Monday, 28 July 2014 09:06

Discussion #6 — Digital Projects

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This blog entry shall delve into the various archival pursuits I have been involved with since my last blog entry, Discussion #5 — A Dunkard's Honor, in July of this year. It has been well received and has been read in excess of 200 times to date. One would think that a kind note to this author for the effort would have have been in order. Unfortunately, the more people have expectations that their research is online, the worse the social graces become when they read that same item of interest. This also applies to several e-mails recently sent regarding the Hendricks and Mack families as well as my latest creation, the Kansas district history by Prof. Craik of McPherson College. What a treacherous road to travel down for society, ignoring the niceties.

Snyder–Snider–Schneider Data Newsletter record set [Click for larger image]Moving on. . .  Recently, while discussing some mutual items of interest with Mr. Robert A. Longbottom, a long time researcher of the Brethren Snyder family of Bedford county, Pennsylvania, his self-published newsletter Snyder–Snider–Schneider Data Newsletter of the 1980's came up.  To be honest, I stumbled upon it while looking through the Library of Congress' site for something else.  I noticed that they, the library, had only a partial listing of all the issues.

Contacting Mr. Longbottom, he was receptive to permitting me to digitize his one remaining set.  After receiving this set a several week project of scanning them was commenced culminating in the creation of 471 files at 21+ gigabytes and 5 DVDs.  At present the DVD archive set will be housed at the Ashland University Archives of Ashland, Ohio, and it is hoped that other Brethren repositories will eventually hold a set.  Ashland will also receive the originals.  Whether or not this record set shall become available on this site is something for future consideration.

Covers of Ashland Theological Bulletin (1968-1980) [Click for larger image]Working with Mr. David Roepke of the Ashland University Archives, he also serving as the archivist for the Brethren Church Archives, the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs Archives, and as pertaining to this mention, the Ashland Theological Seminary Archives, it was discussed whether to take a small sampling of some small journals for digital processing.

My interest was due to several historical articles concerning the Brethren in the 1975 volume by such noted Brethren historians as Donald F. Durnbaugh (1927-2005), Homer A. Kent, Sr. (1898-1981), Roger E. Sappington (1929-1989), Marcus Miller (1938-     ), Robert G. Clouse (1931-     ), Dale W. Brown (1926-     ).  He being interested in digitally archiving this record set, the Ashland Theological Bulletin, was finalized in a digital fashion.  This record set climaxed in the creation of some 1500+ files totaling 17 gigabytes, and 5 discs.  The originals will be returned to Mr. Roepke with the archive discs being included.

We decided, David and I, to post this record set online.  The existing cumulative archives web site managed by Mr. Roepke can be viewed here.  That existing site is dated with the underlying structure needing significant revision to handle more modern demands.  Efforts are presently underway to move his online collections to a more modern CMS based development, funding and time on his part being the limiting factor.  The former more than the latter.  The demonstration site can be viewed here and is a joint development between Mr. Roepke and I.

The entire record set for the Ashland Theological Bulletin can be accessed on the site with the first volume available to all visitors.  As a visitor might see, the first volume of 1968, the web page having been created in July and the last in September, has already been visited in excess of 80 times.  We are awaiting a synopsis of the material contained in the series as well as a description for the series.  They are said to exist.  All that is required for access to the others is a properly vetted account on the server.  No charges are incurred for the site, it being for a non-profit organization—my dime and time—with some support by Mr. Roepke.

A History of the Church of the Brethren in Kansas record set [Click for larger image]The last major project of this past summer was the finalization of Professor Elmer LeRoy Craik's (1886-1938) A History of the Church of the Brethren in Kansas.  Self-published by him in 1922, it remains one of the finest written state Brethren histories, in this writer's opinion.  The author is short and concise in his statements, unlike this writer, and one knowledgeable of Brethren publications can easily see that he researched thru many of the Brethren newspapers available to him.  Unlike more modern compilations for print, there are no citations as to where the data was obtained.  Conversely, it is obvious from his musings that he also had access to many first-hand accounts of these Brethren pioneers of Kansas.

Archive.Org:  A History of the Church of the Brethren in Kansas record set [Click for larger image]I have had the images of this record set languishing on my server since December of 2009, needing to have the tonally adjusted images converted for online use.  I have used the searchable PDF during this time and it has been one of my steadfast research tools.  The other factor was the time to perform other archival obligations for the set.

So. . . in the past several weeks I have taken the time to make this record available to others.  The digital compilation is 3 DVDs at 11½ gigabytes and 1200+ files.  The time has been taken to make all the necessary corrections to the OCRed text preparatory to creating the web pages.  In essence this will make the book full text searchable on the site.  It needs just a little more to be completed.  More on this later. . .

Recently on the Brethren mailing list, after I commented on the Kansas district history, some commented that it was available on the Internet.  This is true.  It is not, however, my intent to replace those sites.  My intent is to provide a true archival reproduction of those works I spend my time on.  I offer the following suggestion.

Click on the 3-page image to the upper right, examining the quality of it.  Now click on the image to the left.  Notice the difference in the tonals as well as the cropping off of the left part of the page.  And this particular book is far better than the majority of our online Brethren "archive."  The majority of the files at that site are little better than "Vaseline-like" 2nd and 3rd generation copies.  It is what it is—a shameful illusion to a digital archive.  What do you want to leave to future generations!

One last thing.  As I reported to the Rootsweb Brethren mailing list I recently created a Facebook page.  This was more because people were sharing a portion of these blogs, and other records on this site, using that social medium.  These social websites somewhat disturb me as I feel no one needs to know what I had for dinner last evening, etc. etc.  At this time I am considering it a necessary evil, reminiscent of some of the problems our more conservative Brethren address daily.  Please bear with me as this is new, and confounding, for me.

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A. Wayne Webb

A long time historian of the German Baptist Brethren church, and its more modern derivative bodies, Mr. Webb has moved on to become a recognized authority in digitally archiving manuscripts, both published works as well as singular documents.  He served as the Editor of Brethren Roots, 2002 to 2008, as published by The Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists.  To that end he has created and maintains a series of Internet web sites devoted to his passion, German Baptist Brethren history.

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