About the Project
Corresponding with Quakers is the transcription site for the Ballitore Project. This project investigates and digitizes an archive of Quaker documents to reveal new perspectives on early feminist and abolitionist thought, while also confronting systemic racism in archival studies and the digital humanities through a collaboration between a large public research university, a public teaching-intensive university, and an HBCU: the University of California, Santa Barbara; California State University, Northridge; and Howard University. The project focuses on the Ballitore Collection, an archive of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Quaker correspondence and journals held at UCSB’s Special Research Collections. This unique, virtually unknown collection sheds light on the intersection of gender, race, class, and religion in the period, a turbulent moment in which British and American abolitionists were pushing to end the slave trade. The primary author is Mary Leadbeater (1758-1826), an Anglo-Irish poet and essayist and central figure in Quaker circles. Quakers were key players in abolition despite their small numbers and secondary political status, and they also exhibited proto-feminist tendencies with their emphasis on female preaching. But the collection also reflects many structural hierarchies, as its contents were assembled by a middle-class white woman and the Black voices in the collection are filtered through a white framework—from that of Leadbeater, who first compiled the documents, to that of its twentieth-century archivization and dissemination. The collection opens onto a host of identities from the eighteenth-century British Empire and early United States to today.
To find new ways of surfacing these competing perspectives, Hidden Archives applies computational techniques to a manuscript archival collection. We are using two primary techniques: topic modeling and network analysis. Topic modeling is a method that breaks documents and collections into lists of associated words, or topics, while network analysis can allow us to visualize the connections in a correspondence community. These techniques require plain-text transcriptions and information about the letters' senders and recipients, which is where you come in!
The Ballitore Collection, held at UCSB Library's Special Research Collections, consists of about 2,500 letters and journals, the bulk of which cover the 1780s to 1830s. The collection was acquired by UCSB in the 1960s and '70s, and other papers related to the Ballitore Quaker community are dispersed among different libraries. UCSB's collection is organized into 14 boxes of materials, of which, so far, four have been digitized and two transcribed. Right now, we are working on transcribing Boxes 4 and 5, which consist of correspondence to and from the Shackleton and Leadbeater families.
The Ballitore Project has received support from the UC-HBCU Initiative, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies.