The Washington University Libraries, in partnership with the Missouri History Museum and other contributors within and outside Washington University, have digitized, transcribed, and encoded the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project and supplementary materials. Additionally, they have developed extensions to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) for encoding legal documents to reflect legal function, genres, and roles, and employ these extensions in this collection. The resulting extensions and guidelines serve as the basis for a new standard for encoding legal documents, and will receive further development as part of the TEI.
The cases in the St. Louis Circuit Court Historic Records Project, especially the suits enslaved persons brought against their tacit "owners," are important historical documents. The remediation and expansion of the collection will make these documents significantly more accessible to a wider range of audiences. Creating a full-text searchable collection of these documents and enhancing their use will provide new means of understanding the roles of slaves, lawyers, abolitionists, the state of Missouri, and others involved in these cases.
We hope to gather additional genealogical and historical data about case participants by providing a form for visitors to the site to contribute information. The project will not only make these materials available for historical research but will also contribute to the development of new standards for the larger digital library community.