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Transcribing Whitman: A Library of Congress and National Council of Teachers of English Webinar, May 26, 4-5pm ET

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This post is by Abby Shelton of the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress and National Council of Teachers of English invite you to join us for a webinar on May 26 from 4-5pm EDT about teaching and transcribing Walt Whitman’s notebooks and diaries. This virtual event is free and open to all but you will need to register to attend:

On May 26, By the People, the Library’s crowdsourcing transcription program, will launch more than 3,000 pages of Whitman’s notebooks from the Charles E. Feinberg Collection. Since 2018, By the People volunteers have transcribed more than 7,000 pages of Whitman’s papers. We add those transcriptions back in to the Library’s website where they will help improve search, discoverability, and accessibility for the Whitman collection.

Two pages from Walt Whitman's note book : Trial lines for the poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (Sundown Poem)
Pages with trial lines for the poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (Sundown Poem), from 1855-1856 notebook.

For this latest addition, historian Barbara Bair has pulled together a group of notebooks in which Whitman drafted trial lines for poems, ideas for stories, or thoughts about famous people and various topics under the sun, and worked through philosophical perspectives he wanted to exemplify in his life and writings. Like the journalist he was by training and occupation, Walt Whitman carried small, often handmade, notebooks with him wherever he went. He used them to jot down notes, names, observations and accounts of people he observed and met or descriptions of places visited. When a notebook was not handy, he scribbled on fragments and available scraps, or reused paper from a print shop floor. He kept short account of daily activities, addresses, and appointments in diary daybooks that served as informal scrapbooks for business cards and other miscellany. Notebooks from military hospitals contained names and information about soldiers in the wards. He also used notes and notebooks as a basis for his creative work as a poet and freelance writer.

During the webinar on May 26, experts from the Library and educators from NCTE will discuss how to use these primary sources and transcription activities in the classroom to help students build close reading and interpretive skills. We hope you’ll consider joining us for what promises to be a fun and engaging event!


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