One hundred sixty-eight years ago, on the first Monday in September, the Vice President of the United States George M. Dallas convened the first meeting of the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents
. Congress entrusted the governance of an unprecedented public trust, "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," as stipulated in James Smithson's bequest, to this group that also included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the mayor of the city of Washington, three members of the U.S. Senate, three members of the House of Representatives, and six citizens. The Board of Regents has since worked to guide the growth and development of the Smithsonian into a largest complex of museums and cultural heritage and scientific research centers unlike any other in the world today. Their input and oversight has seen the Smithsonian expand from a single research institution, to the first United States National Museum, and eventually to the 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities centered in Washington, D.C. with locations around the world.
The Archives has launched a rapid capture digitization project to make the whole of Record Unit 1 - Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Minutes, 1846- , available online by early 2016. Normally a labor-intensive four stage process - preparation, scanning, metadata generation, and online publication, the Archives' rapid capture digitization workflow consolidates several steps and enables us to cut the time from scanning to online publication by an estimated 80%.
When digitization of this collection is completed and the Minutes are accessible online, digital volunteers in the Smithsonian Transcription Center will be invited to transcribe these historic documents so that scholars of American science, museology, and other disciplines will be able to use advanced research techniques with these important primary source materials.
In the months to come, we will share details about different parts of this project and tell you about what happens behind the scenes to make this project a success. Our first in depth post will come from conservator William Bennett who is preserving and preparing the oldest material in this collection for rapid capture digitization.