|
|
|
Morning Sun
  • Letner, Boyd help archive original Lincoln documents

  • It’s not every day that you get to hold an original Abraham Lincoln signature in your hands.

    Unless, of course, you spend your winter break volunteering for the Lincoln Archives Digital Project at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. That’s just what Pittsburg State University students Jake Letner and Jordan Boyd did.
    • email print
  • It’s not every day that you get to hold an original Abraham Lincoln signature in your hands.
    Unless, of course, you spend your winter break volunteering for the Lincoln Archives Digital Project at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. That’s just what Pittsburg State University students Jake Letner and Jordan Boyd did.
    The two spent around 18 days in the nation’s capital, working on the project and doing lots of sightseeing on their time off.
    “We saw everything people should see when they go to Washington, D.C.,” Letner said.
    A PSU junior from Pittsburg, he learned about the Lincoln project when a former project intern talked about it during one of his classes. The project was started in 2002 by PSU graduate Karen Needles.
    “I e-mailed her and asked if I could do my internship over Christmas break,” Letner said. “She said yes, and said I could ask a buddy to come. I thought of Jordan.”
    Boyd, a PSU senior and native of Afton, Okla., said he’d heard of the project before and thought it was something he might do later.
    “When this opportunity came up, I took it,” he said.
    The project involves scanning historical documents from Lincoln’s Administration, including those covering the Civil War.
    “A lot of the documents we dealt with were sent over from the Department of the Army,” Letner said. “We’d order documents every day. We were working on Burnside documents (Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside) and there were boxes and boxes of telegrams. I saw a lot of Burnside signatures, Ulysses Grant, all the generals.”
    Boyd said they also worked on items such as confiscated Confederate payrolls.
    “Some documents are pretty fragile and in mylar,” he said.
    “We’d scan them, which only takes about a minute, and Karen would put them through Photoshop, clean them up and they would go on line,” Letner said.
    Once online, the documents can be accessed by researchers around the world.
    “You can do all this research from your own office, and not have to go to the National Archives in Washington, D.C.,” Letner said. “There are around 65,000 documents online and more are uploaded every day.”
    They stayed in Needles’ home and she even cooked for them.
    “She would fix dinner for us, then sit down at her desk and work,” Boyd said.
    Needles also took them around the night they arrived in Washington.
    “We saw the Iwo Jima monument, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial on our first night there,” Boyd said. “Later on, we toured most of the Smithsonian buildings, and we spent one whole day and just walked the Mall. We learned it was best to go early in the morning or you’d find all these long lines.”
    Page 2 of 2 - He added that, on New Year’s Day, the two did a road trip that included stops at Harpers Ferry, scene of an 1859 raid by abolitionist John Brown and an 1862 Civil War Battle, as well as the battlegrounds of Antietam and Gettysburg.
    “On our last day we went to the White House and he (President Barack Obama) was there,” Boyd said. “We were within 50 feet of  him.”
    They also went to Arlington National Cemetery.
    “We saw the changing of the guard,” Letner said. “As we were going up the steps to Kennedy’s grave, it started to rain.”
    There was also a special moment for Boyd, who found the name of  a cousin on a memorial marker.
    “Back in the 1990s two planes collided over the coast off San Diego and 27 men lost their lives,” he said. “They have a marker with all their names on it.”
    Both Letner and Boyd would be happy to have a second stint at interning for the Lincoln Archives Digital Project, because they believe in its importance and because they were fascinated by the nation’s capital.
    “Washington, D.C. is the most important city in the United States, and we were right in the middle of it,” Letner said.
    But, even there, they also saw signs of that America is not the land of plenty for all its residents.
    “We saw the homeless,” Boyd said. “There are some boilers and the homeless would lay on them on tarps and sheets. We saw that every day.”
    He also served internships at the Dobson Museum in Miami, Okla., and the Miners Hall Museum, Franklin. Both Boyd and Letner volunteered as docents when MHM hosted the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit “The Way We Worked.”
    Letner is currently busy serving as coordinator for the annual PSU Big Event,  a one-day service project when PSU students aid community members in a variety of ways. It will take place April 12.
    He’s also got his eyes on another internship possibility.
    “This summer I’d like to intern at the George Washington Carver Monument at Diamond, Mo.,” Letner said.

        calendar