ML King Digital Archives – Day 1

On Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 the King Center – the keeper of the flame for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – launched its digital archives, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase’sTechnology for Social Good. The project took nine months to complete. For the remainder of the week, will be trolling the site and giving you a daily taste of some of the offerings. This is day one.

Almost a million pieces of material – from notecards he created in school to correspondence to speeches and sermons – has been preserved in digital format. This is not simply typing words into a word processor. This is using the actual piece of paper and digitizing it.

The result is visually stunning. The default view is put together like a collage, with yellowed bits of paper that are part of the archive. Hover over a piece of a hand-written or typed note, and a pop-up will give you an abstract on what the piece is about.

For those who are put off by the mess of the collage style, you can swith to a list version.

If you’re searching for a particular thing, the handy-dandy themes are there to guide you. Twenty-one different themes range from Dr. King’s economic philosophy, to his scholarship to letters from children to quotes – which then link you directly to the source document. This is a treasure trove for students of any age writing about King – or even studying the concept of epistemology. Much of the archives are devoted to papers that indicate where King came from, and point to where he would go.

In addition to themes, you can filter down even more by type of content. Or you can simply search for a term you’re looking for.

For those non-techies, you should know that when you’re reading the document, you can’t mouse down. You have to click with the hand that hovers over the document and “push” the image any way you want it to go. You can also zoom in or zoom out. Many of the documents are hard to read, so zooming in and then manually moving it around is sometimes necessary.

Check out this link to an editorial King wrote in the Baltimore Sun opposing the Vietnam War. His reasoning is that the money spent on war took away from the money and focus that could be spent on eradicating poverty. Note that the paper is torn, and at some point something was spilled on the bottom. This is an excellent example of how the original document was preserved in digitized form.

Tomorrow we’ll explore some of the letters Dr. King received from children.

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