Diaries, Journals, Logs, and Blogs
A journal is also a personal record kept on a regular basis. Although diaries and journals are periodic records, many people don't make daily entries. Some people use their diary as a daybook recording transactions or factual information. The word log has been used by ship captains to record events of navigational importance. Logs are also used by aircraft pilots, maintenance workers, and computer technicians.
Although many people consider their diary private, an increasing number are posting their thoughts and reflections on the Internet. Electronic diaries or journals are sometimes called web logs or blogs.
Some of the oldest diarists were from Asian cultures. For example, women of the Japanese Court kept diaries. In addition, many people kept travel journals. Explore a list of Diarists from Wikipedia.
Working with Diaries
Although it's interesting to read a diary, it really comes alive when you start exploring the context and connections related to this primary source. What was life like when this person was writing? What did their clothing look like? What did they see walking to school or work? We purchased a diary and traced the process of this exploration.
Read the Louise Hancock Diary to follow the exploration of a diary from the early 1900s.
Digital Reproduction & Transcription
Although diaries may look sturdy, antique materials can be very fragile. Glue, string, and paper can easily disintegrate before your eyes. Before you begin working with an old diary, it's a good idea to create a digital reproduction. Then, store the original diary to keep it from becoming worn.
Use the digital reproduction to create a digital transcription of the diary. If you have difficulties reading the transcription, go back to the original. The digital reproduction and transcriptions can then be shared with the world!
Let's use the diary of Ruth West as an example. Below is a sample diary entry from 1920.
|Sunday July 18, 1920
Mama went to Ethel's. Steve over
early & we went out in the canoe.
Wore my pink organdy dress & hat
Nearly rained & spoiled my clothes but
it didn't. Had supper at the casino
then paddled sown the canal to
Kohomo lake, over the river & home.
Examine the entire diary carefully and look for clues about the person whose life you are exploring. Background information can often be found by reading the entry pages and last few pages. Many diaries have a page containing personal information.
For example, let's analyze the diary of Ruth West. We knew nothing about this person when we acquired the diary. Be started our exploration with the personal information page show below. With only this information we were able to find out that she was born and lived in Detroit when the diary was written in 1920.
One of the most interesting aspects of working with a primary resource is annotation. It's sometimes necessary to include a note along with an entry. These annotations can be used to provide a clarification, explanation, or supplemental resource. Some of the following situations may demand an annotation:
Let's examine the sample entry from Ruth's diary. This entry provides interesting information and generates many questions.
Many techniques that can be used to display these annotations:
Once you've created a digital reproduction, written a transcription, identified the item, and developed an annotated file, it's time to decide what other interpretation might be interesting or useful. Some people choose to go back and expand their annotations, while others use the diary as part of a larger product that combines the diary with other primary resources to tell a larger story.
The photo on the left (click the enlarge) is from the 1920s and shows the Scott Memorial Fountain near the casino on Belle Isle where Ruth and Steve paddled down the canal.
Next, we explored online materials that might help tell Ruth's story.
Use the following materials to locate resources that might be useful in your interpretation activities:
People. If you're seeking information about people, examine census data available every ten years. If you're unsure about names, consider the Connecticut State Library Listing of 18th and 19th Century American Nicknames page.
Things. Use the search tool at Library of Congress locate photos of objects.
Food. Many diaries mention meals, food, and drink. Go to All Recipes or Historic American Recipes for ideas. Check the Twentieth Century Timeline of Edibles and Quaffables to see when food products were introduced.
Books. What were teenagers reading? Explore the following resources:
This section contains a listing of diaries that are available on the Web. Some are digital reproductions from the original diary and others are transcriptions. They are listed chronologically by date of first entry.
- Identifies an exceptional resource
Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan from University of Pennsylvania
The Sarashina Diary (A.D. 1009-1059) from University of Pennsylvania
Ralph Josselin's Diary - 1617 - UK
Diary of John Evelyn (1657+)
Historic Diaries: Marquette & Joliet, 1673
American Notes: Travels in America: 1750-1920 from Library of Congress
Indians Coming From War from Library of Congress
Introduction to the Diaries of George Washington from Library of Congress
Archibald Thompson Diary, 1782
Maclay's Journal from the Library of Congress
James Polk's Twenty-five Volume Diary from Library of Congress
Samuel F B. Morse Papers from Library of Congress
Library of Fur Trade Historical Source Documents
Journeys in Time, 1809-1822: The Journals of Lachlan & Elizabeth Macquarie
A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion (1820-1890) from Library of Congress
Diary of Patrick Breen
Diary of James Madison Coon and Nancy Iness Miller Coone, 1847
Diary of Susan Sherman of Brookfield, Connecticut, 1850-1851
Oregon Trail Diaries and Emigrant Biographies
The Hudson Bay Co, 1842
The Diary of Alexander Machum Jr., 1845-1849
Trails to Utah and the Pacific: Diaries and Letters, 1846-1869 from Library of Congress
The Chinese in California, 1850-1925 from the Library of Congress
Diary of Mrs. Amelia Stewart Knight, 1853
Diary of Elizabeth Cowperthwaite of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1857-1858
American Civil War Era
Diary of Mary Boykin Miller Chesnet (1823-1886) from Documenting the American South
Everett Colby Banfield, 1846
Diaries of Fanny Ruschenberger of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1858-1881
First-Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920 from the Library of Congress
Diary of a Confederate Woman: Betty Herndon Maury from Library of Congress
Thomas Benton Alexander Diary, 1861-1865
David B. Arthur Diary, 1862-1863
Thomas J. Barb Diary, 1863
James Boardman Diary, 1863
The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft (1861-1865) from the Library of Congress
John Wesley Culpepper, 1861
Transcript of Diaries of Stephen A. Kinnear, 1862-1879
The Diary of Private Joseph Allen Herrin, Company F, 1863
Alice Williamson Diary: An Online Archival Collection from Duke University
Civil War Diary of Edward W. Hotchkiss, March 12, 1865 to April 27, 1865
Camping with the Sioux: Fieldwork diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher from Smithsonian
Diary of Margaret T. Spaulding of Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York, 1870-1874
Transcription of Diary Kept by Alfred Copley, 1874-1875
James Harrison Diary, 1878
George Q. Cannon, 1888 from Tutt Library Colorado College
B.B. French's Diary from the Library of Congress
Theodore Roosevelt's Pocket Diary from Library of Congress
Theodore Roosevelt Wrote in This Diary February 3, 1880 from America's Story at LOC
Helen Hunt Jackson, 1877 from Colorado College Tutt Library
George Percival Scriven: An American in Bohol, The Philipines, 1899-1901
Turn of the Century 1900
Wynne's Diary - the life and times of an edwardian woman (1895+)
Robert E. Peary's Diary, 1909
Wright Brother's Diaries (1888-1911)
The Philippine Insurrection Diaries of Karl D. White, 1899-1901
Diary of Margaret A. Eadie of Flushing, New York, 1901-1919
The Diary of Private H.E. Broun, 1916
Diaries of Grace Gilchrist Frend of Hampstead, England, 1907-1941
World War I Era
Soldier's Diaries from World War I
World War II Era
Diary of Anne Frank Center
World War II
Diary entries during Blizzard of (19)'78
Bosnia Buddha Home Page
Middle School Teacher Diaries
National Deaf Children's Society
Reading Rockets: First Year Teacher: Diary of a First Year Teacher
Experiencing War (Voices of War): Stories from the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress
From the Home Front and the Front Lines WWI: Diaries, Bound Collection, and Albums from the Library of Congress
Historic Diaries from Wisconsin Historical Society
Keeping Memories from Library of Congress
Letters and Diaries Online from History Matters
General Diary Resources
Diaries, Journals, and Letters Related to Georgia
Diaries, Memoirs, Letter, and Reports Along the Trails West
Diary from Wikipedia
Melrose Mirror: Storms
Weblogs from Guardian Unlimited
Diaries and Journals in the Classroom
Interpreting Diaries of American South
Library of Congress: Collection Connections
Making Sense of Letters & Diaries by Steven Stowe at History Matters
The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King from Library and Archives Canada
Using Historical Journals in the Classroom from the Vermont Historical Society
Printed Items from PBS History Detectives
Title III Technology Literacy Challenge Grant Project
Utah Education Network
What Kind of Historical Source are Letters and Diaries? from History Matters
Diaries in WebQuests
Bernie Dodge describes the use of a Simulated Diary as a design pattern for WebQuests.
Books for Children and Young Adults
Dear Diary: Books for Teens
Diary Fiction of Young Adults from Evanston Public Library
Diaries/Letters/Journals for Young Adults from Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library
Diaries, Real and Imagined from Berkeley Public Library Teen Services
Diary Stories for Teens from Los Angeles Public Library
Teens Reading Lists: Diaries and Letters