The James K. Polk Project: A President’s Letters in Print and Online
These letterpress and digital volumes for the first time make important documents—many held by the Library of Congress but others scattered among numerous archives and private collections—easily accessible to scholars, students, and others interested in U.S. history. The letters cover political and diplomatic topics ranging from Andrew Jackson’s war on the Bank of the United States to the Mexican-American War and from the growing debate over slavery to relations with the Kingdom of Hawaii. Furthermore, because Americans of all stripes—men and women, whites and blacks, businessmen and laborers, authors and artists—wrote to the president about a huge variety of topics, the letters illuminate not only the politics and diplomacy but also the culture, society, economy, and science of the first half of the nineteenth century.
The poster will teach American Historical Association members about both the work of the Polk Project and the historical field of documentary editing. Images of manuscript letters will highlight the rich primary-source material the project makes accessible. Bullet points will introduce some of the diverse historical topics documented by the letters. Transcriptions, annotations, and a proofreading markup will show the work process of an editor. The presenter will bring copies of published volumes and a laptop to demonstrate the project’s online products. In conversations with the audience, the presenter will explain not only the project’s work and accomplishments over the past six decades but also the ongoing work to prepare the fourteenth and final volume. The poster format thus will best facilitate the presentation of a letterpress and digital project dedicated to making often-hidden nineteenth-century sources accessible and legible to a twenty-first-century audience.