Getting started with the CLIR Water Project

Hello, fellow followers of the water history of Southern California!

I’m Aalia, a freshman at Pomona College, and I recently joined the CLIR Water team here at good old Honnold-Mudd library. During my first two weeks, I have been working with Book 1 of the Chaffey letters. I checked the scans of the original letters against their transcripts to make sure the files were paired together correctly, then filled in some of their metadata in the Excel spreadsheet tracker.

As we know, there are hundreds of these letters, so I didn’t really get to read each one- if I had, I’d be working on that same task right now, and for the next several days! But I did get to skim a lot of the documents, and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into a different era and its form of communication. My freshman critical inquiry course this semester revolves around letters and the role they play in our lives and societies, so I’ve been thinking about the purpose, context, and form of various letters for the past couple months. Applying this thought process to the Chaffey brothers’ correspondences has made me observant of the particular language they use and how it conveys their meaning, the openings and closings of each letter, and the tone the writers use when dealing with different issues. The opportunity to explore these themes as I compiled rows and rows of metadata definitely spiced up the job.

So far, I’ve learned how to work on metadata and how to convert PDFs to PDF/As. I’ve also realized that Excel can be tricky- I accidentally messed up the configuration of a spreadsheet when I was trying to add rows- so I am trying to be even more careful with these little details!

See you after Thanksgiving,