Monday, February 1, 2010

Introducing the Swain Report Finding Aids

Over the course of July 2010, David Swain, our volunteer researcher, re-edited his finding aid reports and provided the following introduction, which I have ante-dated for new users. We owe David a great debt of gratitude for his tireless work, which promises to make life much easier for future users of our microfilm collection. To see all of the Swain Reports at once, click on the link under "Topics" in the menu sidebar.

Will Tatum

The Swain Reports

The purpose: To highlight new microfilm acquisitions by the David Library of the American Revolution and to provide summary information about each to guide researchers seeking manuscript documents about particular people, events, or topics within the Library’s area of historical interest—the American Revolutionary period from about 1750 to about 1800.

The process: For each newly acquired microfilm acquisition,

-- the microfilm documents are perused to determine their general content and to identify items of particular interest to researchers,
-- cursory research is conducted to obtain background information explaining the historical context of the content of the microfilm documents,
-- sources are noted and referenced, including lists of contents and indexes of the microfilmed document collections, where available, and secondary sources, as appropriate,
-- the results of the microfilm perusal and the background research are summarized in a written report, and
-- the written report is posted to and archived in the David Library’s Internet blog (go to to find the link to the library’s blog). On the blog, the reports are searchable through Google or other search engines.

The volunteer: The volunteer who is perusing the microfilms, doing the background research, and writing the reports is David Swain, a retiree with professional training and experience as a historian and archivist. Hence the name for the series of reports.

Caveats: The Swain Reports do not substitute for research. Since the reports are based on an overall perusal of microfilmed manuscript collections, not a full reading of them, the summary of contents is necessarily incomplete and cursory.

Rather, the Swain Reports complement full research by providing an informative aid to help guide researchers toward the information they are seeking.

The incomplete nature of the perusal process is compounded by the difficulties all researchers have in comprehending the content of microfilmed manuscript documents—their readability is often diminished by a combination of difficult-to-read handwriting (especially in cases where the writer has written on both sides) and poorly preserved manuscript pages.

Have something you want to share, such as a question, research find, or a personal story about the Library? Email Will Tatum at

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