January 5, 2009
My on again, off again relationship with Distributed Proofreaders (DP) has mostly been on again since last summer. This time around, I’ve pulled way back and am focusing on a few parts of the process I most enjoy. This means I’ve mostly been doing post processing, which is the step where it all comes together and a project is made ready for upload to Project Gutenberg (PG). I like this stage because I get to play with HTML and CSS and have a fair amount of latitude when it comes to deciding how the finished e-book should look.
I spend most of my DP time working on issues of the periodical published by the American Missionary Association. I first got involved with it back in 2005, when a call went out for a volunteer to adopt the dozen-plus issues that had gotten stuck at the last stage before upload to PG. By the time I had worked through that backlog, I understood how to handle the quirky technical bits (mainly large tables of receipts in the back of every issueâ€”music to my accountant’s heartâ€”and long lists of field workers and such) and had gotten into a groove. No one else seemed to be fighting for the right to post process these, and since I liked doing them, I just kept at it.
One of the things I like about working with this magazine is the little glimpses of places I know that turn up. The receipt tables often show contributions from the town I grew up in, the church I was married in, and people whose names are now on buildings I’ve been in, like Prof. Kedzie from Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University, where Kedzie Hall sits kitty corner from the Auditorium) or Mrs. J. L. Hudson (of department store fame, though they were all renamed Marshall Field’s after some corporate restructuring and now they’re Macy’s so the Hudson’s name is really just history now). Another part of the appeal is similar to what I get from wandering cemeteries, namely, the tidbits of information that spark my imagination, like the $49.97 donated for reindeer for the Alaska Mission (what was the mission going to do with them?) or the money that came from Grace and Gertrude Wyckoff of Pang Chung, China in 1896 (how did they get there? a lot of women who are living now won’t ever get to see China in person, but there these ladies were in the last century). I was tickled to see someone named Barak Maxwell turn up in an issue from 1900, now that my Barak-radar is activated due to our President-elect.
I don’t read every word of every issue I touch, but I absorb enough of them that I’ve started to feel like I know some of these people. When the obituary for a pastor who’d been on the Executive Committee for years came through, I felt sad. When I started to see donations from places that had previously only been recipients, I was impressed. There are a lot more of these issues coming through the DP workflow; I can’t wait to see what else I find.