Thursday, February 6, 2014

Coming soon to digital...

An NHS team of volunteer researchers has been working this week at the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) main branch in downtown Washington D.C.  Their mission - completely digitize all of Hornet's deck logs.  The logs, which are bound into 15 huge volumes encompassing an estimated 5,000 pages, cover nearly all of the ship's service - one of the most complete records of any ship of the period.

The intent of this new initiative is to make the actual records of the original Hornet accessible to a wider audience, and enable contributors to help transcribe and organize the information for easier use.  The deck logs are a great place to start - because they are so complete, they provide the perfect framework over which to compare and arrange future research.  After the deck logs, there are still hundreds of muster lists, official reports, official and unofficial journals, drawings and other papers in the NARA collection.

The digitizing process is painfully slow.  Volumes are set up in a lighted copy stand which allows a digital camera to capture detailed images of each page.  One. at. a. time.  Some pages are so frail that they have to be turned with thin rulers to prevent tearing.  To expedite the photographic process and ensure continuity, all of the odd pages are photographed, then the volume turned around to shoot all the even pages.  The database managers then organize the images into their proper order, and convert to PDF files.
One of the smaller logbooks, showing deterioration.

As the team completes each volume, it'll be announced in our weekly newsletter The Pennant.  The immediate disposition of the PDFs - until our website is reworked to support the database - is still up in the air.  Ideally I'd like to get them online somehow as soon as possible.  In the meantime, anyone interested in helping to transcribe the logs should send an email to and let us know - we're going to need all the help we can get!


UPDATE:  Of course I'm behind the curve on this - at the time of writing the crew has already completed scanning the first of 15 volumes, and is well on their way toward completing the sorting/formatting process.  Standby for more - these guys are ON IT!

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