Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Preservation and the Jefferson Papers

Last week was book preservation week, and while it is a necessary task, covering dust jackets in plastic and gluing loose pages back into books just did not seem that blog-worthy. Although, there is something strangely satisfying about dust jacket covering :-). Thankfully, this week has brought tasks that are a little more exciting. I am currently working on preparing a finding aid for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's digital archives (a finding aid is basically a detailed outline of the content in a collection). I have come across pictures of several events at Monticello that many high-profile people have attended. Just to name a few, Monticello has received visits from Bill Clinton and Al Gore (before their inauguration), Mikhail Gorbachev, several Supreme Court Justices, Emperor Akihito of Japan, and Margaret Thatcher.

Today, the interns got together for the first time since orientation to hear some of the editorial staff from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: The Retirement Series tell us about their work. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson is a project that has been undertaken by Princeton University with the goal of publishing a comprehensive, annotated collection of Jefferson's writings. The project began in the 1940s and because of the immense amount of material to sort through, they have only published about 36 volumes, and they have not even reached Jefferson's presidential years. Because the project was going so slowly, the guys at Princeton decided to clone the project and have a separate group of people working on the other half of the material. That is how an editorial team of about 10 people ended up working on the third floor of Jefferson Library to publish the papers of Thomas Jefferson written after his retirement. The group has been able to publish about one volume a year. They are up to volume 7, and they estimate that there will be about 23 volumes by the time they have completed their work. This talk was interesting to me for a couple reasons. First of all, I was unaware that this important project has been going on two floors above me this whole time. If you remember my last blog post, you know that the Jefferson Papers have been an extremely helpful resource when answering reference questions - especially because of the annotations. It was also interesting to hear about the work that goes into each volume. It involves scavenging for missing manuscripts, multiple proof-readings of transcriptions, and a lot of attention to detail.

Keep your eyes peeled for an encyclopedia article expansion I am currently working on. It involves the mysterious world of secret societies.

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