The George Washington Financial Papers Project (GWFPP), funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, is an innovative documentary editing project working to develop a free-access, open-source digital edition and editorial platform containing transcriptions of Washington’s financial documents. Users will be able to read transcriptions of the financial documents; search those documents for people, places, commodities, and currencies; browse documents by account, place, ships, currency, occupation, and services; perform searches that trace and compare transactions by type, individual, and content over any time period; download data; and follow links to related correspondence in the Papers of George Washington Digital Edition. Additionally, those interested in editing and publishing financial documents will be able to use the open-source editing platform to build robust, accessible documentary editions.
Making Washington’s financial papers accessible had been an early goal of the Project, but given their complexity and our means of publication, very little had been done. In the 1980s we published several pages from Washington’s ledgers in the Colonial Series and over the years have included excerpts from various financial documents in annotation. Print publication, however, is not a viable solution; formatting the numerous types of financial documents would be not only time consuming but also prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, aside from an index, print publication provides no means of performing complex queries or data manipulation. As the Project moved forward with the digital version of the letterpress volumes we began to think about accessibility solutions for the financial papers.
In 2010 we began collaborating with the developers of DocTracker (DT) on how the system might be customized to handle complex financial documents. Beginning in July 2012 we partnered with the DT development team, along with the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition, to expand DocTracker’s menu of core functions, and to tackle data entry and output requirements of complex documentary materials. A significant part of this expansion included the development of solutions for editing, representing (both transcription and data), and publishing financial documents. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) provided funding for the development work and eventual release of the beta and final versions of DocTracker.
In 2013 the National Historical Publications and Records Commission awarded The Papers of George Washington a three-year grant for the Financial Papers Project. Over the next three years, the GWFPP team will work on accomplishing the following goals:
- digitize document transcriptions from materials in the Papers of George Washington, Series 5, at the Library of Congress as well as Gouverneur Morris’ 1811-1816 account book
- develop a platform to edit and publish financial documents
- develop a web prototype that allows users to perform simple queries and download data
- write and distribute a guide for creating editions of financial papers