By Tony Curtis
The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWG-K) has launched Early Access, the first stage of accessibility, allowing users to browse and keyword search over 10,000 documents. The diversity of texts and the wide array of historical themes contained in Early Access documents places CWG-K alongside the most forward-looking documentary editing projects. There are several bells and whistles, so join us for a quick tour of the new website!
The first stop is the Early Access homepage. No, that is not Santa Claus, it is Kentucky’s first Union Civil War Governor—Beriah Magoffin—a member of the Democratic Party and a supporter of Southern Rights. And there are more unidentified individuals at the top of the page showing you what to expect from these documents—a diverse collection of historical actors from Civil War-era Kentucky.
You can start to engage documents through the “Search Collection” and “Advanced Search” functions or by using the “Explore” function moving down the right side of the page. But more on the search capabilities in an upcoming blog post, as that will require more attention. Stay tuned!
You can engage additional content through four drop down menus located in the top right quadrant of the website—“About”, “Reference”, “Browse”, and “Exhibits”. Let’s take a look at each of the drop down menus individually.
Clicking on the “About” menu will further introduce you to the project and the Early Access team. But there is more! The drop down menu also includes information about the document selection process, editorial processes, and what is beyond Early Access for the CWG-K team. Take some time to look through this information, as much of it documents the foundations of the CWG-K project—what it is and what it is not.
Moving along to the “Reference” menu, one can gain further intellectual access and historical understanding of Civil War-era Kentucky through rich governors’ biographies, detailed congressional & judicial district data, and a bibliography for further reading. The congressional & judicial data is particularly exciting! This data is the result of our original research project to map all civilian and military structures from Civil War Kentucky—the beautiful mind project drawn on large Post-it notes on our office walls. There is so much more data to share moving forward so keep visiting for future updates!
The next menu is the “Browse” function. Instead of conducting a keyword search, researchers may decide to browse our collection by repository and collection name. Click the name of the repository to start browsing our collections from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Kentucky Department of Military Affairs Records and Research Branch, Kentucky Historical Society, Mary Todd Lincoln House, and Maker’s Mark Distillery.
And, finally, the “Exhibits” menu, which currently includes The Caroline Chronicles. Caroline’s is just one of the personally compelling and historically instructive stories that the Civil War Governors of Kentucky will help researchers and teachers tell. Hers is a story of race, slavery, emancipation; domestic service, motherhood, and gender; true crime, the law, and justice.
So where do we go from here? Early Access is the beginning of accessibility but not the end. The ultimate goal of CWG-K is to create 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.
The next step is to deliver approximately 1,500 documents annotated and set within dense social and geographic networks. These documents, the first of a projected 40,000, will demonstrate how Civil War Governors will shape the ways researchers, students, and teachers will explore the past in the future.
To this end, Civil War Governors was awarded $62,400 in the May 2016 cycle of National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) funding. This grant will run from October 2016 to September 2017, and will support that next phase of work: publishing an annotation interface of 1,500 fully edited and linked documents.
Tony Curtis is an Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition.