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The Madison's Heritage Project

Concept

The idea for this project started a few years ago while I was at Eastern. I had always known that my grandpa had articles come out in the paper every week, and had done so for a long time, but I never seriously thought about the significance of his and his coauthor’s work. I began thinking about the importance of a body of work that had stretched over four decades. I wondered about how many articles there were, what they were about, and where I could find them all. I thought that it would be really amazing to find answers to these questions and to collect all the articles and somehow share them with a new and larger audience.

When thinking about what I could do for my honors senior thesis during the spring 2010 semester, I kept thinking about my grandpa’s Madison’s Heritage articles. To be honest, I thought that working with the column for my honors thesis, would actually make me go through with the project that I was envisioning. I had a meeting with Dr. Linda Frost, the Honors Program director in May and told her what I was thinking about doing for my thesis. She was extremely supportive and encouraging. I told her that I wanted to collect and compile all the Madison’s Heritage articles and publish a selected volume in book form and put all of the articles on the internet in some way, in order for me to find the answers to some of my questions about the body of work and to share the collection with a larger audience. She was a little concerned about the scope of the project, but definitely helped in my decision to base my honors thesis on the Madison’s Heritage collection.

Process

On May 27, 2010, I turned in my thesis proposal. I proposed cataloging and digitizing all of the articles that my grandpa had written or maybe both authors had written since 1969. (I really wanted to do all of the articles from the beginning, but still was deciding on the feasibility of doing them all.) Then I proposed publishing a fourth volume, selecting in cooperation with the authors the best articles and also making the collection of articles available through the internet. The written portion of my thesis would be writing a short introduction to the book. This basic three-part proposal has continued throughout the project.

I still had many questions about the process, feasibility, and scope of the project when I submitted my proposal. I had to figure out the logistics of compiling and publishing as well as the importance and function of the project and the Madison’s Heritage collection. I was still unsure of the best way to collect and compile the articles. I thought that the articles should be in the library and knew my family had the clippings. I had to figure out how to group or organize the articles and the best way to digitize the articles. I had to find out a little about how online databases work and how to get the articles into a searchable database, as well as figuring out a process to try to find the best articles for publication. I had to figure out how books are published and search for local publishers who would be interested in the volume.

When submitting my proposal, I was still trying to figure out the significance of the project. I had to figure out how the articles fit into the history of the area and learn about the importance of area history and how people like my grandpa carry on community history and memories. I wanted to do a kind of analysis of the articles and figure out why people like Fred Engle and his readers put importance on historical events and places and want to learn and reminisce about them. I knew that part of my introduction would be writing about the function of works such as “Madison’s Heritage” and the purpose they serve. I also was trying to decide how much input my grandpa would have on the project and how he could help me through the process. I knew from the beginning that through this project I would get the chance to get closer with my grandparents and learn about the Richmond area. I thought that it was important to know where you’ve come from and I thought that through the project I would learn a lot about my town, my family, and myself.

I wasn’t able to do much work over the summer break, but my first major breakthrough on the project was discovering the collection of Madison’s Heritage articles in the library archives. I have been very lucky throughout this process to have Jackie Couture of the library archives guide me. I went down to the EKU library archives sometime in the summer or early fall and was able to find exactly the person I needed. Jackie showed me the bound volumes of Madison’s Heritage that were in the back of the archives. The staff of the Townsend Room had photocopied, compiled, and bound the years 1969 through 1997 in orange books. Some of the books even had indices and Jackie was also able to find an unbound collection of the years 1998 through 2003. What a discovery! I was absolutely ecstatic because I was unsure if the library had such a collection.

I decided to start by scanning the volumes from the library collection. Jackie allowed me to make the tough decision to cut up the books in order to put them through the automatic document feeder to be scanned much more quickly. It took about fifteen minutes to disassemble a book and get it ready for scanning, and then it took about an hour for all the pages to scan. I figured that scanning without using the document feeder would take at least 2-3 hours per book and would not be as high quality as using the feeder. I felt really bad about cutting up the work that people had taken hours on, but I knew this would be the easiest way for me to scan and I knew that in the end, my project would replace and be more comprehensive than the bound volumes that were in the archives. I disassembled and scanned the volumes for pretty much all of the fall 2010 semester and into the beginning of the spring semester. I scanned the pages at 600 dpi and saved them as TIFF files. I started with the year 2003 and went backwards. The scans, which were, for the most part in chronological order, were automatically numbered and saved in folders by year on the library computer. I then copied the files onto my portable hard drive. I saved everything from then on through the process onto my hard drive. I was in the library every Friday afternoon, working through the years of articles.

I realized that the next step would be preparing the individual scans for going through the OCR (optical character recognition) program, which would convert the pictures into Microsoft Word documents. Jackie told me to use Microsoft Picture Manager to rotate, crop, and correct the pictures so they could be put into the program and come out with the best results. This was also a very time consuming process. As I corrected the pictures I also input them into a spreadsheet. My spreadsheet had every year as a tab, and I entered data for the date, title, author, and file name. I had columns specifying the format of the article I had, including TIFF, clipping, and Word document. I had started with printed calendars and was planning on marking the dates that I had articles for, but I dropped that idea as soon as I realized how flexible using an Excel spreadsheet would be.

During the fall semester, while I was cutting, scanning, cropping, and entering data, I was also trying to find the electronic version of Grandpa’s articles on various computers owned by my family. I gathered files from my dad’s laptop, his work computer, my mom’s computer, and my family’s old computer. Finding these files would make it so I wouldn’t have to use the OCR program for some of the later articles that we still had in digital format. Also, since my grandpa was still, (and still is) writing articles every week, I made sure my dad would send me the electronic copy of every new article. My grandpa and Dr. Grise started writing Madison’s Heritage on manual typewriters, then electric typewriters, and eventually, computers. I remember when I was growing up having Grandpa come over to use our computer downstairs, bringing his yellow legal pad and having my dad help him save and print. Now, Grandpa writes his articles on yellow legal paper and brings them to Dad for him to type and send to the Register.

Throughout the fall I was also attending the thesis class. It helped to keep my project always in my mind. On September 21st, our first assignment was due. We had to break our thesis down into a topic with a conceptual question, conceptual significance, and potential practical application. What I came up with was: (topic) I am studying articles in the column Madison’s Heritage, (conceptual question) because I want to find out more about Madison County and the authors of the column, (conceptual significance) in order to help readers understand the importance of local histories, (potential practical application) so that readers might be able to use these histories in research and become more knowledgeable about Madison County. I found that my project was pure research had a conceptual problem. This helped me better define the project and think about the “why” question. It helped me think about the wider picture while I was doing all the extremely tedious preliminary work.

As I was cutting, scanning, cropping, and entering data, I also began putting the scanned pictures into the OCR software. Jackie taught me how to use it and I began the process. I ran the TIFF files as a batch through Adobe Photoshop for a final adjustment before running them through the OCR. I put all of the pictures for one year into the OCR at the same time and came out with a word document with all of the articles from that year. The OCR did a good job picking up on the words, but wasn’t completely precise. I knew I would have to edit and separate what the program gave me, but using the software was a lot easier than retyping all of the over 2,000 articles.

So, during the fall of 2010 I was simultaneously cutting up books, scanning, cropping, entering data, and running TIFF files through OCR software. I had different years in different stages of the process and tried to keep everything as organized as possible. Throughout the semester, the work itself reassured me of the significance and importance of the project. I realized it was the most worthy project I had ever worked on and I constantly had what I had envisioned as the end result in the back of my mind. I was seriously excited throughout the entire process. I admittedly had some highs and lows through the 2010-2011 school year, sometimes being really pumped about working on the project and at other times, not wanting to do anything with it, but I persisted. I often felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the project, but I had to think about taking it pieces at a time. I would get over my slumps and keep going.

On November 30, 2010, I finished my interim report for the thesis. I reflected on the process of digitizing and how I learned to convert the articles that were bound in volumes into a digital format that I could work with. I reported that I learned a lot about the articles themselves, the subject matter, and trends within the article set and that I decided to include both Fred Engle’s and Robert Grise’s articles. I wanted to have the complete set and did not want to settle with just half when I found almost all of the articles together in the library volumes.

I still had many questions when I gave my interim report. I still wondered about the enormity of the project and exactly how much I would be able to complete. I wanted to get as much finished as possible. I was still wary about the scope and time involved in the project. I felt it was a daunting undertaking, but I also felt like it was a project that needed to be done for Madison County, for EKU, and for the authors. I was constantly being reassured of the importance and significance of this project.

For my interim report and for the entire project, my problem statement didn’t change. I still wanted to help readers understand the importance of local histories, so that they might be able to use these histories in research and become more knowledgeable about Madison County. From the beginning, I envisioned bringing these articles to a wider audience to be used, but at my interim report I was still unsure of what the final product would look like.

By November I was still unsure of how the entire set of articles will be published on the web. I wanted to have all the articles online somehow, organized by date and searchable. I also wanted people to be able to browse the articles by subject matter or theme. I still did not know how to go about doing this, but was consulting with Jackie the whole time.

I also didn’t know how I would go about publishing the volume of selected articles. I decided that the articles could be selected and arranged in the book thematically, but I did not yet have a publisher. As I was figuring out the digitization process, I was also looking into publishers. I did some searches online and started a list of possibilities. I arranged a meeting with the Madison County Historical Society on December 10th to approach them about publishing the book or giving me suggestions for the project.

When I gave my interim report I also didn’t know how indexing would work or if I would have to do an index. I also didn’t know the best way to go about cross referencing the library articles with Grandpa’s clippings, which I needed to do to double check the accuracy of the library collection and to supplement it. I also needed to still do interviews with the authors.

By my interim report, my original project proposal changed little. I had learned a lot more about the digitization process and had done a lot of work, but I still had many questions left to answer.

On December 10, 2010, I went to the Madison County Historical Society meeting. This led to the second major breakthrough for the project. I presented my project to the group and they weren’t necessarily interested in publishing it, but Keven McQueen said he had some books published with a publisher called The History Press, and that they might be interested in taking on my project. The company specializes in concise works of local and regional history, richly illustrated and marketed to local readership. Keven contacted the publisher and soon after I got an email from the commissioning editor, Will McKay asking about my project. I called him on the phone and talked to him a little about the project then requested a publication proposal form. I found out that The History Press has a series called “American Chronicles,” which fit my project absolutely perfectly. According to Will, “Books in this series function as collections of historical vignettes, collected from newspaper columns, magazines or historical society newsletters, to present a distinctive look at a community’s past. Books in this series tend to run about 30,000 to 35,000 words and at least 50 to 60 images of historic local places, people and events.” This was exactly the type of thing I was proposing. The only major issue was that I needed images to go with the book. In February he sent me a book in the series free of charge for me to look at and I also ordered two more books in the series to get a better idea of what the books are like and how I could plan the Madison’s Heritage book.

After finding out about The History Press, I thought about the pros and cons of using them as my publisher. I was unsure if I wanted to make the book fit their format with the pictures and the word limit, but on the other hand, this was a very professional publishing company that produced really amazing quality books. I could come out with a Madison’s Heritage Volume IV and print, publish, and distribute on my own or I could take advantage of The History Press’ expertise and reputation and have them publish the book. I went back and forth for a while. I had a meeting with Dr. Linda Frost and she thought using The History Press would be the best idea. Though I would lose some creative ownership, I would learn how to work with a publishing company and be able to say I published a book with a professional press.

Unfortunately, I got very little done on the project over Christmas break. I was in a slump and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I should have been cropping and scanning, but I couldn’t bring myself to work on anything. I did work on editing Word documents for the year 2007 over Christmas. I found that it took an unbelievably long amount of time to go through what the OCR had come out with and check it with the original articles. I had originally planned to have all the Word documents edited and ready to go by the end of the spring semester, but I learned that this would be nearly impossible because of the time involved. I decided just to go on as planned, focusing on getting all of the cataloging, cropping, and running the pictures through the OCR program finished, and editing as much of the OCR’ed documents that I could or saving them for a later time. I also started making a key words Excel sheet for the year 2007 with specific subject words and dates for each of the articles. I figured that this would be like the index that I would use. I ended up never using what I generated because the website would allow each article to be searched by any keyword and I did not need an index for all of the individual articles.

When school started back up, I got things going again. I finished up cropping, entering data, and running the files through the OCR throughout the beginning of the semester. I began cross referencing what I had with Grandpa’s collection sometime early in the semester. He had all of the article clippings in drawers in his study. I began going through the drawers and organizing the articles into file folders, sorting them by date. He already had them pretty much in order and thankfully had written the date of publication on all of the articles. I decided to still keep all of the articles at his house, so they wouldn’t get lost, and work with them there. My grandma helped me as I went through the articles and read the titles, dates, and authors that were in the clippings, and made sure all the information was the same on my spreadsheet which was based on the library collection. I made sure to change my information based on any corrections that Grandpa had written on the article clippings. We found many instances where the author listed on the article was wrong.

We also found that Grandpa’s collection included articles that were missed by the library. I scanned the additional articles I found, adjusted the scans, and entered the data into the spreadsheet, indicating that the new articles were from Grandpa’s collection. One problem that I found was that I had already run many of the years in batch form through the OCR software, but I found these additional articles after the fact. I had to keep the new articles separate and run them through the OCR separately, which meant that many times I ended up with two OCR Word documents for each year, which complicated things a little.

On February 17th, I had my first meeting with Dr. Grise. The previous semester I had gotten his approval to work on his articles as a part of my project, but I had yet to share with him all the details and to interview him. I visited him at his home and interviewed him about the column. I also collected some biographical information. I decided that I would incorporate the information gathered about the column from the authors into my introduction. I also decided that I should write a biography of each of the authors. In April I visited Dr. Grise again to get his full biography. He gave me his approval of the project and I worked with him throughout the rest of the process.

I continued working on the various stages of the process throughout the beginning of the spring semester. I thought about the publishing deal and how I wanted the articles to be presented on the web. I had a major setback early in the semester when I discovered I had some corruption on my portable drive. I was preparing articles to go through the OCR program, when the computer crashed. I was very distraught because I hadn’t backed up my files since December and wasn’t sure of the extent of the corruption on the drive. Luckily in the end, only a few files were damaged. I learned a serious lesson about always having multiple backups while working on important projects.

I prepared a poster detailing my project to be presented at the Kentucky Honors Roundtable on February 26th. Making the poster helped me clarify some of my ideas and the different directions my project was going. I also did a presentation on my project at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference on March 11th. This definitely helped me figure out what I wanted to share about my project with an audience and helped me form a presentation that would be the basis of my thesis presentation in April.

As my compiling and cataloging phase of the project was coming to a close, I began talking with Jackie more seriously about the web platform. She showed me a platform called Omeka and what could be done with it. The website would be a standalone website, hosted by the library, rather than being a part of the Eku library’s Institutional Repository (IR), which we had thought about doing also. We began playing with the program and trying to work out the kinks. It seemed to have the ability to do what I needed it to do, but we just had to figure out how to get everything to work exactly like we wanted. In order to have the ability to browse the individual articles by subject, Jackie explained how I needed to create “tags” or subject words for each of the articles. I had to create CSV (comma separated value) Excel files with the information that the web platform needed, including date, title, author, tags, and a special filename that connected the uploaded files to the information on the CSV. A lot of what Jackie was saying about the inner workings of the platform was over my head. As she continued to find a “theme” that would have the best layout for my purposes, I started creating tags for the articles.

I came up with twelve different tags for the articles. These tags or subjects seemed to cover the major themes of the Madison’s Heritage collection. My tags were: Berea, Buildings, Businesses, Churches, Education, Events, Government, History, People, Sports, Transportation, and Miscellaneous. It was not too difficult to come up with these tags after working with the articles for so long. I began working on the CSV files for each year and skimming the articles and assigning tags. I decided to tag articles with multiple tags if the article could fit into a number of categories.

At the same time, I was also trying to come up with information for the publication proposal. I was lucky enough to find the sales information for the first three volumes of the Madison’s Heritage books that my grandpa had meticulously kept. This information would help with my publication proposal.

In March and April we started uploading some articles to the web. The program was not doing exactly what we wanted it to do. The formatting seemed to be sloppy and redundant for our purposes. We were uploading the articles then having to create an exhibit within the website. I had to drag and organize the individual articles in the exhibit, which was very time consuming. Around the first week of August, Jackie figured out a different theme to use for the website. This was the third major breakthrough of the project. We installed the theme which made the website look exactly as I had envisioned it from the beginning of the project. It has a homepage where I decided to put an introduction to the Madison’s Heritage collection, as well as information about the authors, and the rights to the articles. It also has tabs across the top of the page that can be added to.

The web page has the ability to browse all articles, browse articles by year, browse articles by tag, upload pictures and attach them to articles, browse pictures, search all of the articles by any word, listen to interviews with the authors, and add new tabs. The individual article web pages have the title, author, date, tag, scan of the article, and the full text of the article, which is searchable. With the web page, the entire 42 years of the Madison’s Heritage column would be at anyone’s finger tips, in an easy to use format and with search capability. It was exactly what I was wanting.

I conducted an interview with Grandpa on April 11, 2011, asking him the same questions I had asked Dr. Grise. I also later interviewed him further in order to write his full biography. I continued working on the authors’ biographies and updating the website to get it ready for my thesis presentation on April 15th.

I presented my thesis, entitled, “Madison’s Heritage: Discovering 42 Years of County History” during the spring 2011 Honors Thesis Conference. I presented my work on the Madison’s Heritage collection, the process of my project, the website formation, and the book publishing process. I showed the audience the functionality of the website. I also talked about what I learned through the project and why I did the project. I was able to have both of the Madison’s Heritage authors attend my presentation and also the banquet that evening. It was really great to see all my hard work be recognized.

There is still quite a bit of work to go on this project. I have most of the preliminary cataloging and compiling finished, but I still need to edit all of the OCR Word documents. For the website I need to finish uploading all of the articles and text, and add information to the tabs. For the book, I need to send in the publication proposal and figure out what articles and pictures I want to have in the book and come up with a manuscript to send to the publisher.

This project has been a very time consuming, yet a satisfying and rewarding task. It has been the most worthy project I have ever done and I have seriously enjoyed working on it. I have especially enjoyed spending more time with my grandparents and working with Grandpa throughout the process and seeing him get excited about my work. It has been so worthwhile to do what has turned into a huge archival project. I had never worked on a project of this magnitude and depth. It has been amazing to see all my work come together with the website, which I hope to publically launch in the fall of 2011. I have learned to be persistent and not get overwhelmed. Throughout the process I had to take things step by step and not worry about having all the pieces together. I learned that I could have an idea and go for it, figuring out how to accomplish all the parts I wanted to get finished, even when it was a daunting task.

I also learned that finding the right people to help along the way is one of the most important parts of working on a project like this. I would not have been able to do half of what I accomplished without the hard work and enthusiasm of Jackie Couture of the EKU library archives. Her expertise and time has been invaluable to this project. Also, the help of my mentor, Dr. Alan Banks and the encouragement of the Honors Program Director Dr. Linda Frost have helped shape this project to its full potential. My family has also been a great help and have assisted me through the entire process. I am indebted to the authors for letting me work with their articles and for giving me insight and support in order to have this project come to fruition.

Acknowledgements

This project and website would not be in its current state if it had not been for the help of many individuals who have given their time, effort, and enthusiasm to support Madison’s Heritage online.

I would like to thank my project mentor, Dr. Alan Banks, for his support and encouragement. I would also like to thank Dr. Linda Frost, Director of the EKU Honors Program, for her enthusiasm in encouraging me to undertake this project. Thanks to those in the EKU Library, especially the Special Collections and Archives staff, Margaret Foote, Kyle McQueen, and Debbie Whalen, and their student workers, who have been more than willing to help me. Their patience and accommodation is sincerely appreciated. Thanks also to those who previously worked in the archives and compiled and bound Madison’s Heritage articles from the years 1969-2003, for their work was immensely helpful to this project. Thanks to Kevin Hemphill who has been a saving grace on the technical side of things and has worked with enthusiasm and timeliness to help with whatever he could. Also thanks to my roommates, Alissa Chase, Bethany Schmitt, and Jordan Papajeski, and friends Kaitlin Kirkpatrick, Jamie Gregory, and Laura Fields who have been there for me through this process and have always given words of encouragement.

Thanks to EKU history professor, Rob Weise and his local history class including James Abney, Emily Terry, Ashton Chaffins, Charles Gill, Kyle Beeler, Daniel Stacy, Anna Young, Alan Campbell, Kendall Coffey, Matthew Adams, Mary Morris, Ethan Vivian, Lukas Murphy, and Francis Chaffins who have been a great help with the digitization process.

Infinite thanks to Jackie Couture, university records officer and digital archives specialist at the EKU Library Special Collections and Archives who has guided me through this project and used her expertise and knowledge of the county and of website design to make this project what it has become. This project would not have been possible without her know-how, direction, and tireless work. She has been an example of professionalism, experience, skill, and dedication and has put up with my nagging for over a year. I can truly say it has been wonderful honor working with her.

Thanks to the Engle family who have put up with my obsession over the last year. Thanks to my mom, dad, brother Bud, and sister Caroline for their help over various stages of the process. Thanks also to my uncle Bruce and aunt Susan for their contributions to this project. Thanks to my grandparents, Clarence and Ella Sue Hoffman and my uncle Daniel for their help during the summer. Thanks also to my grandmother, Mary Engle, who helped at many stages of this project.

Also, thanks go to my grandpa, Dr. Fred Engle and Dr. Robert Grise for their decades of dedication, scholarship, and curiosity. They have truly made a lasting impact on Madison County, Kentucky, through their tireless work. Their inspiring love of Madison County has left a legacy for future generations to explore and enjoy.

-Kathryn Engle