A DH Review: The Joseph Smith Papers Project

As we start to think about how digital humanities projects are structured, presented, and utilized in my Digital Humanities class, each student chose a digital project to review. I chose The Joseph Smith Papers Project for my review. According to its website, the project is “an effort to gather together all extant Joseph Smith documents and to publish complete and accurate transcripts of these documents with both textual and contextual annotation.” In the presentation below, I describe the project’s goals and methodology and conclude with a connection to two of our other course readings, but a summary of these findings are as follows:

  • Project goals: to publish online and transcribe all Joseph Smith documents in one place, and in accompanying print editions
  • Design: The original documents are present via high-resolution scans alongside text transcriptions and notes. The website also includes auxiliary media resources (e.g., photographs, videos, maps) that appeal to a broader audience.
  • Data sources: The official libraries of the LDS Church and Community of Christ house Smith’s documents.
  • Analytical methods: Though this project is sponsored by the LDS Church, it adheres to rigorous academic standards for verification, transcription, and publication. The main analytical method used on the documents involves three independent stages of verification carried out by text experts.
  • Intersections with course readings: The project can be placed in conversation with two of our readings that discuss how technology has affected how we produce and process knowledge. One reading argues that computing has increased knowledge’s specialization and separation, while the other argues that computing has made knowledge more interconnected and holistic. Different components of The Joseph Smith Papers Project reflect each of these arguments in its various elements for different purposes and audiences.

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