July 2023 Star Notes Update

Hello everyone,

This is Sydney and Katie, Star Notes and Project PHaEDRA researchers. Happy Summer! We hope you are doing well! Thank you for remaining interested in our work and for volunteering your time to help with our research! As always, we appreciate your effort to learn about the history of women in astronomy, as well as preserve the research of the Harvard College Observatory. 

Office Hours in August

This month, we are continuing our hiatus from regularly scheduled office hours, which we usually hold on the second Tuesday of each month at 2PM ET. During these office hours, we have Q&A, space for discussion, and invite visiting speakers. 

Next month, we are planning to host a transcription center help session like we did in February, where we will have another conversation with transcribers about the new in-development transcription instructions. Stay tuned for updates about that future meeting, and keep in mind any suggestions you may have. You can expect regular updates here in our newsletters, on social media, and on the Zooniverse talk boards. 

Transcription Center Update

On the Smithsonian Transcription Center, volunteers are currently transcribing notebooks belonging to Williamina P. Fleming, Evelyn F. Leland, Muriel Mussells, Sylvia Mussells, and Annie Jump Cannon

Thank you to everyone who attended our Smithsonian Transcription Center Clinic in February, in which we discussed detailed examples and new guidelines for transcribing. You can view a recording of the meeting here

You can expect new instructions with this information to be uploaded to our Smithsonian Transcription Center project sometime soon. We are working with SITC staff to make the instructions more helpful and clear, and considering the questions we regularly receive from volunteers. We are thinking of ways to add visual aids, such as small videos explaining each topic in depth. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions, suggestions for sections to include in the instructions, or general feedback concerning transcription via email at phaedra@cfa.harvard.edu. You can also reach out to ask us to reopen completed pages for edits, with specific questions and examples, and anything else you’d like to share!

Featured Volunteer Question

We have decided to incorporate a new section to discuss recent questions that have come up about our projects on the Smithsonian Transcription Center, and on Star Notes on Zooniverse. Recently we had a question from a Smithsonian Transcription Center volunteer named Sheryl about a unique detail in the Muriel & Sylvia Mussells notebook titled “Diameter of brightest nebulae, J. #G55.” 

Sheryl explained that she noticed some number 3s and 6s on some pages in this notebook have a small comma-like addition to them. The volunteer was transcribing the line on the 3s as a comma in an attempt to capture its meaning. After investigating further, we determined that in other notebooks by Sylvia, other numbers such as 2s and 7s have similar lines added to the ends of the numbers. Once we had decided that it wasn’t a comma, and noticed it on other numbers in different contexts, we were left thinking, what could this be, what could it mean? How should it be transcribed?

We landed on the conclusion that the added lines may be a personal notation or handwriting flourish made by Sylvia during her work, not related to the data, and volunteers can either acknowledge this phenomenon with a [[ symbol ]] tag, a comma, or to just ignore it completely, as it may not have any astronomical significance. What do you think, would you have come to the same conclusion? Feel free to email us at phaedra@cfa.harvard.edu if you have any thoughts on this subject. You can also send us an email if you have another question like this one, or specifically want to feature a finding in this section!

Star Notes Update

The second phase of Star Notes asks volunteers to identify any non-textual material in the PHaEDRA logbooks, including astronomical sketches, graphs, and inserted material. As always, we are available on the talk boards to answer any questions you may have about this workflow, as well as to discuss your interesting new findings! 

Commemorative Book

We are still working on developing a commemorative book about Project PHaEDRA to celebrate the completion of phase one of Star Notes. This book will cover the history of the project and explain our motivations for transcribing and classifying the content in the notebooks. We would like to include volunteer perspectives and contributions in the book and have those contributions be at the heart of the commemoration. Some examples could include interviews with volunteers, a contributors list, interesting finds, and guest essays. If you are interested in shaping the direction of the book and/or contributing to it, please fill out this short three-question survey.

Volunteer Credit

If you’re a volunteer looking to get credit for your work on our project, please fill out this Google Form to receive a volunteer confirmation on Center for Astrophysics letterhead (you will need to sign in to a Google account to submit the form. If you don’t have a Google account, you can send an email to phaedra@cfa.harvard.edu). As always, if you have any questions for us, or if there’s anything that we can do to help, you can contact us or find us on the talk boards. Have a great month!

Sydney & Katie
Project PHaEDRA Team, Wolbach Library 
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Website | Twitter | Instagram 

(image: phaedra1184, “Cluster Variables” pg. 54, Ida E. Woods, 1919)

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