Big news here in the library and archives! All 30 boxes of Shawnee Tribal History Documents from the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory (GLOVE) collection have been digitized and are freely available online!
Thanks to the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma for including us on their Institute for Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) grant. We were able to partner together to improve accessibility to the archival resources found in our collections by digitization. With their help we hired a part-time worker, Selena McCracken, to digitize more than 12,000 pages of copied historical documents directly relating to the Shawnee experience in the Midwest from the 16th to 19th centuries.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory project, let me give you a quick rundown. The US Justice Department hired a team of researchers at Indiana University, headed by Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin, to research land use and occupancy of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions (think the Midwest) for the Indian Claims Commission cases. Her small team spent over a decade in the 1950s and 1960s visiting any and all archives, libraries, and museums to find written information. They copied only those relevant documents (be they diary entries, letters, published books, etc.) and brought them back to IU, where they were organized by tribal group and then chronologically within each tribal group. These photocopies were used as references when compiling final ethnohistory reports submitted to the Justice Department as legal evidence. Normally, researchers wouldn’t keep their research notes after the final report has been written – but we’re SO THANKFUL these were kept.
Yes, we essentially have a collection of incomplete facsimiles, but what’s important is that they’re TOGETHER in ONE SPACE as a SINGLE COLLECTION. That’s what a collection is: objects particularly selected and brought together. Imagine being a researcher and trying to recreate this collection. Perhaps it would be easier with the Internet, but you’d still spend a lot of time searching… Secondly, our patrons want access. It’s really difficult to take a whole week to visit our facility and go through boxes and boxes of documents. It’s a privilege that not everyone has. My job as librarian and archivist is to make the materials accessible to those people. Digitization is our answer.
Accessing the Documents
Now an explanation on how you can access the collection! (With pictures!)
The collection is divided into multiple series (microfilm, maps, reports, etc.) but the Shawnee documents are found within the Tribal History Document Series.
You can click on “Shawnee” in the menu on the left to pull up the subseries.
Alternatively, you can use the search box in the left side menu to search the citations found on the finding aid. Unfortunately, you cannot use the search box to search within the digitized documents.
When you arrive on the Shawnee page, you’ll see links to the three federally recognized tribes at the top. We’ve been able to achieve more with the support and guidance of these partners. I hope that it also contextualizes these documents by showing researchers that the Shawnee people are still around and very active.
Beneath is the actual inventory of Shawnee boxes. Feel free to use CTRL+F to search the text on the webpage. I find it’s the quickest way to locate particular boxes or years.
Every item has a bibliographic citation and 1 or 2 links.
- “View item(s)” is the digitized document from our collections.
- “Full text…” is where our coder was able to find the original document fully digitized online. You can find the pages that precede or follow our document!
If you find that our digitized image doesn’t pop up, check your browser’s security settings. Several researchers have found that they must turn off pop-up blockers and other security features before the item shows up.
- Click the lock symbol next in the left side of the URL box
- Click “connection”
- Click “disable protection for now”
In Google Chrome:
- Click the shield symbol found at the right side of the URL box
- Click “load unsafe script”
Making 12,414 pages of documents relating to the Shawnee experience is only the first step.
Our goal is to get the entirety of the Tribal History Document Series digitized. It will take time, but we’re chipping away at it.
Next we need to make the documents we’ve digitized text-searchable. As I mentioned above, you can’t search within the digitized documents, but that’s a useful feature and would be ideal for researchers. It would allow for even greater accessibility because screen reading software cannot “read” these pages yet.
There are a few drawbacks to using the Archives Online platform, namely that it wasn’t created for a collection of this size. You’ll quickly notice that to get to box 8028, you’ll have to scroll for a very long time. We have to list every item in order to link to the digitized files, which makes for a looooong list. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we’re working with right now. (The IU Digital Library staff have been wonderful helping set us up!) In the future, I think the GLOVE could have it’s own website. That would give us more flexibility to link between tribes, add subject terms, sort by categories, or add other forms of tagging.
Please let us know if you have any comments or questions about the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection. As the librarian/archivist in charge of these collections, I’m here to help you. So let me know!
More about IMLS
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(The views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)