“I record this experience in order to give evidence to my belief …” – Benjamin Hallowell, 1799-1877
The term “archives” certainly has myriad meanings but at Sandy Spring Museum it refers to documents in our historic collection that provide first-hand evidence of events and experiences; within the archives are the musings, reflections, and records of the very architects of our shared history, of our collective memory. Items such as diaries, letters, minutes, deeds, and a dizzying array of other documents fill the aisles of our collections storage, all awaiting the discovery of the stories held within.
The Sandy Spring Museum Archives comprises close to 10,000 individual items; more than half are original materials with sixty-five percent of these dating between 1850 and 1950. The collection also includes over 1700 items of locally-relevant printed ephemera as well as original reproductions and commemorative publications related to historic institutions and businesses.
“The great use of a life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” – William James 1842-1910 (American philosopher and psychologist, and brother to novelist Henry James)
Recognizing the critical role of the Sandy Spring Museum Archives in preserving and providing access to the stories of our community, an anonymous donor showed tremendous generosity and progressive thinking by funding the collection’s digitization. In January 2019, a two-year project commenced to inventory, digitize and make publicly available all original documents held in our collection. To provide open, online access to this growing digital collection, the Museum is partnering with Digital Maryland, an initiative of The Maryland State Library Resource Center. Our collection on Digital Maryland grows daily and we encourage everyone to browse the materials often.
“Elodie felt a familiar stirring of anticipation as she took in the sepia tones, the promise if a life awaiting rediscovery.” – Kate Morton, The Clockmaker’s Daughter
We estimate that the Project will yield over 100,000 individual images for the approximately 5000 items we plan to digitize; this a staggering volume of material to sort through when looking for specific references. Currently, only the manually-assigned cataloging information is searchable, the actual document text is not. This limited searchability is a burden of all digital archives of historic collections because put simply, computers are really terrible at deciphering cursive writing. Thankfully for us, however, this is a superpower possessed by many in our community!
Transcription holds the key to unlocking access to this vast content. To create transcriptions, we rely on volunteer-transcribers to read the documents online and recreate them by typing, word-for-word, exactly what they see. It can be a fascinating and addictive process in which we really hope you will consider taking part. No experience is necessary. Our transcription platform is simple and straightforward and you can rest assured that you will have plenty of personal support from project staff should you need it. Please explore our transcription platform today and give it a try (click here for instructions)!
The Archives Digitization Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.