Team Bertillon Transcription

 

Team Bertillon Transcription

Doctoral, masters, and undergraduate students are collaborating in the Visual Media Workshop, transcribing the ever-inconsistent Bertillon Cards as a key component of the Decomposing Bodies project.  We are utilizing the Agile Project Management model to coordinate our work on the project and track our progress through a "sprint," or a focused, highly-structured project period. Our team is utilizing Omeka as our platform for uploading and transcribing images, as this particular tool accommodates image collections, robust metadata, tagging, and data exportation. 

Although we are in the early stages of the transcription process, interesting (and baffling) trends are already emerging. Through the transcription of the first 250 cards, alone, I encountered three distinct types of cards bearing the Bertillon stamp and containing Bertillon measurements (with slight alterations evident in each card type). For example, the card pictured here (with the prisoner's face and ID number blurred for the sake of privacy) is a Type 3 card; it is formatted for dates beginning with "190_" and features the "English Height" measurement rather than the "Stoop" measurement evident in Type 2 cards. For more information about the Bertillon measurements, please refer to R.W. McClaughry's 1896 translation of Alphonse Bertillon's system: Signaletic Instructions.

We will, no doubt, encounter other types of cards as we continue this process, and there will most likely be complete anomalies that carry no apparent explanation. All of these observations inform our impression of the Bertillon system as it was employed at the Ohio State Reformatory and Ohio Penitentiary, and how the cards were used subsequent to their initial creation. 

Categories: 
  • Current Projects
  • Decomposing Bodies
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Graduate Work