Over the past few months we have had over 80,000 pages of text scanned either through the Internet Archive program, or for our church records microfilm/scan project. When we got started on figuring out what should be scanned, it felt like we'd never get results, but there we are now, rolling along at a very prodigious rate.
Given how far we've come with this work and considering how many new readers we've gotten over the past 6 months, it seemed like a good time to give some exposition about this church records program.
About two years ago in '07, the library launched a program in which we sought out 17th and 18th century Massachusetts church records. Some motivation for doing this stemmed from Connecticut centralizing their records in their state archives thanks to a WPA project seventy years ago. Massachusetts doesn't have that, but ideally it should. When we launched our project, we hoped start down that path but with a modern twist. We would microfilm significant colonial records for preservation and store them together at the library, but we would also have a modern access option by creating a digital copy for the public to use.
Our director, Peggy, teamed up with CL ally, Jeff Cooper, to acquire the documents. Shortly thereafter, we made a connection with Ken Minkema and the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale. The JEC's online collection is stunning, and our project dove-tailed nicely. When the library got a guided tour of the site, we were particularly struck with how the original manuscripts had side by side comparison to the transcription. Working with Ken and his staff has been very promising, although our library staff is dealing with a steep learning curve. We chose the smallest collection for our beta testing. We hope that migrating our copies to the JEC will get easier after we learn first hand what the parameters are.
What collections are in this project, you ask? The earliest churches from these Massachusetts towns: Bradford, Franklin, Grafton, Hanover, Mattapoisett, Middleboro, Oxford, Rowley, and Natick, plus recent addtions yet to have any processing from Falmouth and Wenaham.
Some additional material we've had scanned that meshes with the church records are the Gideon Hawley diaries, and our former librarian, Harold Worthley's book, which documents early Massachusetts church record locations. Hal's inventory has always been an important reference work for the library and researchers. It has been instrumental in establishing the path we've taken with this project. An interesting side note is that Hal is currently transcribing the Hawley diaries. We'll be working on making his work and the originals available after the transcription is ready.