May 2, 2023

Continuing the Digitization of the George C. Marshall Papers

Scanning was the quick part

The most frequently consulted section of the George C. Marshall Papers are from the years Marshall spent working as Army Chief of Staff during World War II. These boxes contain correspondence, memos and reports, and speeches that trace the organization, planning and direction of the war.

Gen. George Marshall consults with Secretary of War Henry Stimson during World War II.

Last fall, the 40 boxes covering George Marshall’s career at the Pentagon traveled to BackStage Library Works for scanning. These boxes, about one-seventh of the large Marshall Papers collection, are the first part of the digitization of this entire collection.

Dan, courier for BackStage Library Works, loads 40 boxes of Marshall Papers to transport for scanning.

Next week, these papers return to the Marshall Foundation Library and their home in the archive vault. So, will these scanned papers then be accessible in the library catalog? Not yet; the digitization of this section is only partly complete.

Scanning equipment at BackStage Library Works. (BackStage photo)

The scanning was the quick part of the project. To make the papers individually locatable in the Marshall Foundation Library catalog, each document will need information added to it – in library terminology, this is called metadata. Metadata consists of physical description of the item; details pulled from the item such as author, title and date; and subject terms added so that library users can search for the item in the catalog.

There are approximately 40,000 pages in the Pentagon section of the Papers, so adding the metadata is a time-consuming process that will take more than a year. Thankfully, there will be metadata technicians hired to help with this largest part of the digitization project.

Marshall Foundation Library catalog

When the metadata is complete and the records for the items uploaded to the library catalog, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to view and study Marshall’s Pentagon career in depth. I’m excited that in the not-too-distant future, Marshall’s papers will be available around the world!

Melissa has been at GCMF since fall 2019, and previously was an academic librarian specializing in history. She and her husband, John, have three grown children, and live in Rockbridge County with two large rescue dogs. Keep up with her @MelissasLibrary.