Last updated: April 2019

  1. Collaboration – January 1998
    1. The University of Virginia Library purchased the Papers of James Carmichael and Son in January 1998. Although processed and physically maintained in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, this unique collection fits in nicely with the mission of Historical Collections & Services, in the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. Consequently, a collaborative effort was planned by the two libraries to make the letters widely accessible via the Internet.
    2. The Rare Materials Digital Services Center and Historical Collections & Services worked together to digitize the collection. Hal Sharp and Joby Topper, both of Historical Collections & Services, began scanning in April 1999 and finished in December 1999. In June 2000 Joby Topper opened a preliminary online exhibit titled, “The Papers of Dr. James Carmichael & Son: Letters to a Fredericksburg Physician 1819-1830.” This provided access to JPEG images of the original documents, arranged chronologically, but without transcriptions. A note on the Web site indicated that the ultimate intent was to provide fully searchable transcriptions of the documents.
  2. Transcription – 2000
    1. Joan Echtenkamp Klein, Janet Pearson, Hal Sharp, and Joby Topper began to transcribe the letters in 2000. This was interrupted by the IMLS-funded Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection digitization project. Work on the Carmichael letters did not resume until January 2002. By this point, Sara Huyser, Janet Pearson, and Alison White were the project team responsible for continued transcription work and analysis of the letters. Ina Hofland provided support in editing the transcriptions. Joan Echtenkamp Klein and Hal Sharp served as consultants and advisors to the project team. Initially the transcription work was done in Word documents, but because of the experience with the Reed project, later transcriptions were entered directly into XML documents using the XML editor Notetab, making the future XML mark-up a more streamlined process. A decision was made to not transcribe the daybook due to its indecipherable handwritten entries.
    2. At this time the team began compiling “break-out lists.” While editing transcriptions, information was “broken out” of the documents. With the corresponding document numbers, lists were kept of all the names, properties, complaints, diseases, treatments, and instruments mentioned. These lists proved to be crucial in maintaining a consistent set of metadata.
  3. Metadata Compilation
    1. Metadata took a long time to compile as new categories were constantly added, meanings clarified, and consistency sought. Although time-consuming to create, the addition of metadata makes the Carmichael Collection far more accessible to researchers and provides descriptive subject areas that are helpful in navigating the collection.
    2. The break-out lists were used to generate a comprehensive and standardized metadata. While the entire project team was involved in each aspect of the project, varying work schedules and special interests allowed individual members to focus on specific metadata areas. Alison White and Janet Pearson spent countless hours standardizing and creating controlled vocabulary for complaints, diseases, and treatments. They also undertook the enormous task of matching the medical terms conveyed in the letters and applying them to Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). In so doing, they matched nineteenth-century vocabulary with a contemporary language and improved the accessibility of the collection. (To read more about this process, refer to the essay “The Use of Medical Subject Headings” found in the About section.)
    3. Sara Huyser worked on preparing the definitive “Who’s Who in the Letters List” and Janet Pearson finalized the “Places Mentioned in the Letters List.” In both cases, research was done to determine more information about the person or the place.
    4. The project team also selected metadata that would aid researchers in accessing the Collection. This metadata identified the content of each letter and letters were placed in subject areas.
  4. XML Mark-up
    1. All XML mark-up was done in house by the project team. Staff trained themselves and followed a template previously used for the Reed project. Tags and metadata were changed to fit the Carmichael collection. Ophelia Payne, an intern in Historical Collections & Services for the summer of 2002, also assisted in XML mark-up. Staff followed the directions of David Seaman, former Associate Director of the Electronic Text Center, in the University of Virginia Library.
  5. Storyline Composition
    1. To provide context for the letters, a story exhibition was researched and written by Sara Huyser with editorial input by Joan Klein, Janet Pearson, Hal Sharp, and Mike Wilson. Hal Sharp took photographs of medical artifacts for the text using a newly purchased Canon EOS-D60 digital SLR camera. In April 2001 Laura Shepherd, a resident in the Department of Medicine, wrote an essay analyzing “The Papers of James Carmichael & Son (1819-1830),” and allowed it to be included as part of the storyline. To aid in the understanding of medical terminology, Alison White and Janet Pearson compiled an extensive MeSH Complaint and Treatment Terms Index with scope notes. White also wrote a comprehensive essay analyzing the use of MeSH in the Carmichael Collection.
  6. Project Interruption – January 2003
    1. The development of the online exhibit of the letters of James Carmichael & Son was once again interrupted in January 2003 for a year-long extension project (Phase II) of the Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection digitization project.
  7. Carmichael Project Back on Track – Summer 2004
    1. In the summer of 2004, the attention was slowly brought back to the Carmichael project. Andrew Sallans, the newly appointed Specialist in Historical Collections and Services, became the liaison between Historical Collections and the Electronic Text Center and Rare Materials Digital Services. As staffing, XML standards, and file naming conventions had changed since the beginning of the project, Sallans became responsible for their standardization. In 2004, the original document scans from 1999 were deemed unsuitable and were then discarded. Staff at Rare Materials Digital Services rescanned all Carmichael letters, creating a comprehensive digital archive of the collection. The new set of scans included all sides of the documents to maintain the highest digital archive standards. The new scans were also created in a different file-naming system than the originals, so Sallans led the process of revising all the XML files to accommodate these changes. Bart Ragon, the Health Sciences Library Manager of Library Technology Services and Development, established a memorandum of understanding with the Electronic Text Center, which houses the site and serves as technical consultant.
    2. Additional material about the Carmichael family was also included. The project staff located additional relevant material on the Carmichael family from the Fredericksburg Court Records, contemporary newspapers, Works Progress Administration records, and several secondary publications. All of these materials underwent the same XML processes and standardizations. All were incorporated as fully-searchable information.
  8. Web Site Redesign – December 2004
    1. Site Architecture: Using the Reed site architecture as a reference, the Carmichael content was separated into two primary sections: the Story and the Collection. The About section contains the exhibit's project and contact information. Navigation is provided globally by section tabs located just below the page title and above the content area. With the exception of the Collection area, each section also has a link box for navigating within that section. Breadcrumb navigation is provided in sections where retracing steps is important. A search box is provided in the Collections area for locating keywords in the letter transcriptions.
    2. Design: The letters were a clear starting point for the new site designed by Steve Stedman. The collection pages were created with these beautifully penned letters as the focal point and the corresponding transcriptions floating unobtrusively to the side. The black matting of the letter scans dictated the background color—though a dash of color was added by blending the black to a dark wood tone on the right. The design pallet evokes the materials of the period—dark wood, brass, and aged paper. The deep burgundy red theme complements the antique coloring.
    3. Images: The title image of the twisting path through an open autumn field literally represents the letter carrier's path in early Virginia and metaphorically suggests the letter writers' desolation and despair as they sent their pleas for aid. A photo taken by Andrew Sallans in 2004 was modified by Steve Stedman for the title. Other images appearing in the Story portion of the exhibit were masked and drop-shadowed to conceal photographic imperfections and to unify their appearance. To give the Story's house and mansion images their unique look, all signs of modern life in the recently taken photos were erased using Photoshop and the images were saved as a 4-color GIF.
    4. Typography: Georgia was chosen as the font for the exhibit for its more elegant, crafted look. The exhibit title font is Texas Hero and sub-title is Copperplate Bold.
    5. Coding: The Carmichael exhibit is designed to be accessible to the broadest audience possible, including visually impaired persons. It meets guidelines set forth by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and complies with the standards in Section 508 (29 U.S.C. 794d) of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act. To achieve this goal, the “Letters to Doct. Carmichael & Son” exhibit was created using accepted Web standards: XHTML 1.0 Strict and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) 2.0. As has been our practice with recent exhibits, images and their associated text were individually wrapped in definition list tags to allow precise control over style while maintaining standards-compliant code.
    6. XML Conversion: Matthew Gibson programmed the XML to XHTML conversions in Perl.
  9. Technical Information
    1. Scanning:
      • Apple Mac G4-450 (OS 9.1, Photoshop 7)
      • Epson Scanner
    2. Digital Photographs:
      • Canon EOS-D60 Digital SLR Camera, 6 Megapixel
      • Sony MVC-CD250 Digital Still Camera, 2.11 Megapixel
      • Canon Powershot A75, 3.2 Megapixel
    3. Digital Scans (images were scanned as 24 bit 600 dpi TIFs using the Adobe 1998 RGB colourspace, uncompressed):
      • Images were scanned on Epson Perfection 3200 or 4870 Firewire flatbed scanners with an Apple G4 Macintosh running Mac OS X 10.3 and Adobe Photoshop CS.
      • Oversized items were scanned on similar Macs using either a large format Epson Perfection 10000XL or a PhaseOne digital scan back.
    4. XML Mark-up:
      • Dell Optiplex (Microsoft Windows 2000, Notetab Pro)
    5. Web Design:
      1. Dell Latitude D600 (Microsoft Windows XP, Dreamweaver MX 2004, Fireworks MX 2004, Mozilla Firefox 1.0 with Web Developer 0.8 extension, SecureFX)
      2. Apple Mac G4-450DP (OS X 10.3, Photoshop CS)