It can be easy to overdo it in the Archives. I’ve already typed 36 pages of notes and scanned over 200 documents. I haven’t even gotten through my first box. I did not intend to scan documents – i thought i might want to copy a few, but nothing extensive. The difficulty is, for instance, when there is an extended exchange. The JAG court martial that doesn’t happen till 1922, begins to be a discussion in 1919. And these files are not in with the court proceedings. These are the first glimmers of there being a problem with how Marines are treating Haitians – including continuing the corvée long after it was abolished, the allegation that 3,000 Haitian men, women, and children had been killed (by 1920! not over the entire 29 year Occupation), torture, rape, etc.
So how to do it well?
The Archives are sealed up tightly. You can only hand carry your equipment in with you, and it must be inspected entering and leaving the premises. You are allowed a 10″ x 10″ clear plastic bag (if you’ve got one – but where does one find such a stylish accessory?). Plus, you must have your researcher’s badge with you at all times. I bring the barest necessities: laptop, smartphone, wallet, all my cords to keep things plugged in and running.
At first, i thought i’d throw down $100 for a little hand-held scanner. They let those in. But then someone told me about scanning apps. I couldn’t get the first one i loaded to work ( I’m not naming names because i’m almost certain it was user error), so i did what every other researcher (who wasn’t using the copier) was doing – taking pictures. That’s right. Photographs with their range of cameras – everything from tiny pocket point-and-clickers to elaborate contraptions that included stands and boards and things. Next time that researcher is in, i’ll take a picture of his contraption. It’s rather impressive. Here are the images i got from my picture-taking day using my smart phone:
I have about 100 of these things. Not great, i admit. But i was desperate. Next, i’ll have to pull them from my phone, drop them into picture viewer then convert them to PDF then do a text recognition. I’ll be using PDF Open Pro from now on, as the text recognition in Adobe has been crashing lately (my computer is getting old). Open Pro doesn’t use up as much operating power and is actually quite a bit faster than Adobe has been, lately. Again – not necessarily a software problem, just an Old Computer Problem.
Then i bought (for a whopping $6.99) a scanner app. My life (researching in the archives) is changed. Here is what shows up when i use ScannerPro:
The image that arrives is already a PDF, uploads to iCloud, and then can be pushed to Dropbox (or emailed, or sent to GoodReader, or, or, or…). I’ll still need to run text recognition, but, wonderfully, i can skip all the other steps. The scanner app is not only smart enough to create documents with multiple pages, i can even go back and add a page later and rearrange pages if i find a few out of place (which i have – oh so many are out of place, actually).
The great thing is that i’ll be able to put these into GoodReader and actually read through them multiple times from anywhere. And GoodReader will let me do the annotations i do with ethnographic material – multi-coloured and notated. They can be neatly bundled and tucked into my iPad for easy access… and i’ve got the files well-enough labeled and organized that it should be a breeze. In the meantime, i’ve kept detailed notes of what each file is. Each file has an entry that looks something like this:
Headquarters, First Provisional Brigade, U.s> Marine Corps, Port au Prince, Haiti, May 15th, 1918
From: Brigade Commander
To: Office of Naval Intelligence
Via: The Major General Commandant
Subject: Enemy espionage service
A manager of the Bellevue Hotel at PaP got a passport from the Dutch Consul to go to Paris via New York. Reports were received that Max Monsanto was heading there to engage in enemy espionage service, and his passage was blocked through instructions given to the agent of eh Panama Line of Steamers. He may go to Cuba on a schooner and try to reach NY via Key West
I type exactly what is in the header of the original document so there is no confusion. I then either transcribe the document (if it’s short) or a write a quick synopsis (if it’s long and i need all of it), or some combination thereof. The scan is then titled with the Subject heading and the date of origination. Easy to find, to keep in order, etc. The only small glitch in this perfect system is that when i’m using a tether to connect to the internet, i can’t push documents to Dropbox. I’m not sure why. Unfortunately, sometimes i have to tether because the NARA wi-fi is not always dependable.