The Amy Matilda Cassey and Martina and Mary Anne Dickerson albums have long been some of the Library Company’s most requested items in the Print Department. Visual and textual, as well as rare artifacts of 19th-century middle-class African American history, the friendship albums are rich for digital humanities scholarship. When the Library Company’s Curator of African American History Krystal Appiah was approached in summer 2013 by Swarthmore professor Lara Cohen about her class analyzing the albums and in turn possibly creating an online site, we thought this may be the time to think a bit outside of the box when it comes to digital humanities at the Library.

Very much a collaborative project based on LCP’s connections within the research community, students and staff from the Library Company, Rochester Institute of Technology, Swarthmore College, and Rutgers University have partnered together to create a participatory site for the student, scholar, or anyone curious to learn more about African American and women’s history, the history of Philadelphia, and 19th-century visual and material culture.

Inspired by the Emilie Davis Diary site through Villanova University, our project hopes to expand beyond digitization and transcription. Three-dimensional representations of the albums, illustrated biographies of the contributors, textual data mining, and a virtual reality module depicting the interior of a mid-nineteenth century parlor are just a few of our future goals.

We cannot help but think that those of you first learning about these albums will be as immediately engaged and entranced by them as those of us who have already had the privilege to examine them.

For more about the Cassey Album, click here.