Scanning Tales from the Crypt at Congressional Cemetery
Editor’s note: As we wrap up American Archives Month and note today’s date on the calendar, it only seems apropos to highlight Crowley Imaging’s document conversion work with Washington, D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery.
“Dead men tell no tales.” Or so say the Proverbs (loosely translated) or Captain Jack Sparrow (well-scripted). Storytellers, forensic specialists and archivists will argue.
In April and August of last year, Crowley Imaging partnered with Congressional Cemetery on two separate projects to digitize more than 10,000 images that most definitely have a story to tell.
About Congressional Cemetery
As noted on their website, Congressional Cemetery is a 35-acre historic burial ground located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Initially known as the Washington Parish Burial Ground, Congressional became the first true national burial ground as Congress bought sites, buried noted civil servants and funded the infrastructure.
Today, Congressional Cemetery offers a unique window into American history. As the premier burial ground for 19th Century Washington, it began collecting an assembly of prominent civic leaders, architects, military officers and men of commerce. In time came the leaders of civil rights movements, explorers of the world, artists and diplomats. This collection of outstanding individuals tells the American story from an untold number of aspects and makes Congressional Cemetery a unique historic place.  The Cemetery is operated by The Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery, a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, which is also responsible for its important preservation and restoration efforts.
Among the 55,000 burials, civil war photographer Mathew Brady, conductor and composer John Philip Sousa and first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), J. Edgar Hoover are just a few of those most easily recognized.
About the Digitization Projects
To date, Crowley Imaging has scanned three of six series from the collection known as the Historical Congressional Cemetery Archive: the Daily Interment Logs; the Range and Site Records; and the Business Records.
The Daily Interment Logs began in 1820 and consist of 37 bound books. The volumes contain the daily records of burials. Through 1865, the volumes contain both site sales and burial records; after that date, the site sales are kept separately in the business records.
The Range and Site Records consist of 10 bound volumes and date from 1807. The records show the location of each “resident” (the term for the interred) by range and site designation. “Range” refers to the numbered row while “site” refers to the exact plot.
The Business Records, dating from 1865 to 1903, are loose documents kept on ledger files organized into file folders. They show site sales in chronological order.
As Crowley’s service bureau is just a short drive from the nation’s capital, the archives were either delivered by the Cemetery staff or picked up by Crowley staff. Once the volumes and documents were received, they were checked against a manifest and scanned in a specific order and timeframe dictated by the client. Parameters were set up for individual image naming/indexing to make later online and file search easy. All documents were scanned on a Zeutschel overhead book scanner at 300 dpi color uncompressed TIFF. From the TIFF images, derivative JPEG and multi-page PDF files were created to exact specifications.
Digitization extends the life of these recorded histories – and by extension, the history of Congressional Cemetery’s residents – and enlarges public access that might (pun intended, sorry, it’s Halloween) otherwise be buried. The charm and historical significance of faded ink and aging paper is maintained via electronic images while today’s technology allows the records from one small corner of the world to be shared internationally.
Have Your Own Tale To Tell?
The Crowley Company has earned the respect of renowned archivists, institutions, service bureaus, libraries, private collectors, corporations and governments for a wide range of analog and digital imaging solutions. For specifics on scanning equipment and conversion services, please visit our website.
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