Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Indexing the Main Monrovia History Books

The library is tackling a project we hope has positive ramifications for future local historians and genealogy buffs. We are creating annotated indexes of the major histories of Monrovia currently in our possession. While it is standard practice to prepare annotated bibliographies, annotating an index to a book is more unusual.

Books which are fortunate enough to contain an index at all are constrained by the number of pages the author or publisher is willing to devote to it. With the advent of computers, such constraints are no longer necessary. We can be as complete as we want - naming every person, place and event on every page if necessary. We can also add quick notations giving relationships or facts. Often the index serves to answer the question sufficiently so the book doesn't need to be referenced. And the best part is, you don't have to think like a librarian since Internet documents are keyword searchable. Basically, we're trying to make it as easy as possible to stub your toe on the information you seek.

An example of annotations providing useful information is sorting out relationships and names - particularly for women. Writers in the past had the distressing habit of only referring to married women as Mrs. John Smith. If at any point their first names or surnames before marriage made it into the book, those names were rarely (if ever) indexed. Not only do we list both names, when possible there is a note explaining the other name. For example:

Jones, Maria            pg. 42  A.K.A. Mrs. John Smith
Smith, John (Mrs.)  pg. 42  neĆ© Maria Jones

These notations especially help genealogists sorting out who's who.

An off-shoot of the Giant Index Project is the photograph index for the same history books. While photographs are certainly being recorded in each individual book index, we are in the process of compiling all the photos and illustrations from the major texts and and having the information in one complete index. If you are looking for a picture of William Monroe, the photograph index will list all the books and pages together for easier searching.

There will, of course, be printed copies of each index in the Library, and once the compilations are complete, they will also be available on the Internet. Once an index is complete, an announcement will appear on our website of course, on this blog and on Twitter. In the meantime, here is a sample of what we're working on from the Monrovia Centennial Review:

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