Deciphering the Past: Transcription Hour

Programs, Lectures, and Talks
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.
Online Event | Eastern Standard Time (UTC -5)
United States

Have you ever been interested in transcription and the mysteries it can unlock?


Letter written in 1793 by Catherine Haines Hartshorne

A letter from Catherine Haines Hartshorne to Hannah Haines, 1793.

American Philosophical Society

Join the American Philosophical Society (APS) and the Science History Institute for this three-part series on deciphering historical documents throughout time. Puzzle through mysterious writing and try your hand at decrypting colloquialisms and unfamiliar spellings with APS fellow Julie Fisher. In each session we’ll be working with a specially selected manuscript straight from our vaults. Learn tips you can use when transcribing historical documents, practice new skills, and discover your inner detective.

For our November session, we’ll be transcribing a letter from Catherine Haines Hartshorne to her sister Hannah Haines, written in 1793 during the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia.

You can also learn more about this epidemic and the role communities of color played as essential health workers.

About the Speaker

Julie Fisher holds a PhD in history from the University of Delaware, with a focus on early American and Native American history. She is currently at the American Philosophical Society as the Members Bibliography and Biography Postdoctoral Fellow. Before coming to the APS she was a consulting editor with the Native Northeast Portal, a digital humanities project based at Yale University from 2017 to 2019, and the primary investigator for a National Park Service grant at the Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence, Rhode Island, from 2016 to 2018. She began transcribing and learning paleography skills for her first book, Ninigret, Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country. She has been transcribing ever since.