MdHS is happy to announce that the digitization of Der Deutsche Correspondent has resumed.

As many of you who have followed this blog may already know, Jennifer Ferretti left the Maryland Historical Society and the Hilgenberg Archive Project back in August last year to attend library school. I stepped in to take over the project at that time, which also happened to be a natural temporary stopping point for the project for a host of reasons: funding, a change in leadership, and news that another institution began working on Der Deutsche Correspondent.*

In May we sent half of our remaining DDC volumes to the Crowley Company in Frederick, Maryland to resume scanning. Since then, we received the good news that funding is in place to complete all remaining volumes. Crowley estimates that it will take six months to complete this stage of the digitization.

In other good news, we recently began working with a new intern, Alexander Russell. Alex is no stranger to the project as he will explain in his greeting below. His duties will range from translation work to acting as a liaison with educators using our DDC files in their classes. Most of all we hope that posts on this blog will become more frequent in the weeks to come. (Joe Tropea)

Please join me in a hearty internet welcome to Alex…

Greetings! My name is Alex Russell. I first became aware of the Hilgenberg Archive/Project in 2010 while studying  at UMBC, where I concentrated in German and Chinese. I was introduced to the paper as part of a translation course, in which we translated short segments articles. After graduating, I approached the Maryland Historical Society to see if the project was still active. Now, I am translating the paper one segment at a time to make it available to the public.

Der Deutsche Correspondent covers such a wide variety of topics and materials: from historic events such as the Mexican Revolution, World War I, and the Suffragette Movement(s); to national news, culture and modernization; to even the most mundane local developments. Der Deutsche Correspondent provides an multifaceted and very human perspective of the German community in not only Baltimore or Maryland, but the East coast and America as a whole. The paper also highlights the rapid developments that mark the period of modernization around the turn of the century, giving rise to industry and technology as we know it today. The paper’s Sunday edition includes focus articles on cultural topics, such as travel, art, music and fashion. Comics, art nouveau illustrations, and photographs will also be uncovered for the first time in over half a century.

Currently, I have access to about 20,000 plus pages from which to translate. Therefore, if any reader is interested in a particular topic, theme, or occurrence, I am certainly able to keep an eye out for that topic as I work to make these historic stories available to the public.

—Alex Russell

*Look for more news on this last point as it develops.


Now that we are looking in to creating a website centered around the Hilgenberg Archive/German Heritage Archive, I would like to share my ideas for the site. I would like the site to feature:

  • Searchable pages of Der Deutsche Correspondent (we’re looking in to the ABBYY Historic OCR software, see previous post).
  • The pages of the newspaper translated to both English and German (if possible).
  • A section for comments.
  • A photograph gallery for contemporary photos.
  • A section that features other German-related MdHS collections that could possibly expand to collections held by other institutions throughout Maryland.
  • Bibliographic section that features reference materials for German Heritage researchers.
Overall I would love for the website to feature great design that is easy for visitors to use.
If you have a favorite archive website that features a collection that you think I should take a look at, please feel free to comment on this post.

With the year 2011 rapidly coming to an end, I am thinking about how to proceed with the Hilgenberg Archive. Access has always been our main objective.

UPDATE: I have applied for a trial version of the ABBYY Historic OCR software. I am very excited to hear from the IT Manager at MdHS as to how we can get started. Please see the comments section of this post.

I was hoping that the wonderful program that Library of Congress is leading, the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), would open itself to German-language titles but so far this is the criteria:

Newspaper titles that document a significant minority community at the state or region level during the target time period (1836-1922) should be considered as a means to balance content. Only English, French, Italian, and Spanish language titles may be converted during this NDNP phase.

Other than the fact that DDC is German, it would fit the NDNP quite well.

After speaking with the IT Manager at MdHS, we have considered the best options for creating a German Heritage Archive website which would prominently feature the Hilgenberg Archive. This would allow visitors to view the newspaper images (most likely as PDFs but this has not yet been determined) and to find out more about the project. I would also include other German-related items in the MdHS collection. This will take careful planning as we would like a website that could be manipulated later on, is designed well, is easy to use, and acts as a forum for all interested visitors.

This is what we will be considering for the next few weeks. After we have an understanding of what we would like to see on the website, we will request quotes from web designers.

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. Just a few weeks into 2011, excitement ensues. Just before I left for a two week vacation in December before Christmas, I received a visit from Mr. Carl Hilgenberg and guests. It was lovely to speak with the group about the archive and plans for the future. On an unrelated note, just before leaving the library, Mr. Hilgenberg spoke with our Senior Reference Librarian, Francis O’Neill, about property in downtown Baltimore. I learned that ground rent is a very old tradition here in Baltimore; this cleared up what was almost myth-like for me as a non-homeowner.

When my two weeks of vacation was about to come to an end, I developed bronchitis and missed almost the entire first week of work in January. It was quite the ordeal. However, just after I began to feel well enough to come to work, I received notice that the Charles Edward Hilgenberg Archive received a generous donation from the Ross and Grace Pierpont Charitable Trust! Ron Barbagallo, IT Manager, and I have had preliminary discussions about possibly vetting web site developers in order to receive an estimate on a site for the Hilgenberg Archive. These additional funds would certainly  help us pay for such an endeavor. While we have not yet found a company with the software needed to OCR (translate and index) the digital files, we hope that uploading the images we have now to a site and having a clear statement on what we need additional funds for, would raise awareness of the archive and what we hope to do.

I am hoping that the Library of Congress/National Endowment for the Humanities National Digital Newspaper Program will begin accepting German-language newspapers. If this happens, Der Deutsche Correspondent would be a strong candidate for the project. Here is a list of requirements for the project:

  • The newspaper significantly reflects the political, economic and cultural history of the State. These include, but are not limited to, titles of statewide or regional influence and titles important as a source of information about a variety of ethnic, racial, political, economic, religious, or other special audiences or interest groups.”
  • Contains “news of state and regional governmental affairs, and announcements of community news and events, including births, deaths, and marriages.”
  • “Preference should be given to titles that provide state coverage or at least multi-county coverage of a majority of the population.”
  • “Scanning will be limited initially to the time period 1836-1922…”
  • “document a significant minority community at the state or region level during the target time period (1836-1922) should be considered as a means to balance content.”

I have to wonder whether or not the reason for only allowing English, French, Italian, and Spanish newspapers at the moment is because of the OCR issues with German Gothic Script. This part of America had a large number of German immigrants during the targeted time period so German newspapers should be considered valuable as documented news.

I have been kept very busy in the Department of Imaging Services at the Maryland Historical Society. We are gearing up for three new exhibitions (Civil War, War of 1812, and historic fashion accessories), launching our new web site, involving ourselves with more collaborations, publications, patron requests etc. Nevertheless, the Hilgenberg Archive continues to be on my mind.

In an attempt to create national interest in the Hilgenberg Archive, I have identified some key German History groups throughout the United States in order to send information about the Hilgenberg Archive to their members. I certainly have yet to discover all of the wonderful groups that celebrate and educate the public about German history. If you would like to contribute to my mailing list, please leave a comment here!

Meanwhile, we are continuing our search for grants that will help support the next steps for the Hilgenberg Archive (which will result in public access). We have partnered with Loyola University Maryland in our search for additional funding. With Loyola’s strong German program and Der Deutsche Correspondent‘s richness in German history, we believe this partnership will benefit both parties profusely.

It’s hard to believe the Hilgenberg Archive has been in progress for one year. In honor of my one year anniversary, I’ve re-organized my Hilgenberg Archive paperwork and made a priority list for the coming months.

This month we were able to install a server on-site that is completely dedicated to all 84,000 Der Deutsche Correspondent digital files. Since only half of the collection has been digitized, 42,000 currently reside on the server. When the second half of the collection is digitized, there will be plenty of space on the server to accommodate the entire collection.

Here are a few things that I have been working on recently:

  • How we are planning on making this collection accessible is always on my mind. During one of our regular library staff meetings, one of my colleagues made a suggestion: we should consider partnering with a university or other library with a strong German-language program or collection. This would be great on many levels. It would give us the opportunity to share the collection with students or people seeking this collection for educational reasons.
  • As an archive located in downtown Baltimore, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by many colleges and universities that offer advanced levels of German. I am currently searching for a university or college in which our Der Deutsche Correspondent collection would be a perfect fit.
  • The MdHS Grants Writer is currently searching for grants or other opportunities to help MdHS with sharing the archive. An archive of this size requires many resources. This is exactly why I would love for MdHS to partner with a college or university. The more collaboration, the more obvious this collection will be for research.
  • We continue to work on our options for Optical Character Recognition (OCR). A decision about which company to go with depends on many factors so a thorough examination is required.

We are very excited about the possibilities. I am looking forward to speaking with possible collaborators in order to make sure this archive is used to the fullest extent.

As 2010 quickly approaches, I can honestly say that I am very pleased with where the Hilgenberg Archive stands right now. From March, 2009 through December, 2009, the following has been accomplished or is in process:

– An inventory of the collection was reviewed and corrected.
– The Crowley Company was identified as the most appropriate and experienced vendor to digitize the over-sized newspaper volumes.
– Re-wrapped Der Deutsche Correspondent volumes in archival Tyvek.
– The Crowley Company picked up 50 of the 98 volumes to start the digitization process.
– Identified which volumes would not quite make it through digitization and asked the Enoch Pratt Free Library to loan MdHS the necessary microfilm reels (which we’re very grateful for!).
– Received about 3/4 of the digital files of the first 50 volumes and began the post-production process (which includes embedding metadata, slight adjustments, and creating web-sized JPGs).
– And finally, at the end of November, planning for the Hilgenberg Archive reception to take place in January has begun. We are very excited to be hosting the reception and bringing the Baltimore and surrounding community interested in German Heritage to MdHS to hear about the project.

Planning for the reception will continue throughout this month. We looking forward to 2010 and to the future of the Hilgenberg Archive.