IT WAS a fairly innocent question posed in spring 2000. A KanColl volunteer and contributor, was talking about information available in the Kansas Historical Quarterlies, a journal published by the Kansas State Historical Society from 1931 through 1977. (The Society still publishes the magazine, but under a different name since 1978.) He wished that the issues were available online, and asked if KanColl could transcribe the issues.
Of course, big projects aren't anything new at KanColl. Back when work started on transcribing the Andreas/Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, a lot of folks didn't think that could be done. The book had over 1600 pages after all, most set with very tiny print. Volunteers found that each printed page yielded four to six typewritten pages. The Andreas/Cutler's History of the State of Nebraska was only slightly smaller. Each project took about four years to complete, involving a total for both of over 170 volunteers. But the over 500 issues of the Kansas Historical Quarterly, which the volunteer estimates to be about 14,000 pages, would put both of the Andreas projects in the shade.
Consider too that everything at KanColl is done on a volunteer basis. We receive no grants or funding for what we do. Many of our volunteers have full-time jobs and work on transcribing in whatever spare time we can find. There were a lot of reasons this wouldn't work. There were many more reasons to try.
So we asked permission from the Society to put the Quarterlies online. They said yes! Since then, the Society has been very supportive in providing permission to produce digital versions of the issues, supplying issues to copy, and publicizing the project. Another essential ingredient: the volunteer agreed to serve as the first associate manager for the project, and has put in long hours coordinating the volunteers' work, coding web pages, copying material for volunteers and checking the electronic files that were returned, not to mention recruiting for new helpers and doing a fair amount of transcribing himself. Then we were blessed with a growing group of volunteers, all pitching in to make this invaluable resource available free of charge to anyone with Internet access. Some of the articles that have been added so far:
"No-Ko-Aht's Talk: A Kickapoo Chief's Account of a Tribal Journal from Kansas to Mexico and Return in the Sixties," by George A. Root, ed. (volunteers Lynn Nelson and another volunteer)
These are just a few of the articles now available online at KanColl, thanks to a wonderful group of volunteers. And more articles are on the way, such as "Letters of John and Sarah Everett, 1854-1864" (volunteer Sean Furniss), "The Migration of the Russian-Germans to Kansas," by Norman Saul (volunteer Teresa Smith), and "Rebecca Visits Kansas and Custer" by Minnie Dubbs Millbrook (volunteer R. Griffin).
But there are still many articles waiting for their own volunteers -- including Morris F. Taylor's "Kicking Bird: A Chief of the Kiowas," Robert W. Richmond's "Kansas Builds a Capitol," and John W. Ripley's "A Tear-Jerking Illustrated Song of 1897, 'The Letter Edged in Black.'" Still to be transcribed are many first person accounts of Kansas in the old days, such as "Erastus D. Ladd's Description of the Lawrence Massacre" and "The Letters of Samuel James Reader, 1861-1863; Pioneer of Soldier Township, Shawnee County." In fact, there are articles on any number of places, people and topics related to Kansas.
Places: Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Johnson County, Osage County, Cloud County, Atchison, Lawrence, Juniata, and Dodge City.
If you'd like to help with this landmark effort, you can read more about what's involved by going to the Quarterly project's volunteer page.
We hope that the articles being put online at KanColl are useful to you, and look forward to bringing you more!