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Museums and the Web

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The William Steinway Diary Project

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National Museum of American History


Quotient, Inc.


Research | Online Collection


The William Steinway Diary Project website allows scholars and the public to read and search a complete transcription of the 2,500-page diary of entrepreneur William Steinway alongside high-resolution scans of each handwritten page. The diary, a daily record covering the period 1861-1896, provides a firsthand account of the period’s financial panics, labor unrest, the Civil War draft riots, urbanization and the development of the New York City subway, and the rise of the German immigrant class, among other topics. Primary source material is contextualized with more than 100 images from Steinway family archives and related essays.

The site is remarkable for the level of detail included, and the flexibility afforded the user for examining the diary.  Users may read the transcription or original, may browse the diary or search by date or keyword.  In the future, users will also be able to access more than 30,000 interlinked annotations—one for every three words in the Diary—which provide crucial context for understanding William’s sometimes obscure Diary entries. Annotations will be based upon more than 25,000 hours of research conducted by upwards of 100 highly qualified volunteers.  Taking more than two decades, “The William Steinway Diary” project is one of the longest-running and most extensive volunteer projects at the Smithsonian.