Their Own Words is
a collection of books, pamphlets, letters, and diaries, dating
from the latter eighteenth through the
early twentieth century, that reflects the history of the United
States. The project has as its ongoing goal the digitization
of select materials from the Dickinson College Archives and
Special Collections that will be of value to researchers of
all types. The items chosen for inclusion in this project have
the common theme that they all represent, in some way, the
original thought and words of individuals who had an association
with Dickinson College, and who thus represent an important
part of its historical educational mission. These individual
writers and thinkers each made their own impact on society
- sometimes locally, sometimes nationally, and sometimes globally
- and they all contributed to engaging issues of debate in
their time. Through the digitization of these materials, we
are pleased to be able to provide access to them to scholars
of all types around the world. Further, in order to facilitate
an understanding of these materials, we have provided biographical
sketches for each author and contextual notes for each book
or collection of letters. (This information can be found through
the browse lists.) In a few cases, we have also been able to
provide book reviews contemporary to the original publication date
of the book in question.
The materials presented in Their
Own Words were gathered from among the collections of the
Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections. Chartered
in 1783, Dickinson College is among the oldest institutions of
higher education in the United States, and as a result its special
collections mirror the history and growth of this country, providing
a wealth of resources valuable to a broad cross-section of educators
and researchers. Careful consideration has gone into the selection
of each and every item, and criteria for selection were particularly
focused on a) materials difficult to access due to their rarity,
b) materials from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, c)
materials with broad interdisciplinary application, and d) materials
that are at risk from a preservation point of view.
At present, the Their Own Words database
holds more than 22,000 full-text searchable page images; these
include 57 books, 13 pamphlets, 7 letter collections, and 1 diary.
Each individual page has been scanned at an appropriate resolution
to allow for reading directly from the page image. Full transcripts
of every page image are also included to allow for full-text
and, particularly in the case of the handwritten materials, ease
of reading. The collection spans more than 150 years of history,
the materials ranging in date from 1764 to 1918.
General themes were identified during the selection of materials,
and all of the materials can be categorized by at least one of
the following topics: colonial American politics; U.S. politics,
government, and foreign relations; historical biography and autobiography;
slavery and abolition; the American Civil War; the temperance
movement; foreign travel; economics; medicine; philosophy; and
Their Own Words utilizes
CONTENTdm digital collection
management software to organize and present its materials online.
CONTENTdm allows for the virtual recreation of hierarchical materials
online, making it possible to read through a book or a series
of letters on screen as you would with the physical copy in hand.
Another key feature of CONTENTdm's Document Viewer is its ability
to display page images and full-text transcripts side by side;
this vastly simplifies the process of reading 18th-century penmanship
while still allowing the reader to appreciate the style and format
of the original writing. CONTENTdm has been optimized for use
in Internet Explorer, and not all of its features are compatible
with other browsers. For more information on CONTENTdm and its
application in Their Own Words, please
see our help pages.
Work on this project began on July 1, 2002; the project website
was formally launched on October 31, 2003.
Work on Their Own Words can be divided into various stages,
including the selection of materials for digitization, the
selection of appropriate hardware and software, pre-processing
of materials and testing for quality and consistency, final
processing of materials, website development, and content development.
For more detailed information on how we proceeded with this
project, please visit our separate page on processing.
Numerous undergraduate students and Archives
employees also provided valuable assistance toward this project.
preparation of materials included transcribing letters, editing
OCR'd text, hand-keying text, and performing original research.
Our special thanks go to Brian Adams, Jennifer Bullick,
Andrew Cassidy-Amstutz, Megan Cole, Krista Gray, Christopher Holden, Cara Holtry, Cynthia Mackey,
Anne O'Connor, Christina Rosenberry, Claire Sadar,
Allison Schell, R. Jason Snow, Amy Sopcak, Alyssa Them, John M. Thompson,
Malinda Triller, Suzanne Ugliarolo, and Cassandra Wargo.
As part of our project grant, we requested the input of an outside
consultant to make recommendations as we proceeded with the project.
For his valuable advice and guidance throughout the development
of Their Own Words, we are very grateful to Edward Galloway,
Coordinator of the Digital Research Library at the University
of Pittsburgh. We would also like to extend thanks to the team
of instructors (Helen Tibbo, Seamus Ross, Ian Anderson, Paul
Conway, and Lisa Spiro) at the Digitization for Cultural Heritage
Professionals workshop in March 2001 at the University of North
Carolina. What was learned in those five days provided a solid
foundation that allowed us to build on our own digital experiences
Conditions of Use
Dickinson College retains all rights to the digital
images and original content presented on this website.
The Their Own Words website is intended
for educational and research purposes only. These materials may
be used freely for teaching and academic research and may be linked
from other websites; use of the images, transcriptions, and original
content contained in Their Own Words
should be properly credited to the source.
Any and all commercial use of the materials on the Their
Own Words website is strictly prohibited without written
permission from Dickinson College. Reproductions of materials
and licensing for use are available, upon request, for a fee.
If you would like to use the materials presented here for publication
or presentation, please contact the Dickinson College Archives
and Special Collections.
Page created: August 20, 2003