Julia & Paula: An Update
In 1862, Julia Wilbur came to Alexandria, VA, from Rochester, NY, as a relief worker to help freedmen--people who came into the Union-occupied town from slavery.
Many of you read about my project to transcribe and annotate her diaries in this newsletter last August; a year later seems like a good time to update you.
In the next month or so, I'll have her pocket diaries from October 1862 through the end of 1865 online and searchable through the Alexandria Archeology Museum! I am finishing up an Introduction to provide an overview, so readers know what the diaries contain, and doing final proofing.
Here's a sample few pages--celebrating the end of the war on April 14, 1865, and the dreadful next day when news of President Lincoln's assassination came:
A few lessons learned that apply to other writing projects that involve research:
Keep track of your sources: I've wasted a lot of time re-finding the sources of some bits of information I unearthed along the way. In a few cases, I have not been able to use a nugget because I can't source it.
Ask for help: I don't do this enough, but I am getting better. Librarians, historians, genealogists, and others have valuable knowledge that relates to this project, whether about the context of the times or who "Sis" is.
Proof and proof some more: Not much more to say about this. I probably still have some mistakes in my roughly 400 pages (!) of transcripts and footnotes.
Stay curious: You have to be enthusiastic about the topic; otherwise, the endeavor becomes a chore and the final result suffers. As anyone I've talked to about this project knows, I have pretty much "channeled" Julia for almost two years, with plenty more to investigate. No, I don't mind spending weekends and evenings on this, or rearranging my (paid) work schedule so I can use the Archives during the day.
Accept what's not there: Primary sources can be maddening. Either some vital piece is missing or damaged or the document does not tell us what we want to know. Why did she do that? Who is this person referred to only by an initial? I may find out, I may not ever know. I can't make it up, unless, of course, I write a novel someday based on all this research....
I am learning that I can't do it all myself, so here's an opportunity for you.
When I went to Haverford College last summer, where the original diaries are archived, I discovered that Wilbur had concurrently kept a whole other journal that had never been microfilmed or scanned (although researchers have access to the originals). This summer, the Friends of Alexandria Archeology agreed to share the cost with Haverford to digitize the years that relate to the Civil War.
So the next phase of this project is to transcribe and annotate this second set of diaries. For this, I will work with
the Alexandria Archeology Museum to set up a small team of (volunteer) transcribers who can each take a few months' worth of entries.
Are you interested? You will gain an amazing first-hand feel for the war and one woman's role in it. We will hold a short orientation in September; then, volunteers can take a piece and work to fit their schedules. Let me know
if you would like to participate.
|New Full Circle Phone Number|
Full Circle Communications now has a slightly different phone number: 703-212-0350.
I eliminated one of my two land lines when I realized how less often I use either one these days.
That said, give a call to say hello!
April 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of this newsletter.
Check out the archive of the issues I've sent out since then.
Also, in late 2012, I compiled many of the articles first published in this newsletter into an ebook. If you haven't seen it yet, view or download a complimentary copy on my website.
Have an idea for a future issue of the newsletter? Please let me know.