Category: Methodology

The process of writing, researching, analyzing, etc. Basically, the HOW of this project.

Bombing as Strategy

Day of DH 2014

One of the uses of Digital Humanities is to enlarge the community of scholars. Building up to a paper at the annual German Studies Association conference in September, I will be researching how the Open Source model of creating software and hardware can be applied to the humanities. Specifically, what does having open access to information and scholarship do to/for/with that information and scholarship. One mantra in Open Source software development is that many eyes on the code spot the errors more quickly. I would like to repurpose that mantra for humanities, specifically history: many eyes make more better history.

To try an experiment, here is a section of chapter one of the dissertation. A quick look at the use of air power as it changed from WWI to WWII and the use of strategic bombing in WWII. Any and all comments on the process, the information, scholarship, history, images, methodology, layout, facts, etc are welcome and acceptable.


B-24 Liberator in March 1945
B-24 Liberator in March 1945

By some accounts, the total Allied air offensives during World War II dropped almost two million tons of bombs on Germany, completely destroying over sixty cities, killing an estimated 583,000 Germans as well as 80,000 Allied air crew. 1 What was the goal of strategic bombing? Did the bombing of British or German cities really have the desired effect? Beginning with their implementation in World War I, airplanes were believed by only a few military leaders at the time to be of any strategic advantage in modern warfare. Incorporating strategic use of airplanes in wartime planning was in itself an early battle fought among US military leaders even before Germany invaded Poland. This section will describe the early use of bombing and how it came to be used strategically in World War II by both Germany and the Allies. Weakening civilian morale and destroying military production facilities were the main goals for both sides of the conflict. This section will look at these two goals, and describe the success or failure of the goals as seen by contemporary observations as well as present-day arguments. Finally, Big Week is discussed as a major turning point in German military planning, effectively cementing the turn from offensive to defensive measures.

Bombing as Strategy

A few British and US airmen saw the advantage of strategic bombing in World War I but were unable to convince Army officers in charge of the war to utilize bombing as an offensive strategy, that is, bombing specific non-battle front targets for the sake of military advantage. For US and British Army commanders in the Great War, the fight was on the ground, between the battling foot soldiers. The airplanes main and only responsibility, according to the commanding officers, was to support those troops. If bombs were to be dropped, they would be at or near the battle’s front. Bombing specific targets, such as military production facilities, was not seen as contributing to winning a war. After the First World War, United States airmen continued to push their belief that strategic bombing could impact a war.  Their break came, when air force strategists replied to President Franklin Roosevelt’s general inquiry to the US military in the summer of 1941 for best practices for defeating Axis powers, as they expected and planned for the US entry into the current war in Europe. 2


British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris
British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris

Britain had also began interwar plans for strategic bombing and beginning with their entrance into war in 1939, British air forces began a systematic bombing of German cities. After the United States entered the war in 1941, they added their air force to the British offensive intensifying the bombing efforts the next year. Bombing raids by the Allies were designed to complete two tasks in hopes of shortening the war: weaken soldier and citizen morale, and destroy German war production. As it played out, strategic bombing of key military locations in the European theater worked as planned, causing German military production great problems.
British Bomber Command under Arthur Harris sought total destruction of industrial areas and their associated civilian support as the main objective. While the press and population saw the bombing of German cities as retribution for bombed British cities, Harris saw it as the way to disarm the German military, city by city if necessary. 3

Americans approached the issue of bombing with different goals than the RAF. American air strategists, even between the wars, had long studied the problem of bombing in order to determine the most effective strategy. In studying New York city, for example, they learned that the city could be rendered uninhabitable by destroying just seventeen key location. In studying examples of how the Japanese bombed Chinese cities as well as bombing during the Spanish Civil War, American strategists came to the conclusion that terror bombing, or bombing civilians to weaken morale, most often had the opposite effect, and usually led to a much more resistant population. Based on these studies, American strategy was for precision bombing, targeting key industrial and military locations. That American bombing often ended up destroying civilian areas just as much as RAF bombing was due to the limits of technology, rather than conscious implementation of strategy. U.S. operational records and mission reports from raids show that the Americans consistently and honestly, even relentlessly, stressed precision bombing of military and industrial areas. 4

Lancaster B, September 1942
Lancaster B, September 1942

Differing opinions as to the purpose of strategic bombing caused some tension among British and American air force leaders. American air forces entered the European Theater as a junior companion to the British forces who had already been fighting for two years. While commanders of Eighth Air Force and Eighth Bomber Command were committed to day time precision bombing, and viewed civilian bombing as a waste of resources and inefficient military strategy, they did not want to create more unwanted tension in the British-American alliance. British military leaders pressed their U.S. counterparts to adopt night time raids, citing high casualty rates and the seemingly ineffectiveness of daytime bombing. American air commanders were able to reach concessions at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 by persuading British leaders to adopt an around the clock bombing strategy, with RAF bombing civilian locations at night, and American bombers carrying out raids on military targets by day.


  1. Hansen, Randall. Fire and Fury. Doubleday Canada, Limited, 2009, 279.
  2. Birkey, Douglas A. “Aiming for Strategic Effect: The Evolution of the Army Air Force’s Strategic Bombardment Campaigns of World War II.” Dissertation, Georgetown University, 2013. Georgetown University Library, 7.
  3. Childers, Thomas. “‘Facilis Descensus Averni Est’: The Allied Bombing of Germany and the Issue of German Suffering.” Central European History 38, no. 1 (January 1, 2005): 87.
  4. Childers, Thomas. “‘Facilis Descensus Averni Est’: The Allied Bombing of Germany and the Issue of German Suffering.” Central European History 38, no. 1 (January 1, 2005): 88-89.

Work at the Porta Labor Camps

Job List

Reinhold Blanke-Bohne wrote a completed his dissertation on the Nazi SS labor camps at Porta Westfalica in 1984. There were many different commands that inmates were assigned to; they switched commands often for various reasons. Reinhold Blanke-Bohne has a list of 26 different commands; not all of them were in existence at the same time.

Some of the jobs at the labor camp in Porta Westfalica:

  1. Höhle 1 (= unteres System im Jakobsberg);
  2. Höhle 2 (= oberes System im Jakobsberg); (Beide Kommandos hatten mehrere Unterkommandos)
  3. Denkmalstollen
  4. Heserstollen
  5. Häverstädter Stollen (ebenfalls mit Unterkommandos)
  6. Stollenkippe (= oberes System im Jakobsberg)
  7. Betonwerk Weber (siehe Teil 4.6)
  8. Verschiedene Baukommandos für Erdarbeiten , Zement­transport und Mischung , Klinkerbau- und Transport, Betonbau (Betriebe: OT Einsatzgruppe Philipp Holzmann, ARGE Herford u.a.)
  9. Brunnenbaukommando
  10. Betonkolonne
  11. Kommando Kiesgrube
  12. Kommando Uhde
  13. Kommando Edeleanu
  14. Kommando Saupe und Hielke
  15. Kommando Be- und Entwässerung
  16. Kommando Barackenbau
  17. Verschiedene Transportkommandos
  18. Waldarbeiterkommando
  19. Kommando Büscher
  20. Kommando Maschinenbau
  21. Kommando Hammerwerke
  22. Kommando Baumgarten
  23. Gleisbau Walther
  24. Kommando SS Haus.
  25. Lagerkommando
  26. Kommando Badeheizer.

And English translations (Better, more accurate suggestions are welcome. Just add a comment to this post.)

  1. Large tunnel or cave one (the lower tunnel system in Jakobsberg)
  2. Cave Two or Phillip works (Upper tunnel system in Jakobsberg)
  3. Memorial gallery
  4. Weser tunnel
  5. Häverstedter gallery
  6. gallery dump
  7. Weber Concrete works
  8. Various’ construction for earthworks
  9. well construction command
  10. concrete column
  11. Command gravel pit
  12. command Uhde
  13. command Edeleanu
  14. Command Saupe and Mielke
  15. Command irrigation and drainage
  16. Barrack construction command
  17. Various Transport Command
  18. Forest workers command
  19. Command Büscher
  20. machine construction command
  21. Command hammer works
  22. Command Baumgarten
  23. track construction Walther
  24. Command SS-house
  25. camp command
  26. Command bath heater
Monument in Porta Westfalica to the former laborers.
Monument in Porta Westfalica to the former laborers.

Technical Notes

I have a copy of Reinhold Blanke-Bohne due to the extreme generosity of several individuals. Foremost is Wolfgang Walter from Minden who had a copy of the dissertation he allowed to be copied. Second is Dr. Gerhard Franke who had the copies made and sent them to me while I was in Berlin. And third, is Dirk Volkening at Kopiertechnik who made the copies. He actually scanned them to PDF files, which is even better than paper copies. I then opened the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro and converted it to a searchable document (Open the Text tool, select the Recognize Text menu, and click the “In This File” option; may be different in your version of Adobe Acrobat Pro).

Making a PDF searchable in Adobe.
Making a PDF searchable in Adobe.

Another option is to upload the PDF to your Google Docs.

First make sure the upload settings are set to automatically convert the document on upload, or at least ask you on each upload. When you view the PDF document in Google Docs, rather than Google Drive Viewer, you will have a searchable text page after each image page.


Finding sources

53616116There are many ways and means of finding sources. Even though I should be just in the writing stages by now, I’m still finding sources to add to my collection. I was reading in Pierre Bleton’s book “Das Leben ist schön!” (no relation to the film of the same name, this book came out first), and a footnote here and there got me off on a web search for things. I don’t know why I have not searched the USHMM catalog until now, but it proved useful. I already knew of the three or four books that come up with a search for “Porta Westfalica”, but the 76 survivor interviews were a new find. I have transcripts from about 25 survivors that I found in the Neuengamme archive. Only one of those is listed in the results from USHMM. That gives me 100 survivor accounts. Of the estimated 3,000 prisoners in four camps at Barkhausen, Hausberge, and Lerbeck/Neesen, that gives me a view of 3% of the prisoners. Further looking into the records of the interviews, showed that not all of them were in English; some were in Danish, Hungarian, Hebrew, and Slovak. Of the 76 listed, only 45 were in English. IMG_0928So that gives me a total of 70 survivor interviews to use for my dissertation. I’ll have to compile some data points to draw up some graphs and what not (maps, info-charts, etc) about the survivors, and see what that can tell me. I also need to find some time to go down to the USHMM so I can view the interviews which are provided by the USC Shoah Foundation and only viewable from select locations.

One Tunnel at a Time

I have finally decided which tunnel to focus on for the dissertation. After finally getting up the nerve, I called Dr. Wagner at the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial to ask his opinion on which tunnel to focus on. He graciously and patiently listened to my bumbling German and suggested I focus on the tunnel sites at Porta Westfalica.

Herein enters the difference that new media provides in researching a topic. What’s the first thing I do? Search on Google, of course. I found a few interesting sources right off the bat, and after digging deeper, even more surfaced.

I searched for ‘Porta Westfalica Ambi-Budd’ because Ambi-Budd was the business assigned to the tunnels at Porta Westfalica. I got some interesting results:

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 3.34.52 AM

As you can see, there are hundreds of web pages out there with those three terms on them (including this one).

Here are some of the more interesting links I found.[uid]=126&tx_hnlager_pi1[fromPid]=952

I’ll make sure to go to the Neuengamme archive and memorial site this summer.

The following links could provide connections to sources, but also will be a source in and of themselves. I want to write about what has happened since 1945 with this tunnel, and it looks like a lot of “online” things have been happening. This shows that these tunnels are still of interest today. Why? Well, that’s what I’ll write about in the dissertation.

There are many more. I sure do have my work cut out for me.

(I cheated on the featured image. I started this post in March, and finished it in July, after I visited Neuengamme and Porta Westfalica.)

Setting the Pace

It’s time to really buckle down and get this dissertation going.

I read “The Clockwork Muse” by Eviatar Zerubavel to give me some ideas on how to accomplish the monumental task of writing a dissertation. In a nutshell, the trick is small pieces, planned times, and deadlines. In more detail, here are some notes that I took away from this book and have implemented in my pacing guide to dissertation completion.

800px-BCL5_Saturday_ScheduleSchedule: Schedule specific times to write, specific hours and days each week. Look at your week, plot out all of your existing commitments, family, work, etc. and schedule writing time into the available spots. Scheduling the time gives it reality, fits it in with your already planned life, and gives it boundaries. The book suggests figuring out how long of a session works for you, and keeping your writing times limited to that. I shouldn’t have any problem, because I can only get a few hours in a day anyways. I have a family (a wonderful wife and five amazing children who want to see their husband and dad some time during the week), a full-time job, Church responsibilities, and personal health needs. That gives me about three hours on three days a week. Making some changes during the summer, I should be able to bump that up to five hours on those three days a week. Plan for known vacations, trips, and other blocks of days where you know you will not be able to write. I figured that I will have three days a week to write, but I still have a lot of research to do, so I bumped that down to two days of writing and one day of research.

513px-Elephant_at_Indianapolis_ZooBits and Pieces: Another tip is to divide the dissertation up into as small of parts as possible. This does several things. First it is psychologically a lot easier to think about focusing on writing 5, 10 or 20 pages of a section or chapter, than it is to think about writing a 300 page dissertation. I already had an outline during the prospectus writing phase. That has certainly changed already (due to the need to focus on one tunnel instead of all of them), and will change again as I learn more about the topic. To help with a very basic outline, I looked at several similar works and based my outline on their table of contents. Here is what I have so far:

  1. Introduction: Historiography, methodology, and arguments
  2. Chapter 1: Business Above Ground (193x-1944)
  3. Chapter 2: Decision to Disperse
  4. Chapter 3: Organization of Project X
  5. Chapter 4: Tunnel Technology and Topology
  6. Chapter 5: Collaboration with Killers
  7. Chapter 6: Persecuted and Perpetrators
  8. Conclusion: Meanings, Memories and Movements

That’s about it. I don’t know which tunnel, or which business I will study yet. Once that is clarified, I’ll be able to fill in the X’s and flush out the outline.

One other idea I liked about this section, is to not fall into the traditional trap of writing one chapter at a time. Zerubavel suggests, rather, to write as much as you can on all sections. That makes it that much easier when going through each revision, because you have something there already. Having a draft of the whole dissertation is much different, and far and away much better, than having a draft of only part of the dissertation, regardless of how “finished” the parts are. I’m going to give that a try.

Fail to plan? Plan to Fail: This next part was great in helping me visualize and actually help me believe that this project is actually achievable. With my end date in mind (December 2014, which will give me buffer time and time for revisions for a April 2015 defense and May 2015 graduation date), I figured out a rough estimate of pages needed, how days I will work, how many hours per day, and therefore how many hours available to write the dissertation. Dividing the pages by the hours gives me how many pages an hour I need to write, and a rough estimate of how many pages a day and week I will need to write. I gave myself a whole month of no writing for this year and next for buffer and reality. July of this year is all research, and I’m sure something will come up next year. Here’s what I came up with:


  • 20 months of work (until December 2014, should have first draft all done, and getting revisions for second draft in January-February 2015, third draft in March-April 2015, submit final in April, defend in May 2015)


  • 240 days
  • 12 days/month to work on dissertation


  • 804 hours total to work on dissertation until December 2014.
  • A) 3 hours/day to work on dissertation, until June 2013 = 144 hours, March-June 2013 (Monday, Thursday, Friday 5pm-8pm)
  • B) 5 hours/day if I don’t teach seminary = 660 hours, August 2013 – December 2014 (Monday, Thursday, Friday 5am-7am, 5pm-8pm)


  • 300 pages, goal to write that many pages
  • 0.4 pages/hour
  • A) 1.5 pages/day, 2 days/week, March-June 2013, 12 pages/month
  • B) 2.5 pages/day, 2 days/week, August 2013 – December 2014, 20 pages/month
  • 6 chapters (not including intro and conclusion)
  • 40 pages/chapter (Intro and conclusion 30 pages each)

Next, I mapped out each day on a monthly calendar (March 2013 until May 2015) with my goals and a place to write my actual progress for the day, like so:

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 6.12.59 PM

This gives me a tangible, and handy chart to mark of progress, keep myself in line, and give something to others so they can see how I have allotted my time.

The author also suggests making up incentives for accomplishing certain milestones. I have not got to that point yet, but I know what the prize is for finishing the dissertation… a cruise!

669px-Jean-Luc_Picard_2Make It So: It’s easy for Captain Picard to get things done, he just says, “Make it so” and people do their jobs and get it done. Well, I’m the captain of this ship, and I say, “Make it so.” Some final tips to get writing are to write out a very rough, very temporary first draft of the whole dissertation. That way, when you get to focus on a specific section, I’m not looking at a blank page, but rather have something to massage, improve upon, and form.

Also, I want to make the transitions from day to day as smooth as possible. Zerubavel suggests taking a few minutes at the end of each writing session to prepare for the next. That way the time wasting and destructive self-critiquing of the previous sessions work is avoided. Some suggestions are to edit the latest draft of the up coming couple of pages, gather materials, sources, ideas for the next session.

Finally, it all boils down to discipline and flexibility. Making a plan, sticking to it, but being flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen issues.


All images from

Change is in the Air, and the Outline

With my recent trip to Germany and the Bundesarchiv in Freiburg, I learned a few important things. One, my original proposed study of the Jägerstab and all of the tunnel projects that organization created is too large. Dr. Herbert suggest that would make a nice life-time study, rather than a dissertation topic. Instead, I should focus on one tunnel project and the accompanying business and forced laborers. Two, it is good to have contacts. Dr. Herbert put me in contact with Dr. Wagner at the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial. Dr. Wagner gave me some excellent advice on how to better select a project. First and foremost, is to have a research question. So far, my research question has been, “What can I find out about the tunnel projects.” I have been content, to this point, to want to just tell a narrative of a tunnel project. One other question comes to mind: Was underground dispersal effective? More will surely come to me as I dig into the data (pun intended).

After crafting a decent research question, the next step is to ask myself if I would like to study the organizational structure of the tunnel project. If so, three types of organizations were involved in underground dispersal: the Jägerstab and their aircraft armaments programs, the Geilenbergstabes focused on the oil and fuel production, and private, individual businesses. Within this study of organization, there were government bodies that oversaw the tunnel construction, such as the SS, the OT (Operation Todt), and others.

A high school near the hotel in Freiburg, Germany
A high school near the hotel in Freiburg, Germany

All underground dispersal projects utilized forced labor. I will also need to consider several aspects regarding the use of such labor. First of all, which type of labor to focus on: political prisoners, prisoners of war, foreign civil prisoners. Second, is the research to cover the daily life and working conditions and experiences of the laborers?

Along with these great questions, Dr. Wagner suggested several books to see as examples.

To help formulate a new outline, I took several of the books and reconstructed an outline based on their table of index. There was a common thread that weaved through each of the works, so I replicated that structure for my new outline. As of this writing, I don’t even have an idea of the business or tunnel I will end up researching, but I can formulate a rough outline nonetheless. Here is what I have so far:

  • Introduction: Historiography, Methodology, Argument
  • Chapter 1: The Business Above Ground (193x – 1944)
  • Chapter 2: Decision to Disperse
  • Chapter 3: Organization of Project X
  • Chapter 4: Technology of Tunnels
  • Chapter 5: Collaboration with Killers: Use of slave labor
  • Conclusion: Meanings, Memories, and Movements

I will refine and add to this as I get more information.

As a technical side note, the above list of books was automatically generated using a the Zotpress plugin. This connects my WordPress install with my online Zotero account. With that set up, I can easily select books to include in a list or bibliography, and have them input into the post.

Transcribing and Translating Documents in the Archive

Part of my dissertation methodology is to try to use collaboration to provide an increase in usable sources. To accomplish this, I have set up the Omeka archive with the wonderful Scripto tool. This tool marries an Omeka install with a MediaWiki install to provide a nice way to be able to view images in the archive in order to transcribe and translate them. This post shows the process for transcribing a document/image.


First, go to the archive page:

First, go to the archive home page:
First, go to the archive home page:

Next, you’ll want to search for a particular file, or browse by item or collection. The search function is a bit limited at the time. It only searches for text in the titles, tags, and existing descriptions. It doesn’t search for already transcribed text.

Search for an item, or browse by item or category.
Search for an item, or browse by item or category.

Once you find an item to transcribe, click on the image or title to go to that item’s page. On that page, near the bottom, you will see a link to transcribe the item. Go ahead and click on that.

Click the link to transcribe.
Click the link to transcribe.

Now you are on the transcription page. Next you will need to log in. (If you would like to help transcribe and/or translate, send me an email, or comment on this post, and I can set you up with an account. And thank you in advance!)

Log in.
Log in.


Once logged in, the page will be a little bit different.

Find the ‘edit’ link to start transcribing the image.


Notice the tools available for the image. (Move the mouse cursor over the image if you do not see them at first.)

Blue: You can zoom in and move the image around to get a better view of the text.

Red: Enter the transcribed text in the box. When done, click the ‘Edit transcription’ button.

Green: Only transcribed text should go in the transcription box, use the discussion page to enter comments about the item and ask questions.

Yellow: When you are done transcribing, and  have clicked the ‘Edit transcription’ button, you can log out.

Transcription Tools

Transcription Tools

There is more to transcribing that just typing out what you see. Sometimes it is hard to even know what you are looking at. Here are some guidelines and policies for transcribing the documents here.

Policy (taken from the US National Archives and Records Administration website)

  • reserve the right to remove content or comments that contain abusive, vulgar, offensive, threatening or harassing language; personal attacks of any kind; or offensive terms that target specific individuals or groups.
  • will remove content or comments that are clearly off-topic, that promote services or products, or that promote or oppose any political party, person campaigning for elected office, or any ballot proposition.
  • The content of all transcriptions and comments are visible to the public, thus submissions should not contain anything you do not wish to broadcast to the general public.
  • If you provide personally identifiable information such as social security numbers, addresses, and telephone numbers in the comments, it will be removed by the moderator. However, if a document itself contains archival or historical personally identifiable information, please transcribe it.
  • do not discriminate against any views, but reserves the right not to post content or comments that do not adhere to these standards.
  • By contributing to the you accept that other users may edit, alter, or remove your contribution.
  • By transcribing or translating a document, you agree that you will not assert or retain any intellectual property rights, including copyright in the translation or transcription.
  • If you think any of the information in the Archive is subject to a valid copyright claim, please contact me using the Q & A page.
  • When transcribing records, you should make a good faith effort to accurately represent the information contained in the record. If a document or record is not legible in some parts, please indicate with “[illegible].” Please consult the Transcription Tips at NARA for more information.

Below is a handy list of links to help with transcribing German handwriting and transcribing in general


NARA Tips for Transcribing:

Tips for reading old handwriting:

German Script Tutorial from BYU:

Three part lesson on reading German handwritten records, from


Reading Blackletters (Gothic German), just for fun, or in case:

The archive is live

Part of my dissertation is to create an online archive of the documents I find. Thanks to the Hist 698 Digital History Techne class I had with Fred Gibbs this semester, the technical work of this part of the dissertation is now done. I used Omeka with the Scripto plugin (which is really a bridge to a MediaWiki installation) for the archive, and an Exhibit from MIT’s Simile project for a quick and dirty display of data and a map plotting the location of several of the tunnel locations.

Also part of the course, is to give a brief presentation about the final project, which is taken from this post.


I had two goals for this course.

  1. Create an quick and easy way to display the location and information about some of the tunnel sites using a selection of documents.
  2. Create an online archive that would allow myself and others to transcribe and translate the documents.

Part 1

I was to use the Exhibit tool to complete the first goal. Set up was a bit more difficult than planned. I had an Exhibit working for a different project, and was finally able to massage the data into a copy of that code, and integrate it into the website using a WordPress Template.

Map showing the location of tunnel projects in the A and B groups.

This allowed me to display the data in three different views. First is the map, as seen above. I was able to show the tunnels in the two different groups identified in the documents. The A projects were existing tunnels, caves, or mines that were to be retrofitted and improved before factories could be moved in. B projects were to be completely new underground spaces.

The Exhibit also has a table view, showing all of the items with select information for easy comparison, or information retrieval at a glance. For each view, the right hand side provides options for filtering the data. Exhibit uses JavaScript, so with of the data is already present in the page,  filters and changes are applied instantly without any page reloads and slow data retrieval from the server.

A third view shows all of the items separately, with all of the available data.

Ideally, this information would be stored in a Google Spreadsheet to make updating and adding a cinch, but I was not able to get that working, so the data is in a JSON file instead. It would also have been neat to pull the information from the archive. Perhaps that can be built later.

Part 2

I also set up an Omeka install to host the images I had previously digitized from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I not only want an archive, but also a way to have others transcribe and translate the documents, so I installed the Scripto plugin which is dependent on a MediaWiki install as well.

The ability to transcribe and translate is also an integral part of my dissertation. I want to argue, and show that historical work can not and should not be done alone. One way to do this is to get help from the undergraduates in the German Language program here at George Mason University. The German Language director at GMU is all on board to have some of her upper level students take on translation as part of their course work. This not only helps me, but helps them learn German by looking at interesting historical documents (and hopefully get them interested in history), but also helps future researches to be able to search and find documents easier.

Transcribing and translating made possible by Scripto and MediaWiki.

Historical Questions

This was the hardest part of the course. I’m really good at creating digital stuff because that is what I do all day. But I’m a little rusty on the historical interpretation and asking questions. What also makes this hard is not knowing completely what data I have yet.

Part of the problem with coming up with good, probing questions, is that I haven’t had a lot of time to look at the documents to see what is there. Also, there is not much written on this topic, so I’m kind of figuring out the story as I go. It’s a lot easier to read secondary works and ask new questions, or ask old questions in different ways. But there are no questions yet, except what happened.

The bigger questions, in light of this course, should be about how does this technology that we learned help understand the history, or help generate new questions. Will displaying the data in different ways help me make connections and inspire ideas that I would not otherwise have made or thought? Do the digital tools allow me to process more data than I could do non-digitally?

Another stumbling block (or is it a building block, it’s all about perspective, right), comes from my recent trip to Germany for research. While there I met with Dr. Ulrich Herbert at the University of Freiburg. He’s somewhat of a scholar in the area of slave labor, and has kept up to date on the writings regarding the underground dispersal projects. His wise suggestion for my dissertation was to focus on a single tunnel site, rather than trying to write about the organization responsible for all of the dispersal projects. Such an undertaking would take a life time, he said. So now I need to focus on just one tunnel, rather than all of them. Fortunately, Dr. Herbert put me in contact with the Director of the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial, Dr. Jens-Christian Wagner. With his help, I may be able to find a specific tunnel to focus on, and make my trip in July 2013 that much more profitable.

The Tools to Do the Job – Scrivener, Zotero, LibreOffice

(This post is cross-posted at my personal blog)

Scrivener is awesome software for writing, that I’ve mentioned before, but I had yet to really test out the integration with Zotero (my citation manager of choice). So now that I have finally started on my dissertation writing in earnest (and not grant writing), I needed to make sure that footnotes are usable in my work flow. So this is a quick write up of the tools I will use in writing my dissertation, and how I will use them.

The Tools

LibreOffice: Free and Open Source document software. Who knows how long I will have access to free Microsoft Word? LibreOffice (the fork of OpenOffice) will always be free and freely available. The steps will be basically the same if you are using Microsoft Word, just substitute that program for LibreOffice when it comes to it.

Zotero: I’m certainly biased, but Zotero is the greatest citation management software evar! Also free and open source. I’m using the stand alone version, but you can use the Firefox extension as well. Should work the same.






Scrivener: The greatest writing software I’ve seen. So good I even paid for it. I don’t usually do that with software (as you can see, I like free and open source).





The Process

Here I will try to outline the process I found that will save footnotes from existing documents into Scrivener, and Scrivener created footnotes into exported documents. From there, it’s easy to create Zotero connected footnotes.

1. Copy existing documents with footnotes into Scrivener

Copy from LibreOffice
Copy from LibreOffice

The first issue to run across is to put your existing documents into scrivener. I wrote a paper for Hist 811 that is basically the bulk of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of the dissertation. It’s needs some finessing in order to fit in the dissertation. It would be a shame to lose the footnotes, which is what happens if you just use Scrivener’s import file process. This is an easy fix. Just copy the text from your document and paste it into a Scrivener text area.

Then with your Scrivener project open, create a new text area, or select an existing one, which ever, and paste it in. Nothing special there.








2. Create new footnotes in Scrivener

Scrivener makes a Footnote
See how Scrivener makes a footnote!

What is special, though is what Scrivener does with that footnote. See there, footnote number 20, right after the quote about the cocktail of causes and rearmament being one of the ingredients? Now in Scrivener we have the word “ingredient” highlighted and underlined, and on the right side of the Scrivener window, there is a new footnote with all of the content of the original footnote. Sweet!







Easy as Format->Footnote, or use the shorcut keys Ctrl-Cmd-8

That’s all well and good. What if we want to edit the text a little bit, add some good stuff and add another footnote in there? What do we do? Well, Scrivener has a way to add a footnote. Just highlight some text (the footnote will be inserted after the last word), and go to the Format menu and select Footnote. Or you can use the fancy shortcut keys, for faster typing and footnote inserting, Ctrl-Cmd-8 (⌃⌘8).








Look, Ma! A new footnote!

Now you have a new, blank, footnote area to put a footnote reverence in.








Select the reference in Zotero and drag it into the footnote box in Scrivener.

Zotero makes it easy to put the reference in that new empty footnote with drag and drop citations. Just pull up your Zotero (either from Firefox, or if you have the standalone version). Select the reference you want, and drag it into the empty footnote section.








3. Moving from Scrivener to a document, and keeping your footnotes!

So, ideally, you would be able to export your text document, and all of these lovely footnotes you have made in Scrivener, using Zotero, would just magically work in a Word or LibreOffice document. It doesn’t, yet (or ever?). So here is how to get your footnotes into a document, and then get those footnotes to be Zotero enabled.


First, you export your Scrivener document to RTF format.







Select RTF format

Select the plain RTF format, and the first check box for only the selected files (although, you could un check this if you want to do all of your files at once. No other check boxes are needed. Then just hit the Export button.






Open it up with your favorite document program, LibreOffice or Word.

Next, you will want to open your new RTF document in LibreOffice (or Word if you’re using that program).




All my citations are in the house!

You will notice that all of your footnotes are in this file. Yeah! Sometimes the text had odd font sizes and styles. So a quick ‘Select All’ and change it to default style and Times New Roman, 12 pt should fix that right up. Now here is the labor intensive part. For each footnote, we’re going to have to recreate it so that it is handled by Zotero. Then we’ll delete the original footnote. It would be nice of Scrivener could export the footnotes in a way that Zotero could detect them, but alas it is not to be.


Now you add a citation through the zotero buttons to make a zotero-aware citation.









All my citations are in the house!

Insert a Zotero citation using the Zotero buttons in your document program’s menu bar.











I prefer the Zotero classic view.











The new citation find view is pretty slick, though.








You can add pages with a coma, space, number.





Now you have two citations.







With two citations in the document, you’ll need to delete the one that was not made by zotero.






Just make sure you delete the non-zotero aware citation. The Zotero citation is usually highlighted.














Now you can save the document as a different file format: odt, doc, docx

Now save the document as an ODT document. If it is saved as anything else, it will not be Zotero aware.







Take your pick of file types.













Save as the correct file format if you want Zotero to be able to edit them again.








One alternative method is to create footnotes in Scrivener using the format {Author, Year, Page#}. Then export as an RTF document as before. Then, in Zotero, use the ‘RTF Scan’ tool in the Preferences menu. Zotero will see all of the citations and replace them nicely with formatted citations (using Ibid. and short notation for repeat books, and such). Zotero will not be aware of these citations at all, so if you need them to be Zotero aware, you might as well use the steps outlined above. If you do not expect to update citations or the text once done in Scrivener, then this may be the easiest way to go.

Now I can happily transfer existing documents into Scrivener and save the footnotes!