Transcribing The Collection: The Bytown Museum

This summer, I was fortunate enough to volunteer for the Bytown Museum in their collections department. There, I was tasked with numbering and transcribing a collection of 600 post cards which were sent as correspondence between the Lockmasters of the Rideau Canal locks, and the Superintending Engineer of the Rideau Canal Office in Ottawa. These post cards, which were dated from 1879 to 1963, provided valuable insight into the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the Rideau Canal locks. As the city of Ottawa relied on these locks for settlement and economic development during this time, the Lockmasters focused their correspondence on highlighting their lock station’s suitability for navigation.

Volunteering in the collections department was a valuable learning experience. It allowed me to experience first hand the challenges that come with  transcribing documents with various handwritings, short-hands, and terminologies. Below you will find one document from the collection followed by my transcription. All of my transcriptions were entered into Microsoft Word for review and later use in the department.

 

Accession No 2013.002.01.007
Date 1882.04.10
Lock Station Brewer’s Upper Mills
Front “To: Fred. A. Wise Esquire// Supt [Superintending] Engineer Rideau Canal &// Ottawa”
Back “Brewers Upper Mills April 10th 1882// Sir// The height of the water on the upper// sill of the locks is nine feet one inch// the height on the sill of the Bywash is// five feet one inch// yours// P Deane LM [Lock Master]”

3 Comments

  1. It takes skill and talent to decipher someone’s handwriting. Good job.

  2. Hey – that’s so cool! I will suggest though you do your transcriptions in something like markdown though, because as you know, with individual text files, you can start doing some pretty fun stuff with all that material 🙂

    I’m also experimenting with https://transkribus.eu/Transkribus/ that can learn to recognize handwriting – you might want to give it a try too if you’re allowed.

    • Melissa Nelson

      November 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Hi, thank you! Sorry I just saw this comment! The Bytown Museum asked me to transcribe the postcards into one Microsoft Word file so that they could review what I wrote and make use of it later. I imagine it would eventually be put in Markdown. And that sounds like a very cool tool, I’ve never heard of that. I’ll see if I can try that somewhere I am currently volunteering. Thanks!

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