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

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.

Closing Out Grant Year 2015-16

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky staff is wrapping up the grant year for both of our major federal grants, from the NEH and the NHPRC. This is a good time to reflect back on what we have accomplished.

And we are now poised to enter a new grant year. What will Civil War Governors be doing between now and next October?

Civil War Governors is also going live in 2017, hosting a major scholarly conference in Frankfort and presenting at professional organizations and community groups across Kentucky.

A Facet of Early Access: How do I search?

by Tony Curtis

This might seem like an obvious topic, but there are several ways to search the Early Access website. As a matter of fact, there are three ways: (1) Use the “Browse” function; (2) Use the “Search Collection” function; or (3) Use the “Advanced Search” function. It depends on the objective of your search, as to which function best suits your particular needs.

The “Browse” function is an appropriate choice for individuals who would like to search a particular repository and/or a particular collection. For example, say you are interested in researching the first Confederate provisional governor of Kentucky—George W. Johnson—and you know that the Kentucky Historical Society houses a collection of personal papers for George W. Johnson. You would click the “Browse” button on the main menu in the top right quadrant of the website. Then scroll down until you see the “Kentucky Historical Society” repository button. CLICK. Then scroll until you find the “George W. Johnson Papers” button. CLICK. And commence your browsing of the collection at the item level.

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If you would like to use the quickest search function, then you are in luck. The “Search Collection” function appears on the main screen—and every screen thereafter—for ease of user access. Just plug in your term or terms and commence your search of the entire collection. You can also narrow your search by using simple or Boolean search operators. For example, a search for Benjamin F. Buckner (no quotation marks) returns 180 search results, while “Benjamin F. Buckner” (with quotation marks) returns one search result. Searching Benjamin AND Buckner (with Boolean operators) returns sixteen search results. So try different combinations of words and operators when using the “Search Collection” function.

The most complex and most effective search function to use is the “Advanced Search” function. This is a faceted search, meaning that is allows the researcher to narrow search results by using many different criteria that have been built into the metadata by project editors. To use this search function, click the “Advanced Search” option underneath the “Search Collection” search box on any page. You will arrive at a page that allows you to target your search by using three specific keyword search fields. You can select from a list of eleven fields to narrow your search: Accession Number, Collection, Date of Creation, Dates Mentioned, Document Genre, Document Title, Editorial Note, Item Location, Place of Creation, Repository, and Transcription. Any combination of these fields will help you narrow your search. For example, say I wanted to find all documents sent to Thomas E. Bramlette from Covington, Kenton County, Kentucky, in 1865. I would conduct the following faceted search to Thomas E. Bramlette (Field: Document Title); 1865 (Field: Date of Creation); and Covington, Kenton County (Field: Place of Creation).

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This faceted search returns twenty-eight search results, while a Boolean search conducted using the “Search Collection” returns fifty-six results. A simple search with all these terms and no operators returns 8,910 documents. Thus we see the benefit of the faceted search function. I would suggest experimenting with all the search functions and see which one fits your research objectives the best and it may change from search to search. Early Access currently contains just over 10,000 documents and this number is only going to continue to grow over time.

So what do you say, how about a few searches? Bet you can’t search just once.

Tony Curtis is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.

Graduate Research Associates 2016-17

Overview

The Kentucky Historical Society seeks eight Graduate Research Associates (GRAs) familiar with 19th century United States history to write short informational entries for the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWG-K). GRAs will receive a stipend of $5,000 each and can work remotely from their home institutions.

Each GRA will annotate 150 assigned documents each. Each GRA must be a graduate student in at least the second year of a M.A. program in history or a related humanities discipline. In accordance with its commitment to facilitating relationships between history practitioners and organizations in Kentucky and nationally, KHS hopes that these GRA positions will help advance the professional skills of early-career historians in Kentucky and elsewhere. Preference will be given to candidates who are enrolled in graduate programs in history at Kentucky universities, though applicants worldwide are encouraged to apply. These positions are funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a branch of the National Archives.

CWG-K is an annotated, searchable, and freely-accessible online edition of documents associated with the chief executives of the commonwealth, 1860-1865. Yet CWG-K is not solely about the five governors; it is about reconstructing the lost lives and voices of tens of thousands of Kentuckians who interacted with the office of the governor during the war years. CWG-K will identify, research, and link together every person, place, and organization found in its documents. This web of hundreds of thousands of networked nodes will dramatically expand the number of actors in Kentucky and U.S. history, show scholars new patterns and hidden relationships, and recognize the humanity and agency of historically marginalized people. To see the project’s work to date, visit discovery.civilwargovernors.org.

Scope of Work

Each GRA will be responsible for researching and writing short entries on named persons, places, organizations, and geographical features in 150 documents. Each document contains an average of fifteen such entities. This work will be completed and submitted to CWG-K for fact-checking before June 30, 2017.

Research and writing will proceed according to project guidelines concerning research sources and methods, editorial information desired, and adherence house style. This will ensure 1) that due diligence is done to the research of each entity and 2) that information is recorded for each item in uniform ways which are easy to encode and search.

All research for the entries must be based in primary or credible secondary sources, and each GRA is expected to keep a virtual research file with notes and digital images of documents related to each entry. These will be turned over to CWG-K at the completion of the work. CWG-K will fact-check all entries for research quality and adherence to house style. CWG-K projects an average rate of one document annotated per two hours of work. Each GRA may expect to devote approximately 300 hours to the research—though the actual investment of time may vary.

Each GRA will work remotely. Interaction with the documents and the writing of annotations will take place in a web-based annotation tool developed for CWG-K, which can be dialed into from any location. CWG-K will make use of online research databases to make its work efficient and uniform. Other archival sources may be of value but are not required by the research guidelines. Securing access to the paid databases required by CWG-K (Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Louisville Courier Journal) is the responsibility of the GRA. If regular institutional access to these databases is not available to the GRA through a university or library, it is the responsibility of the GRA to purchase and use a subscription to these databases. KHS will not reimburse the GRA for any travel, copying, or other expenses incurred in CWG-K research.

In order to maintain quality and consistency as well as to foster a collegial and collaborative work culture, CWG-K will conduct weekly virtual “office hours” via Google Hangouts, during which GRAs are required to dial in, ask questions of staff, share expertise and research methods, and make connections with their peers at other universities. Virtual attendance at these office hours is mandatory, and multiple sessions may be offered to accommodate schedules.

The Kentucky Historical Society will hold copyright for all annotation research as work for hire.

Evaluation Criteria

A proposal should consist of at least a narrative statement of professional ability in the form of a cover letter, a CV, and two letters of recommendation. Additional supplementary materials that demonstrate capacity in the evaluation factors may also be included. Applications are due by September 16, 2016 to Tony Curtis, tony.curtis@ky.gov.

The Kentucky Historical Society will evaluate the proposals based on the following factors:

Research Experience (70 points): Describe your familiarity with research in 19th century U.S. history. Describe some projects you have undertaken. What sources have you used? Have you been published? Have you interpreted historical research in forms other than a scholarly peer-reviewed publication? How does the proposed research project differ from those you have undertaken in the past? Describe your familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of online research databases such as Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, ProQuest, and Google Books.

Project Experience (30 points): Describe any work you have done in the editing of historical documents. Discuss how a project such as CWG-K maintains balance between thorough research and production schedules. Have you worked on other collaborative projects in the field of history or otherwise? Describe your ability to meet deadlines and regulate workflow. Describe your understanding of and/or experience with the Digital Humanities. From what you know of the CWG-K project, how does it fit with current trends in the field? What do you hope to gain from working on the CWG-K project?

Institutional Affiliation (10 points): Additional points are available to applicants who are enrolled in graduate programs at Kentucky universities. Applicants claiming this status should discuss how they will use this experience to help build and sustain relationships among history organizations across the state and articulate why such relationships are valuable. This does not imply any relationship between KHS and the educational institution.

NHPRC Support

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition and the Kentucky Historical Society are proud to announce that Civil War Governors was awarded $62,400 in the May 2016 cycle of National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) funding.

This is the second grant Civil War Governors has recieved from NHPRC. The first grant supported the digital publication of Early Access, an Omeka interface that will host 10,000 Civil War-era documents. This site will allow users to access 10,000 digital document images and transcriptions, and sample the rich content that Civil War Governors will deliver. Civil War Governors true impact on scholarship, however, will be in annotation. To the extent possible given the restrictions and biases of the historical record, Civil War Governors will identify, research, and link together every person, place, and organization found in its documents. This web of tens—perhaps hundreds—of thousands of networked nodes will dramatically expand the number of actors in Kentucky and U.S. history, show scholars new patterns and hidden relationships, and recognize the humanity and agency of historically marginalized people. The network of identified and annotated people, places, businesses, government agencies, and military units, will come as close as possible to a historical reconstruction of mid-nineteenth century society as it was lived and experienced in wartime Kentucky.

This second grant will support that next phase of work: publishing an annotation interface of 1,500 fully edited and linked documents. This important step to the full Digital Documentary Edition of a projected 40,000 documents will help reconstruct the lost lives and voices of tens of thousands of Kentuckians who interacted with the office of the governor during the war years. The diverse and largely unknown lives of the people captured in the Civil War Governors documents—generals and politicians, prostitutes and plantation mistresses, free African American professionals and “contraband” refugees—as well as the social, economic, political, and geographic networks they allow us to visualize and understand, are what Civil War Governors hopes to capture and deliver to the public.

This will be an important test of the Civil War Governors vision of a digital research environment within which a user can encounter the past multi-dimensionally through the documents and the powerful annotation network that links the documents together. In this document-driven historical ecosystem, users can explore intuitively—moving seamlessly through seemingly disparate historical themes, events, and topics; breaking into the plane of social and geographic space to understand the deep patterns that underlay the issues raised in a text or set of texts. Through it, Civil War Governors will understand how project staff must balance all phases of editing work as well as how a variety of users will navigate the research platform. Early Access shows the public a tantalizing sample of Civil War Governors content, but the next phase will demonstrate how Civil War Governors will shape the ways researchers, students, and teachers will explore the past in the future.