James W. Greer, OSR 745, 07/03/1902, ink, photographs, cards, 5.75 x 6.25 inches
R.U. Hastings, Bertillon Officer (n.d.- )
Collection of the Ohio History Connection
DescriptionIn the Fall of 2014, a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Visual Media Workshop began the process of transcribing hundreds of thousands of handwritten Bertillon measurements from tens of thousands of cards. These cards, a sample of which were chosen for this exhibition, were all originally produced by the Ohio Penitentiary and Ohio State Reformatory, and are now held by the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio.
A crucial characteristic of the cards noted by the team was that the forms themselves are not quite formulaic—that is to say, identical from one to the next. As might be expected, the format of the cards varied somewhat across institutions. During the transcription process, however, “irregular” cards emerged with surprising regularity. In a system that relied on consistency, this deviation seemed important. For example, some of the forms asked for “Stoop” while later forms, illogically interspersed with earlier ones, had switched to placing the more common measurement of “Eng. Ht.” (English Height) in that field. There are at least six different form types which we assume resulted from changes in protocol and technique, but there is scant documentation of the processes that would have produced these variations.
Researchers: Alison Langmead and Aisling Quigley