Digital Curation of the Henry O. Nightingale Diaries

By Mary Weppler.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper details the University of California Merced Library’s digital curation of two diaries written between the years of 1864 and 1865 by a Union soldier and abolitionist named Henry O. Nightingale. The Library first learned of the diaries’ through communication with a historian named Steve Nagy. Nagy, along with two of his family members, had inherited letters that were written by Nightingale to a female ancestor during 1865. In 2008, while one of the letters was being transcribed, a passage revealed a claim by Nightingale of having procured a signature from Abraham Lincoln shortly before the President’s assassination. Curious to learn more, Nagy eventually located Nightingale’s descendants, Edith and Mel Denio, in Atwater, California. The Denios were in possession of the two diaries referenced above, and entrusted digitization of these two documents to the UC Merced Library in late 2009. While the Lincoln autograph has not been substantiated, the diaries nonetheless provide fascinating details of the latter period of the American Civil War; the 1864 diary includes accounts of Union regimental movement along with a description of Nightingale’s injury from rebel fire during the Battle of the Wilderness. The 1865 diary includes a first-hand account of President Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre. Following digitization of the diaries, library student workers were enlisted in curation activities to create the complex digital object records using Archivists’ Toolkit, an open source digital management tool. Ingestion of the digital files into the UC Data Curation Repository, Merritt, involved an innovative automated process in which an initiated URL comprised of an XML file could extract the diaries’ digital files from the server and ingest them directly into the repository. Student workers were also trained to assist with the transcription of both diaries, an activity that has greatly enhanced the metadata in the collection’s finding aid. The ultimate goal of the project was to make the finding aid and associated complex digital objects freely accessible to the public through the Online Archive of California and Calisphere.

Keywords: Henry O. Nightingale, Battle of the Wilderness, American Civil War, University of California, Merced, Library, Merritt, Calisphere, Online Archive of California

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.101-110. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.060MB).

Mary Weppler

Library Services Manager & Exhibits, Library, University of California, Merced, USA

I have a Master’s of Arts in a Special Major (Art History and Humanities) from California State University, Sacramento and I recently completed a Digital Information graduate certificate at the University of Arizona. I manage the Library’s exhibits program, public services and student employment program.


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