In an interview on The Signal conduced by Camille Salas, Julie Miller, historian at the Library of Congress, discusses her work creating a Viewshare “view,” a project that examines 18th and 19th century maritime documents. As a collection, these clearances, bills of health, receipts of payments of customs and lighthouse duties, bills of lading, and ship passports can reveal larger stories about war and empire, diplomacy, slavery, epidemics, revolutions, privateers and pirates. Miller explains how Viewshare assisted her exploration of the documents:
When I built a map and created tag clouds and lists, the dominance of Baltimore became obvious, as did its trade with Caribbean ports, especially the French colony of Saint Domingue, today, Haiti. Viewshare made it possible to see that these documents were not miscellaneous at all, but instead constitute a rich and meaningful collection.
Miller’s discussion of her work and process in preparing the project is a useful case study for one way that that libraries and cultural heritage organizations can use relatively simple digital tools to connect collections with new users and provide new ways of looking at materials.