The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) has begun a two-year project to enhance description and discovery of its graphics materials and promote the linking and sharing of content among institutions and scholars. This project was funded by a grant HSP recently received from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s Innovation in Archives and Documentary Editing program.
As part of the project, HSP will digitize 500 political cartoons and develop a sophisticated image tool, which will allow users to search for cartoons on specific topics, analyze individual cartoons in depth, and follow links between cartoons and related contextual material. This tool will improve HSP’s ability to manage and describe its digitized images and make it easier for the public to access them. The project will also include educational resources for teachers and students, as well as descriptive content that will be shared among the wider digital community. The overall objective is to make archival graphics more accessible for online users and encourage other repositories to adopt the new tools and practices.
The 500 cartoons featured in the project will span American history from the colonial period through the Progressive Era and will represent a wide array to topics and situations. Many of the cartoons will portray well known public figures while others will depict abstract forces or generic characters, such as a “drunkard” or ethnic stereotypes. Reflecting the evolution of the political cartoon genre, the selected cartoons will encompass a variety of visual styles, ranging from intricate scenes with a great deal of text to stark images with few or no words.