Filled with Stories: The Homestead Records Digitization Project

Uploaded by HomesteadNM on 22.01.2012

My name is Jackie Buddell
and I work at the National Archives in Washington, D.C..
My responsibilities include coordinating Digital projects within this building.
One of which is the Homestead digitization project which is one of many
that we conduct here in our digital imaging center at the building in
Washington. We’ve dedicated our new space in May of 2011
and we can accommodate fifteen imaging cameras. Two of which are dedicated to
digitizing the final homestead certificates.
In partnership with the Homestead National Monument,
Family Search who provides volunteers who do the imaging work,
The University of Nebraska at Lincoln
and which is hosting the images online and indexing them
for accessibility to everyone out on the internet.
This is the first time this project has been undertaken in which
textual archives records, meaning paper records
are being totally prepped and imaged by the same volunteers.
When I was searching for my own ancestors
I spent time on the internet
And I was so happy when I found the census records
that I could see my family listed.
For that reason
I wanted to be a volunteer
to help other people
have the same results that I had had.
This is 4083
for the Alliance, Nebraska homestead.
And so
we unfold each
page and paper
of the document.
Some of them are glued.
Some of them are look like they've been to the war and back.
This one is actually in very good shape.
After the papers have been unfolded
in each file
then they go in a manila folder
that we have labeled just so that we can keep track of them.
And then they go again in a separate tray
and we put the weights on them
for 2 or 3 days if we can
so that they become flat.
And then the process of taking the pictures is much easier
After they have been weighted
then we bring them over here
to take pictures of them, to image them.
This is called a Zeutschel table and we've taken over half a million pictures
and it’s still running.
Most of these packets run from twelve to fifteen in them and some of the have as many
as a hundred.
So then when we are done, see every one of them will come up
on the screen now and we can make sure that we shot them properly.
Then we end up with the packet and we put it here.
Then that goes into a box here
that holds it and then they are ready to be
So what happens is that we will the
the box that comes from the actual process of imaging and will take out a
that has been imaged.
This particular file had a wrapper that had to go through conservation and
be preserved so that it could be
imaged correctly. And this is the first document in the folder so we
take it out of this white
preservation folder
and we put it first and then all the other documents
are waiting to be refolded
put back together.
these documents are quite fragile and is even during the refolding process
they might
even fall apart on your hands so you’ve got to be really careful.
Once we have
refolded all of the documents
and we put them in no particular order because all these documents
pertained to just this one person
and unless there's a document that
has pages in it that are numbered,
it doesn't matter what order there in the packet itself.
Once they're in the boxes again
then they're put back on the shelves in the archives
to be left there hopefully because these images are
on the internet they won't have to open these
packets any longer. People can look at the information
and see it online anytime they like
without damaging
the documents any further.
My name is Amy Lubick and I’m a senior paper conservator
at the National Archives. I also help with coordinating digital
projects here at NARA.
Some of the records we have here today
are the homestead records that you've probably already seen being scanned
upstairs. You’ve seen the volunteers unfolding the records.
Tabbing things for conservation or things that need conservation treatment prior to scanning
and then refolding records.
So after the volunteers have worked with the records, the records are sent down
here to the conservation lab
where they've already been unfolded and put into folders
and tabbed for items that need conservation attention.
Our biggest concern is
the condition they’re in for scanning. We wanna make sure that they're safe to
handle that they're safe to move
from their storage containers
to scanning platen. And so as you can see we have some records here
that are not in stable condition we've tears
and areas where the paper has folded up onto itself
and we can no longer read the text, the information is not legible.
And so that's very important for the scanning process to make sure that we
have all the information accessible.
So we would do a little bit of surface clean here.
Flatten some of the folded areas here and do some mending.
Here we have some of the tools
that we use for mending.
I have some wheat starch paste here that we make in the lab. This is a purified form
of starch.
Brushes for applying paste.
Weights for drying and flattening the mends.
Some blotting paper
to absorb the moisture.
And our mending paper,
very important
you can see that this is a very thin strong tissue, this is actually Japanese
This is a cleaning sponge
that we use when we need to remove dirt from records. It's a rubber sponge
so that it does pick up the soil
as you can see here when we very lightly
touch the record.
This is a tool that has some, it's a brush that has some deionized water in it
and we can apply this
to the tissue
to moisten the tissue
and then to cut the mending paper.
We’ll apply a mend to this record. As you can see it only
still attached by a very small area here.
I’m going to turn this over so that we can apply the mend the reverse of the
I’ve already done a little bit of surface cleaning in this area.
You can see where there's a lot dirt. We just want to make sure that when were are
applying the wet mend
that the papers is
somewhat clean. So what we try to do is carefully align the tear
Again so that if there's any
text that
goes over the tear we have here
that those areas are lined up.
I’ll just cut a small strip of
A piece of our Japanese paper.
Just making a thin strip,
And with these records because they're being refolded after scanning,
we are using a thin issue that can easily be folded with the record.
So its strong, yet thin.
So, I’ll be applying that mend
to this area.
So here we have our
diluted and strained paste.
We’ll apply that to the tissue.
And you can see that with the thinner repair tissues that we’re using
that once they’re applied to the document they really are
almost invisible.
So we’ve applied the mend to the paper
And we’re going to put
a piece of blotting paper
on it and put some weight on it and we're going to let that dry.
So now that it’s been mended
we’ll trim these areas
it will go back into the folder and when it goes back to the volunteers who are doing
the scanning upstairs
they will now be able to safely lift this record and place it on to the scanning platen,
as opposed to trying to move something like this, which we talked about earlier
which is more difficult to handle
when it's not as stable.
You may be interested to know that one of the questions we get most often is
why are we not using gloves when we are handling paper records?
And actually
gloves can tend to
cause more damage to records than good.
What we do you recommend
is that clean hands are the best to use with paper records in order that you
maintain your tactile feeling so that you know specifically
from feel
how you're handling that particular piece of paper.
The holdings of the National Archives include over 821,000
homestead files so we do have a ways to go. But you do have to start
somewhere and we've received great feedback on this project to this point.
These records are filled
with stories.
Stories that we believe will be
a great asset to many generations to come
as they view their own families