Employee Record Cards, Part II

In our last blog post we talked about the employee records cards that we encountered this summer.  Here is a blog post from University of Maryland anthropology major Katie Chen, who has been working on this difficult project all semester. I asked Katie to talk about her working process:

Hi! My name is Katie Chen and I am a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am currently studying Anthropology, but recently got interested in archaeology. During my freshman fall semester I studied abroad in London and took a course called Social Anthropology of Britain. During this semester, I started some ethnographic research on the London black cabs, learning about the cab business and the changing geography of London through interviews with the drivers.  This experience confirmed my interest in ethnographic research and anthropology. Someday I hope to return to London to continue what I started.

Recently, having become interested in archaeology, I decided to help Mike on his research on the Lattimer Massacre. I am currently making a database of miner employee records cards. My strategy has been to go through the cards and make an initial attempt at deciphering the handwriting.  After a couple days, I will go back to the cards and read them again. This method has worked almost every time, but some cards need more review time.

On several occasions, I’ve tried to look online to see if there is a name for the type of script used then.  I have not been successful yet, but I’ve been able to look at specific examples, and get an idea of what the letter could be.  Inputting data is rather tedious and can be frustrating, as I have spent more than 30 minutes looking at one card because I can’t read the names or locations. When entering data on locations, I will sometimes look up on Google if my spelling version comes up with any additional spellings. This has worked a couple times, which has been exciting. Otherwise, I will have to go back to taking a break for a couple of days and coming back to the cards.

In addition to this project, I am researching what religious or spiritual beliefs miners might hold across the globe. After reading articles about conditions in the mines and hearing stories, I wondered if there was any belief that propelled the miners to endure such harsh conditions.  The mines are extremely dangerous and miners risk their lives and health every time they go down. With this side project, I would like to find out if the conditions of mining are similar worldwide and if there are any religious, spiritual, superstitious attitudes consistent across them.

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