Armchair historians with a knack for reading scratchy handwriting can now help the Smithsonian Institution with a giant effort to preserve thousands of historical letters and journals online.
The newly launched Transcription Center invites the public to read and digitally transcribe documents ranging from Civil War journals to notes on bumblebee specimens to letters from famous artists, such as Mary Cassatt and Grandma Moses.
"We are thrilled to invite the public to be our partners in the creation of knowledge to help open our resources for professional and casual researchers to make new discoveries," Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough said in a statement. Read more.
If the H.L. Hunley has any secrets left, they are about to be exposed.
Tuesday, scientists at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center will begin scraping away the sand and shell that has covered and encased the Civil War submarine’s hull for more than a century.
Beneath that crust, which conservators call concretion, archaeologists will finally get to see the real Hunley. For the first time, modern scientists will be able to examine the sub’s actual skin.
"Nobody has seen the hull since it left on its mission," said Stephanie Crette, conservation center director.
And the hull, scientists hope, may contain clues that will help solve the mystery of why the Hunley never returned. Read more.
Millen, Georgia (CNN) — John Charles Tarsney crossed the prisoner of war camp and spied an emaciated Union soldier to whom he had given a drink of water the evening before.
"He had died during the night and was little more than a dead skeleton," Tarsney later recalled.
Tarsney, despairing of his own plight as a prisoner at Camp Lawton in Georgia, hatched a scheme.
He decided to trade identities with the lifeless man who was part of a group of ailing soldiers set to be exchanged for Confederate prisoners held up north. Read more.
The H.L. Hunley may not hide its secrets for much longer.
Today, scientists at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center will immerse the Civil War-era submarine in a caustic bath of sodium hydroxide and water to begin a long-awaited conservation process that is expected to last about five years.
But within a few months, conservators and archaeologists expect to get their first look at the sub’s iron hull - and it may hold clues that finally reveal why the Hunley sank off Charleston 150 years ago.
"We have been waiting for this for years," said conservator Nestor Gonzalez. "Everything we’re doing here is to preserve the Hunley as it was and to preserve information recorded on the sub. Now we will finally get to see the hull." Read more.
GREENVILLE — The remains of a ship that was commandeered in Charleston harbor by an enslaved black man during the Civil War and used as an escape vehicle may have been discovered off the South Carolina coast, according to a historian with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Officials are not releasing details, but NOAA plans to issue a report and unveil historical markers on May 12, the 152nd anniversary of the little-known episode.
They said they don’t want to announce the location because it’s in an environmentally sensitive area.
But “we can say we’re pretty sure we know where it is,” said Bruce Terrell, senior historian and archeologist for the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Maritime Heritage Program and lead author of the report. Read more.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Racing against time, South Carolina archaeologists are digging to uncover the remnants of a Civil War-era prisoner-of-war camp before the site in downtown Columbia is cleared to make room for a mixed-use development.
The researchers have been given four months to excavate a small portion of the 165-acre grounds of the former South Carolina State Hospital to find the remnants of what was once known as “Camp Asylum.” Conditions at the camp, which held 1,500 Union Army officers during the winter of 1864-65, were so dire that soldiers dug and lived in holes in the ground, which provided shelter against the cold. Read more.
Born and built amid gray-cloaked secrecy during the American Civil War, the H.L. Hunley — the first submarine to sink an enemy ship — has held tight to its murky mysteries.
The 150th anniversary of the Hunley’s daring and dangerous raid will be marked this weekend and Monday, but the overarching question remains: What caused the submarine and its eight-member crew to slip to the bottom of the sea on the moonlit evening of February 17, 1864, after it signaled to shore a success that changed naval warfare.
The Hunley, housed at a laboratory in North Charleston, South Carolina, has yielded its secrets slowly and sparingly, even to researchers armed with the latest in technology. Read more.
Archaeologists exploring the site of a Civil War-era prison camp in Columbia have uncovered three pits they say Union soldiers dug as crude shelter against the winter of 1864-65.
One of the earthen pits on the grounds of the S.C. State Hospital held secret a half-dozen artifacts, too, left behind by a prisoner of war and then covered over by those who ran the prison known as Camp Asylum.
Four weeks into the exploration of the 3.5-acre site, the crew of seven archaeologists is working against the clock.
Money is tight. Bad weather has stolen four days. And they’ve been given just four months to work before the Bull Street property is redeveloped. Read more.