Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 Relaunch

The Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 digital editorial project has officially relaunched with a fully redesigned user experience. This project began in 1993, when Ted Crackel and a team of researchers worked for nearly a decade to piece together the records of the War Office that burned in 1800, destroying everything inside. You can read more about the history of the War Department here. In 2006, RRCHNM took over the project, and moved the collection from CD-ROM to the web. In 2011, RRCHNM developed Scripto, a community transcription tool that allows users to transcribe the over 40,000 items in the collection.

In 2017, the Papers team entered a new phase of the project supported by an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Digital Extension Grant and a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities. Sheila Brennan led the team as our first Principal Investigator until June 2018, when our Editor-in-Chief Christopher Hamner moved into this role.

The NEH grant allowed us to upgrade the Scripto plugin, now available as a beta, to further enhance the transcription experience for Papers of the War Department and the many digital projects that rely on this tool. Over the next year, the team will continue to refine the Scripto tool as well as a Transcription theme for Omeka S. The ACLS grant facilitated the redesign of the Papers of the War Department website, including a new browsing and transcription interface and teaching modules to bring the War Department papers into the classroom. Our lead developer Jim Safley managed the migration of nearly 200 gigabytes of content to the new website and developed the new Scripto module. Our lead designer Kim Nguyen fully redesigned the website and user experience and is building the Transcription theme for Omeka S.

Alyssa Fahringer served as Project Manager during the first phase of the redesign, while Jessica Dauterive has stepped in as Project Manager since January 2019. Both Fahringer and Dauterive worked closely with Megan Brett, who serves as Outreach Coordinator, to implement a new outreach strategy for the project. The team has made several public presentations, including a teaching demonstration at the National Council for History Education meeting in Washington, D.C.; a poster session at the National Council on Public History annual meeting in Hartford, CT; and a lightning talk on the project at the Organization of American Historians meeting in Philadelphia.

We are grateful that the Papers has been able to maintain a committed base of transcribers and researchers. A new Twitter outreach plan will invite new users into this community, including genealogists, teachers, and researchers in various fields from Native American to food to federal history. You can follow us @wardeptpapers.