CWGK Annotates 1,000 Documents

CWGK editorial staff recently annotated their 1,000th document. They have identified and written short biographies of each person who appears in 1,000 of the more than 10,000 documents that make up CWGK. Although their work continues, they are sharing their thoughts at this milestone in three blogs published by KHS. Read excerpts below, and follow the entire series through the links.

Natalie Smith, “Uncovering Untold Stories of Civil War-era Kentuckians
Editing documents in the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) often means I’m diving headfirst into the grittier aspects of the Civil War. Crime, poverty, starvation and guerrilla attacks only scratch the surface of what Kentuckians endured during this chaotic period in our country’s history.

Emily Moses, “Staff Member Gains Insight from CWGK
Every day that I work on The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) I am in awe of how this digital collection provides insight into the lives of 19th century Kentuckians. I am not a Kentuckian, nor by training am I a Civil War historian; I am a southern historian.

Patrick Lewis, “Annotation Requires Writing for People and Machines
Our biographies work. They build upon one another to create hundreds of thousands of discrete records of historical events large and small. Each treated equally. The world we capture in our biographies can be set into motion; viewed from the perspective of a town, of a day, of people who journey together on a specific steamboat. The number of these stories that we encode, both mundane and the world-changing, are almost limitless. The scale of this data is so great that we can’t yet fully imagine how we are going to use it. Has the historian who will build the system that starts and stops this network in time or peeks into the totality of a community on a critical month or day been born yet?

CWGK in The Federalist

What expectations did people have of local, state, and federal governments? Who were the faces of governance in their communities? How did they conceive of justice and equity? How did they understand the interaction of branches and levels of government, and how did they play governing institutions off of one another to secure the outcomes they desired?

In the Fall 2018 issue of The Federalist, the newsletter of the Society for History in the Federal Government, CWGK Project Director Patrick Lewis reflected on the important and relevant questions that the project has raised — both in the materials that it has found, published, and annotated and also in the process of managing a program within state government.

From using social networking to discover local power brokers operating outside the formal channels of power to appreciating the inability of antebellum institutions to cope with the overwhelming crisis that secession and Civil War brought to Kentucky society, CWGK provides a new research path forward for historians. How did people understand their government before the war and, when the conflict came to their doorstep, what expectations did they have for government intervention and assistance?

I have developed a profound empathy for both the plaintive citizens bringing horrifying tales of death, crime, sexual violence, destitution, and starvation as well as for the representatives of government at all levels who are chronically unable to muster sufficient resources to address the systemic problems they saw. It is easy to see the
Civil War as a crisis of elected government—at a legislative,
gubernatorial, Congressional, and especially Presidential level—but I have come to appreciate the war as it drug down an underprepared and underpowered civil service under the weight of modern, total war. The antebellum systems buckled underneath the crisis. That book is far more complicated to write than a conventional political history and far less marketable than a new battle history. That book about the slow collapse of governmental systems under unforeseen external stress might also b far more relevant to a moment when the national coffers have been drained by years of military conflict and faith in the capacity of electoral politics to address the day-to-day issues facing the citizenry is critically low.

Access a PDF of the full article here, or read the full issue at The Federalist.

CWGK Welcomes Graduate Research Associate Lucas Somers

With funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) recruited two Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) from premier history programs across the United States to help annotate 300 documents in 2018.

The GRAs underscore a core principle of CWGK and KHS, that how the work of history gets done is as important as the fact that it gets done. The GRA positions allow CWGK to nurture research skills in emerging scholars as well as exposing them to digital project startup and management, collaborative work as a member of a research team, the establishment and maintenance of project policies, and the production of historical knowledge in diverse forms for audiences beyond academia. Working as a GRA on the CWGK project not only builds these students’ digital humanities skills portfolios, it makes them better scholarly researchers by encouraging them to flip their engagement with the archive and to think seriously about how research collection are built and curated as well as how they are used by audiences beyond academic researchers like themselves.

Joining Brianna Kirk of the University of Virginia as 2018 GRA will be Lucas Somers of the University of Southern Mississippi

Lucas Somers
University of Southern Mississippi

Somers is a history Ph.D. student at the University of Southern Mississippi studying the era of the American Civil War and Reconstruction under Dr. Susannah J. Ural. He received a B.A. and M.A. in History from Western Kentucky University where he served as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Institute for Civil War Studies and completed a master’s thesis in which he explored the reported dreams and visions of Abraham Lincoln. While at USM, Somers has worked as a graduate researcher for the Beauvoir Veteran Project and is working toward the Graduate Certificate in Public History. Somers aims to write a dissertation which will examine ways communities in the South dealt with the trauma and suffering of the Civil War.

CWGK Welcomes Graduate Research Associates—Scott Ackerman and Brianna Kirk

Once again, with funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) recruited two Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) from premier history programs across the United States to help annotate 300 documents in 2018.

The GRAs underscore a core principle of CWGK and KHS, that how the work of history gets done is as important as the fact that it gets done. The GRA positions allow CWGK to nurture research skills in emerging scholars as well as exposing them to digital project startup and management, collaborative work as a member of a research team, the establishment and maintenance of project policies, and the production of historical knowledge in diverse forms for audiences beyond academia. Working as a GRA on the CWGK project not only builds these students’ digital humanities skills portfolios, it makes them better scholarly researchers by encouraging them to flip their engagement with the archive and to think seriously about how research collection are built and curated as well as how they are used by audiences beyond academic researchers like themselves.

The 2018 GRA class is as follows:

Scott Ackerman
City University of New York

Ackerman is a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His dissertation, entitled “Men Whose Hearts Are In The Work’: The Union Army and the Implementation of Federal Emancipation Policy, 1862-1865,” examines the links between military emancipation and the broader antislavery agenda of the Republican Party. He holds an MA in American History from George Mason University and a BA in history from Dickinson College. A practicing museum professional and public historian, he has previously worked for President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C., and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. He currently serves as a Writing Across the Curriculum Fellow at Bronx Community College.

Brianna Kirk
University of Virginia

Kirk is a history Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia studying the Civil War and Reconstruction under Dr. Elizabeth Varon. A 2015 graduate of Gettysburg College, her research interests focus on the immediate post-war period and Civil War memory. After graduating from Gettysburg, Kirk entered the public history world and worked at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, as the Lead Historical Interpreter and Visitor Engagement Supervisor. While there, she spoke on various topics related to Civil War history and memory, and even learned how to fire a rifled musket and a cannon. Now back in the academic world, Kirk is currently writing her master’s thesis on the Norfolk Race Riot that occurred in Norfolk, Virginia, in April 1866.

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.

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 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.

Annotating CWGK Documents with MashBill

CWGK is working with Brumfield Labs of Austin, Texas, to build an annotation and entity management system that will allow CWGK to locate, identify, and link together every person, place, organization, and geographical feature in every CWGK document. The annotation application, MashBill, has been live since February 2017, and CWGK staff and Graduate Research Associates working remotely from eight university campuses across the country have (as of April 2017) identified nearly 5,000 unique entities which appear over 8,000 times in nearly 700 CWGK texts.

CWGK published a preliminary plan for MashBill in the fall of 2016, but with the system now up and running, this post will move through through each step of the annotation process with screenshots.


The first step is to search for and select the assigned document on the CWGK website.

In the document view screen, the annotator activates a browser plugin called Hypothes.is, which enables annotation and commentary on any web page. All CWGK staff and GRAs are members of an invitation-only Hypothes.is group, which collects data and feeds it into the MashBill system.

The next step is to highlight all entities (people, places, organizations, or geographical features) at their first mention in the text of the documents, select annotate when the Hypothes.is icon appears above the text, and click “Post to CWGK”.

Once an annotator completes this process, they can click on the Hypothes.is icon in the  browser toolbar to review all of the highlighted entities.

The annotator then moves into MashBill itself, where each user sees a dashboard of their own previous work, a running tab of the latest work in the database, and search fields to find an entity or document. Those search fields allow the annotator to look up the document number which has just been highlighted in MashBill.

Each of the character strings highlighted in Hypothes.is appear on the MashBill document screen.

The user selects “identify” to search the database for entity names which are at least a 30% match to the transcribed character string. This degree of proximity suggests likely matches, but still allows flexibility to account for name abbreviations, misspellings, and the use of titles to identify individuals.

MashBill suggests known entities, but if the entity in question has not yet been added to the database, the annotator moves to the entity creation screen.

After research in approved, authoritative, and reliable sources, the annotator writes a short entity “biography”, fills out a bibliography section, marks up any textual features including italics and underlining in Markdown, and fills in the metadata fields relevant to the entity type.

 

The annotator confirms the information is correct and creates the entity, which is automatically linked to the character string highlighted in Hypothes.is.

If an entity already exists in the MashBill database, the user simply chooses the correct entity from the suggested list and MashBill automatically links the entity record to the character string.

The annotator proceeds until all of the entities for the document have been identified. They then click “Document Needs Reviewed” which sends the document into the fact-checking queue.

When another staff member checks work for accuracy and adherence to editorial style, the document will be marked complete, and MashBill will insert reference tags containing the unique identifier for each entity biography into the TEI-XML transcription of the document stored in GitHub. These files will be re-imported into the existing CWGK Omeka site along with the entity biographies, allowing hyperlinked navigation between text and biography.

The final step in the current CWGK annotation process is social networking, documenting all of the relationships between individuals and organizations present in the text of the document itself.

Each relationship between entities is classified as one of a handful of types: familial, political, legal, economic, social, military, and slavery. Entities can have multiple relationships within documents if the relationship between the two is multifaceted or evolves as the document proceeds. Entities can also have the same type of relationship documented in multiple documents, adding weight to the vector between those two nodes. entities can be involved in a complex network of relationships.

When the relationships have been identified and created, the annotation stage on this document is complete and the annotator moves on to the next assignment.

Civil War Governors of Kentucky Editor Hosts Webinar for Kentucky’s Librarians and Archivists

Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) assistant editor Tony Curtis hosted a webinar on October 14, 2016 entitled “Researching the Civil War Governors of Kentucky” for Kentucky’s librarians and archivists as a part of the Continuing Education program offered through the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA). The webinar focused on the launch of “Early Access“–the first stage of accessibility–in June 2016, allowing users to browse and keyword search over 10,000 documents.

The next step–“Annotation Beta”–is to deliver approximately 1,500 documents, annotated and set within dense social and geographic networks through NHPRC funding. The presentation demonstrated how CWGK will shape the ways researchers, students, and teachers will explore the past in the future.

Click HERE to listen to the webinar.