J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, April 16, 2021

Thomas Gage Papers to be Digitized

The Clements Library at the University of Michigan just announced that it has received
a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize…over 23,000 items related to Thomas Gage, a famed British commander-in-chief in the early days of the American Revolution who was also the governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay from 1774 to 1775.
This collection was one of the major sources for The Road to Concord and every worthwhile book published in the last century about the start of the Revolutionary War in Massachusetts.

I visited the Clements Library years ago, before pocket digital photography changed the experience of visiting an archive. Back then, we had to type out manuscript transcripts in the reading room. And choose what pages to ask the staff to photograph while staying within our research budgets. And we liked it!

After this three-year project, there will be high-quality photographs of Gage’s correspondence and othe files for researchers to study. To test out the interface, look at how the library already shares the papers of New Hampshire colonel Jonathan Chase.

Not so incidentally, the Clements Library is having an “Adopt a Piece of History” fundraiser, inviting people to give money for particular projects. Articles range from nineteenth-century books to scanners and a 1758 letter from Gen. James Wolfe. Along the way are several volumes of the papers of Gen. Henry Clinton which need to be prepared for another digitization project.

For another look at the resources that archive digitization projects can bring to public view, check out “A Closer Look at Colonial North America Across Harvard Library,” the video recording of an online event in March. Representatives of several Harvard libraries’ staffs share notable colonial-era objects and documents from the university’s vast collection.

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