewed CWGK in the September 2017 issue of the Journal of American History. The JAH has taken a leading role in the promotion of digital scholarship by commissioning and publishing reviews of digital history resources. Some highlights from Marshall’s review include:

The CWGK is a rich and versatile project, well conceived and well executed. The site is meant to be useful to a vast array of viewers, it has the imprimatur and standards of the latest academic approaches to the Civil War. … This project provides an impressive model of what state historical agencies are capable of producing with the dedication of enough human and financial resources.

Read the full review online here.

CWGK Annotation Preview at DH2017

CWGK’s development partners at Brumfield Labs have been working on a series of NHPRC grants to develop MashBill, CWGK’s annotation management system. Through the work of NHPRC-funded Graduate Research Associates, CWGK has annotated approximately 1,200 documents to date, identifying over 8,000 unique people, places, organizations, and geographical features.

At the Digital Humanities 2017 conference in Montreal, Brumfield Labs presented a paper co-authored by CWGK staff, “Beyond Coocurrence: Network Visualization in the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.”

Read a full recap of the presentation here, complete with fascinating visualizations of CWGK annotation data drawn from MashBill. The recap was named an Editors’ Choice story by Digital Humanities Now in August 2017.

CWGK on Think Humanities Podcast

KHS Executive Director Kent Whitworth appeared on a recent episode of Think Humanities, the podcast of the Kentucky Humanities Council. After a discussion of how we make history relevant to the pressing issues of the present, Whitworth and KHC Executive Director Bill Goodman turned to CWGK as an example of how KHS lives that mission through the digital humanities. The CWGK segment begins at about the 20:14 mark.

CWGK Receives NEH Grant

What mental health struggles did Civil War veterans face when they came back from the war? What happened to women and families when violence and the end of slavery forced them into refugee camps outside of military posts and Kentucky cities? What new economic opportunities arose amid the destruction of the Civil War years? How are the experiences of these everyday Kentuckians 150 years ago relevant to the challenges that face the Commonwealth today?

These are just a few of the questions that the Kentucky Historical Society’s Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) project helps researchers, students and policymakers address through a free, online collection of more than 10,000 documents associated with Kentucky’s three Union and two Confederate governors.

CWGK has received a new three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand the number of texts it publishes online and enhance the ways that users can study them. This $300,000 grant in the Scholarly Editions and Translations program will continue NEH support for one full-time assistant editor and allow CWGK to hire a full-time research associate.

“It is an honor to receive one of these incredibly competitive awards,” said CWGK Project Director Patrick Lewis. “CWGK’s success on this national stage really is a reflection of the importance of KHS’s mission and our agency’s commitment to bridging the gap between historical research and finding ways to address the challenges that face us today. Kentucky issues are American issues, and they have been for centuries. Every citizen of the Commonwealth should be proud that national institutions like NEH look to KHS to lead these important American conversations.”

With this support between October 2017 and September 2020, CWGK will:

  • Annotate and socially network each individual found in 3,000 documents
  • Develop three classroom/public dialogue packages centered around pressing contemporary and historical issues highlighted through CWGK documents
  • Plan an intensive search for relevant Kentucky documents in the National Archives and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Since its public launch in 2011, CWGK has received two, three-year grants from NEH and three single-year grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Generous support for the project also has come from private donations to the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation.

Related Links
NEH Announcement
Civil War Governors of Kentucky

“But I don’t Regret My Service to My Country”: The Trials of Lt. Robert Buffum

Robert Buffum served his government bravely and received his nation’s highest military honor. Then he reached out to it for help when the burden of that service became too much for him to handle. But he received none, and that was a tragedy for him. And his family. And that of his victim.

Read more about this compelling and relevant story of military service, alcohol and opioid addiction, and mental health on the KHS Blog.