Annalaisa Plessinger and Dr. Maggie Kopp, University Libraries
The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department of the library hosts many precious collections from rare books to periodicals that benefit the research and understanding of countless scholars. However, periodicals have not received the same attention as books; books are being uploaded onto the Internet Archive for access to people not in the intermountain region. Therefore, the purpose of this project was to digitize the rare British sociopolitical periodicals within the J.F.C. Harrison collection and upload them onto the Internet Archive for greater access to those scholars wishing to deepen their understanding of Great Britain in the 1800s. In addition, I used a select portion of these documents to investigate social and political influences of the Corn Laws in Victorian England. Through each step of the project, I was able to enhance my academic career by broadening my knowledge of the processes occurring within Special Collections as well as fine tune my research skills. This project has not only assisted my educational interests, but also simultaneously benefited the research of others and those of the future because there are more periodicals published online for academic purposes, which is the greatest success of the project.
The first step to carry out the project included determining which periodicals were the best candidates to digitize onto the virtual library, the Internet Archive. To accomplish this, a list of periodicals within the J.F.C. Harrison Collection was consulted. Each periodical’s title, author, and subject were searched for online availability within prominent scholar search engines such as WorldCat, Waterloo, and Google Scholar. Finally, twenty periodicals were chosen to be the first group to be digitized for the Victorian Collection. These serials were then prepped by pulling them from the vault and inspecting each page for creases, uncut pages, etc to ensure maximum digitizing quality at the most efficient speed. Finally, all pages were counted to determine the amount of time that would be devoted to scanning and uploading the serials on the Internet Archive. The next step in the project included contacting the necessary faculty to provide my training on the Bookscribe and the other mechanics involved with digitizing publications. My faculty mentor Maggie Kopp contacted Marisa Snyder to train me in the scanning and uploading process of digitization. Marisa Snyder works in the library’s office of Digital Content Management and introduced me to the student staff and other faculty members that would prove instrumental in the success of the project. After a week of training on the Bookscribe and learning the skills needed before a book could be scanned and loaded onto the Internet Archive, the project proceeded with full force. I began scanning the pages of each periodical and gained many insights into the work Special Collections specializes in.
The most intense portion of the project included my work on the Bookscribe while working with the student staff and faculty members. As I scanned thousands of pages, I maintained valuable relationships with these people and they helped me through any questions I had. In addition, we worked through typical glitches such as technical malfunctions and aligning the page numbers correctly with the serial. I consider my time spent in Special Collections to have been the most beneficial experience in my academic career thus far because I gained a working knowledge and understanding of the importance of the work conducted by those within the Office of Digital Content Management division of Special Collections. I learned a great deal from these people and I admire the work they do; they provide the means for scholars to conduct research in the one of the most convenient forms of our time: digitization. After many weeks of photography, adjustments, labeling, reviewing, and so forth, the scans had reached the maximum quality needed to preserve the original material and were ready to be published on the Internet Archive as the Victorian Collection.
Following the completion of the digitization portion, I had the opportunity to read and consult many of the publications for my inquiry into the impact of the Corn Laws on poverty stricken individuals in Britain. In particular, the Corn Law magazine of the London Anti-Corn-Law League proved a fascinating source to enliven the poverty many people on the local level felt as the costs of grain remained high throughout the mid-1800s. The final draft entitled “Alleviating the Oppressed of the Poor Man’s Loaf” follows the techniques Richard Cobden and John Bright utilized over a ten-year span to convince Parliament that the Corn Laws should be repealed. This included their experiences with Parliamentary procedures and local responses to their cause. I was able to acquire this information through many primary sources such as periodicals and their individual biographies that highlight their endeavors. This was an amazing experience that helped me to integrate knowledge and research skills I had obtained from other history courses and utilize them in my research paper.
I found this research to be fascinating as well as reinforce the original intent of the digital project: providing greater access to rare periodicals. Much of my research was conducted outside the vicinity of Provo, Utah. However, my research was not hindered because I could access the scanned materials by logging onto the Victorian Collection of the Internet Archive.1 With the information I gleaned from these primary sources, I am now able to use this research as a foundation for my honors thesis to be continued at the University of Cambridge.
During Summer semester 2011, I will have the opportunity to integrate this project’s research paper into my broader research topic, U.S. British relations during the 1800s, while participating in the Pembroke-King’s Program in England. I will have access to their library to study my area of interest as well as take a course on Anglo-American relations 1800 to the present. I am able to use the solid foundation provided by this project from the ORCA funding to work on my honors thesis and improve my academic experiences beyond my expectations. Overall, this project was successful but could not have progressed without the information and insight provided by my faculty mentor Maggie Kopp. Her extensive knowledge of Victorian England and the mechanics of Special Collections enabled the progression of the project. Through our efforts we have been able to expose many Victorian Periodicals to scholars around the world that are interested in researching British sociopolitical periodicals and desire to make connections with the past.
The Victorian Collection can be found by following this link to the Internet Archive: http://www.archive.org/details/victorianbrighamyounguniv.