Project to digitise aristocrat's letters wins award

A project to digitise the correspondence of an aristocrat, involving volunteers from around the world, has won an award.

Letters written by Alberta Sturges Montagu, the 9th Countess of Sandwich, were transcribed by 30 volunteers, coordinated by Mapperton Estate in Dorset.

Extracts from the letters and journals form the basis of an exhibition at Mapperton about the countess's life.

The project has received the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Volunteering Award.

Alberta Sturges Montagu was born in Chicago in 1877 and died in England in 1951.

Her correspondence is said to highlight the impact on English society of the so-called Gilded Age American Heiresses - the name given to wealthy American women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who married into titled European families.

The project, which also involved the renovation of Mapperton's muniment room for archival storage, was the subject of a fundraising campaign.

Teams of volunteers worked virtually to transcribe hundreds of scanned letters.

The award was presented by ARA president Aideen Ireland to Julie Montagu, Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, in the library at Mapperton where the exhibition is being held.

Julie Montagu said: "We are thrilled to have won this award for the Alberta Research Project.

"This project is a completely innovative model for volunteering, leveraging technology to bring people together from around the world.

"Not only have we been able to tackle an enormous archiving challenge but we’ve also created life-long friendships and connections."

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