Following a meeting at the Internet Archive in which we were doing some brainstorming around how to structure data and metadata contributed to the Civil War Data 150 project, and what that repository might look like from a technical perspective, I stopped by to say hello to George Oates, who runs Open Library.
We talked about the availability of RDF/XML for each of their books–and how that might be utilized in this kind of project. As we talked, she played around with the search interface on Open Library, pointing out the “facets” to me, that I could use to narrow in on subject headings or search items, much of it based on the Library of Congress subject headings. Within seconds we were looking at a search of regimental histories you can read online or access in a number of other ways! The potential for linking specific books to individual regiments is certainly appealing, but as long as we have the potential to link to specific pages within a text, we have the possibility of using weblinks to make even more specific connections.
Upon browsing through these individual regimental histories, I stumbled across these service records from the Civil War. These records are from the National Archives, and I believe the complete set can be accessed, though behind a paywall, on Footnote.com (other places as well?). Again, we can begin to zero in on the potential of linking specific pages (or pixels on an image as has been done on Footnote.com) to specific soldiers and being able to cross reference them to corresponding names/ids in the National Park Service Civil War Soldier and Sailor System and other sources.
As an aside, I have to say that looking at these books and records on Open Library, and seeing how easy it is to send them to a Kindle, has for the first time made me actually want a Kindle or an iPad!