Volunteer Blog: Ffion reflects on Transcribing Annie’s Diary – the ‘Welsh Women’s Peace Tour’ of America, 1924.
Ffion Edwards, from Llantwit Major, has been volunteering from home on WCIA’s ‘Peace Heritage’ programme. Having recently graduated in Archaeology from Cambridge (with a thesis on Welsh Cultural Heritage), Ffion is preparing to do an MPhil in Heritage for which she was keen to gain some practical project experience. With WCIA, she took on the task of completing transcription of “Annie’s Diary” – a personal record of the Women’s Peace Appeal Tour of America in 1924, by Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) Chair Annie Hughes-Griffiths. Here Ffion shares her reflections.
‘Annie’s diary’ was an unknown entity to me in October when I first discussed taking on the role of transcribing it. My desire to ‘take up the challenge’ was based on the videos and information that I flicked through on the WCIA website, and the conviction shared by the WCIA and all the volunteers who worked on the project before me, that this is an incredibly important record from Wales’ peace heritage – and one that should be publicly accessible (especially with the Centenary of the campaign approaching in 2023-24).
My initial task was to transcribe missing pages from the first draft of the transcription, which took place early in 2020. I then added these into an ongoing draft document, and undertook the much lengthier task of reading through the previous transcriptions to fill in gaps that earlier transcribers had found illegible; and to ensure that names, spellings, dates, text formats and notes were consistent through the text. Annie’s handwriting could be challenging, as she was writing whilst always on the move; so some pages were easy reading, but others I could initially only read about every fourth word!
Beyond this, I cleaned up the presentational style of the transcript, and added a set of guidelines explaining the structure and colour scheme produced for notes sections, hyperlinks, and points where the transcription was uncertain. It was an illuminating opportunity as a Heritage student, as it demonstrated some of the practicalities of transcription – and how to present information that at times relies heavily upon personal judgement rather than certainty. Scans of the original diary are hyperlinked to each page number, so are still readily accessible to anyone reading the text, a choice that seemed important to make the diary most useful to future researchers. While hyperlinks are in-text, notes about particularly important figures and places appear in the comments column to the right of the main text for various reasons: it allows continuous additions without disrupting flow of the diary; people can turn them off and read without comments if desired; and it identified the author of the comment so further additions are possible and traceable.
The process itself was very exciting at times… Becoming familiar with Annie is a treat – her striking modesty in many illustrious situations, combined with infrequent but amusing disdain for some aspects of American life! The diary can be an emotional experience in its balance of historical moments, and more everyday accounts of 1920s USA. Her often detailed descriptions of meals she ate, both at formal dinners and when hosted by American delegates, were some of my favourite sections: a pistachio cake recommendation and a lengthy piece on cafeterias have stayed with me. Notes in the transcription present this balance in the diary between daily life and political entanglements. Annie herself – and various other women on the campaign, notably Mary Ellis – are significant to Welsh heritage even when separated from this petition campaign. But this text harbours connections to many people and places central to Welsh, and in some cases American, political life, which is fascinating.