Grant Helps College Digitize Oliver Otis Howard Papers

Bowdoin has received a grant award of $150,000 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s “Digitizing Historical Records” program to support a three-year project to digitize the college’s Oliver Otis Howard Papers.

Oliver Otis Howard, of the Bowdoin College Class of 1850.

Oliver Otis Howard, of the Bowdoin College Class of 1850.

Howard, born in Leeds, Maine, a member of Bowdoin’s class of 1850, and a career army officer, was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor during the Civil War.

Subsequently, he also served as commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, was instrumental in the founding of Howard and Lincoln Memorial universities, was superintendent at West Point, and held several Western army commands, including those involving the Nez Perce War and making peace with Cochise.

Howard’s papers represent a national treasure of research materials documenting America’s military, social, and cultural history throughout the latter half of the 19th century, including:  the Civil War, Reconstruction, Western expansion and Indian affairs, social welfare, domestic life, race relations, higher education and religiosity.

His collection of letters, scrapbooks, speeches, diaries, and photographs thus attracts a wide range of researchers and scholars because of the breadth and depth of the documents that Howard accumulated over a lifetime of public service.

Christmas letter from Howard to his son, Guy (1861). The drawings are by Howard, who often illustrated the letters he sent home to his children.  Click image for larger view.

Christmas letter from Howard to his son, Guy (1861). The drawings are by Howard, who often illustrated the letters he sent home to his children. Click image for larger view.

The digitization project, based in Bowdoin’s George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, will reproduce the entire contents of the O.O. Howard Papers, which occupy over sixty linear feet of shelf space, for online viewing and downloading.

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Those 150,000 high-quality scanned pages will be freely available world-wide, allowing researchers from anywhere to access all of the documents and examine them in detail that rivals handling the originals.

Project news and updates will be posted on the project website.

thumb:"River St. 2., Lewiston, ME" (Michael Kolster, 2010)