Founders Online: Early Access

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As an Assistant Editor and Project Manager at Documents Compass, Founders Online: Early Access is my current project. As a graduate student, I worked on the pilot project in 2009. Back then, we worked on proofreading or transcribing only 5,000 letters from the Papers of James Madison and Papers of John Adams documentary editions.

From 2012-2014, however, we have worked on 50,000 early access letters written by the some of the most prominent men in the Founding Era of United States history, namely, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Working with documents encoded in the TEI standard for XML, we devised a totally digital workflow in order to enable a large staff of over thirty employees to scan, transcribe, and proofread thousands of documents in a short amount of time. You can learn more about our staff and their experiences thanks to a recent show by, With Good Reason, a radio program based at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Fortunately, we were able to complete our under budget, allowing us to get an extension to our contract and work on several other projects that will appear on Founders Online next year, including nearly 3,000 Alexander Hamilton letters from the Quasi-War and both volumes of the Thomas Jefferson Memorandum Books.

These early access documents are meant to provide the public with temporary versions of thousands of important letters that help shed light on the creation of the American Republic and are free to access for scholars, students, and the general public alike. In addition, there are over 100,000 fully-vetted and annotated letters from the six editorial projects represented in Founders Online (the five gentlemen named above, plus Benjamin Franklin).

In addition to giving early access to these letters to the general public, our work was meant to help projects transcribe letters they had not gotten to yet, to help them by doing another round of proofreading before their editors began their own work. It would not have been possible without the help of editorial staffs of the five projects, David Sewell and his team at UVA Press’s Rotunda, and the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).