Digitizing Federal Civil War Documents

S.C. State library working on project

South Carolina Radio Network
August 28, 2018 - 4:25 pm

One of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum’s most popular collections used by Civil War researchers will soon be available online — but it’s going to take some time.

The South Carolina State Library is working with the Relic Room to scan and digitize hundreds of documents from the Colin J. McRae Papers, Huse Audit Series. Huse was a Confederate purchasing agent for the breakaway states’ Ordinance Department in Britain.”

“It’s a collection of original invoices and correspondences that list goods and services purchased from England by the Confederate military,” Digital Curation and Preservation Librarian Jessica Dame said. “The goods and services include things like weapons, cloth for uniforms, food, medication, freight.”

McRae was the chief financial agent for the Confederate government and audited Huse to ensure he was not committing fraud while spending the Confederacy’s money abroad.

This is the first digitization project the library has done for the Relic Room.

“They reached out to us maybe a year-and-a-half ago and asked if we would be interested in helping them digitize the collection for them,” Dame said. “They wanted to put it online because it’s a fairly popular collection for them for researchers.”

So far, about 600 items have been scanned. Dame said they are about halfway through the process. About 170 documents are currently online.

“This is a large digitization project,” she said.

The items are scanned and metadata including the title, source, keywords and description are entered so that the item can be searched.

“I go through and read the document, which is in cursive, and I have to try to decipher what’s written on the document,” she explained. “So that I can try and create a description and pull out information like a title, a creator, a date, so that it’s presented to the user once it’s online and they can easily search it.”

This is one of dozens of collections the library has digitized for state agencies and curated, which can be viewed for free. Click here to see the South Carolina Digital Library. 

“We have an extensive digital collection and some of the collections include the  South Carolina State Documents Depository, which is our main collection and is an ongoing collection of publications produced by state agencies and state-supported academic institutions,” Dame said.

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