About The Hopewell Valley History Project Site

The Hopewell Valley History Project is a volunteer effort to collect, digitize, organize, and share the history of the Hopewell Valley in Mercer County, New Jersey.

  • See the Blog for discussions of new materials.
  • See Site Updates for a chronological list of new materials added to the site.
  • See Acknowledgements for thanks to the individuals who have contributed materials for this project.


Why This Site?

Why another website? After all, the Hopewell Valley is blessed with an abundance of enthusiastic individuals and dynamic organizations working on preserving and sharing local history. Individuals research information, and share their results by writing papers and presenting talks. Organizations, including societies, museums, libraries, and archives, work to preserve historical materials and sponsor activities and talks, including the Hopewell Valley Heritage Weekend.

However, much of this information and effort actually is transient – The manuscripts are packaged up and archived on shelves, the papers are filed away in drawers, and the talks recede into memory. So all this great work is no longer readily accessible, especially to newcomers who want to understand local history, research their family genealogy, or discover the background of their house.

The second problem for newcomers (and other researchers) is figuring out how to get started – what materials are available, and where and how to find them. With all these great local organizations, there are too many places to look, and no clear single place to get started.

The Hopewell Valley History Project is intended to directly address these issues by being the place to go to get started with local history. Our goal is to collect and organize digital copies of primary research materials and create Reference Guides to provide overviews of available materials and sources for further research.

Suggestions and help are welcome!

Site Organization

The core of the Hopewell Valley History Project site is the Digital Archives (Archives menu), with a collection of primary reference materials that have been digitized and curated for convenient access. These are categorized by media type, with the individual Book and Map files listed in tables for convenient searching and one-click viewing.

Each media type in the Digital Archives then has an associated Archive Index page. The Index pages include associated printable Reference Guides to help with understanding materials and doing additional research. Plus they contain tables listing the associated materials, which can be searched, sorted, and filtered to discover specific items of interest.

The site Blog then has updates on additions and changes to the site.

About Hopewell Valley Places

The Hopewell Valley Places page has quick links to key materials on this site for the four municipalities in the Hopewell Valley: Hopewell Borough, Pennington Borough, Titusville / Washington Crossing, and Hopewell Township. (This is the current grouping used in the Image Archives.)

The sections for each of these places include links to associated images, cultural survey documents, maps, and related materials. Each section is illustrated by an example historic building or area, with links to its associated resources.

About the Reference Guides

The main Index pages for the Digital Archives (Books, Maps, and Images) contain Reference Guides that are intended to help start exploring a new area, addressing key questions including “what kinds of maps are available?” and “what are the basic books on local history?” Then they help dig deeper into a topic or interest by providing links to other materials and sources.

The Guides are provided as printable PDF files, and include Galleries with images and catalogs of available sources and materials, Chronologies with listings of all the materials in the archives (plus other interesting related material) with additional information, and Source Guides with references (especially digital).

About the Digital Archives

The Digital Archives contain local copies of curated resources focused on Hopewell Valley history, organized by the type of material (Books, Maps, and Images). The Book and Map Index pages includes summary Reference Guides, plus a table listing the available resources for that type.

These include historic materials, typically over 100 years old (pre 1920) and out of copyright, plus public materials such as municipal tax maps. Some of these materials have been digitized and shared by organizations including the Library of Congress and university libraries. Others have been manually photographed or scanned as part of this project.

The goal is to provide readable materials that are easy to download and view. As a result, they are reduced in size as possible to still be readable, and interesting sub-sections are extracted as separate files (e.g., for specific boroughs). The focus is on readable materials, not the highest-quality scan. The goal is to make accessing the files on this site over the Web as reasonable as possible. Follow the links to the original sources to access the full files, and for additional information on the materials.

When researching physical documents in various archives, it is not possible to make high-quality scans of what are often old and damaged and curled papers. Instead, the images are captured as possible on site by hand-held cameras, in relatively uncontrolled lighting, and from side angles. These images then are manually improved by image processing, especially by straightening the angles and cropping extraneous materials off the side (but not with extensive image enhancements). The result is intended to be readable, and useful for understanding the information available from the document in question.

About the Book Archives

The Book Archives section of the Hopewell Valley History Project site includes Historic books and documents from the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s.

These books are selected because they have significant coverage of local history, communities, and people. See the Reference Guides for more information on other local books, and on sources for researching books.

The Historic books typically are more than one hundred years old, and therefore are out of copyright in the U.S.

Some of the books have been scanned and digitized by Google Books scans or the Internet Archive scanning project. The books typically are scanned from university collections, and then made available as free downloads, in PDF, plain text, and /or various eBook formats. Other books have been manually scanned as part of this project.

However, the book scanning process is focused on rapid capture of the book contents into a PDF file, and not on creating a packaged book. As a result, the scanned PDFs typically are further manually processed to clean up extraneous pages, organized to provide a clean structure to the book, analyzed with OCR to produce an associated text layer to search and copy, and then reduced in size as possible. Companion copies of the book in plain text also may be provided for quick searching and copying, albeit with OCR scanning errors.

The site also includes “Preview” versions of various books (including more recent books) that have not been digitized. Instead, the previews provide an overview of the book, including the cover, title page, contents, and introductory material.

Click the Source link in the table for more information on the book and to find other versions.

The resulting book PDF files can range from around 4 MB for basic books in grayscale to 10 MB for longer titles, to 120 MB for a large atlas with detailed color maps. These larger files are annotated with the size in the listings, since they will load slowly, so it is typically best to directly download them and then view them locally.

About the Map Archives

The Map Archives section of the Hopewell Valley History Project site includes Historic maps of the region, Municipal maps (e.g., tax maps), and Aerial photographs.

  • The Historic maps include early maps of New Jersey back to 1700, official state maps from the first half of the 1800’s, Mercer County from the mid 1800’s, and town maps from the late 1800’s (including aerial panoramas and fire maps). The pre-1920 maps are out of copyright in the U.S. They typically have been digitized and shared by the Library of Congress and various universities.
  • The Municipal maps include official township and borough government maps (e.g., Tax and Zoning Maps) from around 1915. These are public property, created by various levels of government, and either shared by the government or manually photographed at government archives. 
  • The Aerial maps can be from government projects or archives, or are available commercially.

These maps are selected to help show the development of the local area over time, in terms of roads and settlements, and properties in the communities. See the Reference Guides for more information on other local maps, and on sources for researching maps.

Single maps are posted as JPEG images, for one-click viewing and optional downloading. Map sets such as municipal tax maps are packaged into a single larger PDF file for viewing or download. Some collections such as aerial images with supporting documents are packaged into ZIP files for download.

Larger original Map image files are typically reduced in size for more convenient viewing (to around 2000×2000 to 4000×4000 pixel resolution, or 2 to 4 MB in size). These still retain enough resolution to read the annotations on the map. In the case of a high-res map of a large area such as New Jersey or Mercer County, additional map images of smaller regions such as the township or boroughs also are manually extracted by cropping sections from the high-res original. PDF files can be larger (10 – 20 MB), but still reasonable to download and view online.

Click the Source link for more information on the map and to access the full-size original.

For maps that are only available from commercial or restricted sources, any image used for this site is a lower-res preview image as displayed by the source site, which also may be watermarked. Contact the source if desired to obtain high-res versions or prints.

About the Image Archives

The Image Archives section of the Hopewell Valley History Project site currently includes photos and postcards of buildings in Hopewell Borough.

Some images are scanned / photographed from historic books (around 1900), and therefore are out of copyright in the U.S.

Many images were kindly contributed by local authors and photographers, and by local history enthusiasts and postcard collectors who kindly volunteered to have their materials scanned for the site.

The Image Archives are hosted on a separate site. You can browse by town, view individual images and slideshows, and search by name (including street, address, year, and description).

The files are named by street address and year for convenient searching and sorting. This makes it easy to compare images along the same street, at the same address in different years, or from different sources. See the Images Gallery (PDF) for more information on the file naming convention.

About the Hopewell History Map

The interactive Hopewell History Map uses a map interface to explore information and images on historical properties in Hopewell Borough.

It is built on the familiar Google Maps platform, and so has the usual map controls (map type, zoom, pan), plus additional historical property annotations displayed as street numbers.

Browse the street addresses in the Map or Table, and then click a property to view the available information in the other panels, including photo and postcard views in the Info Panel.

This is an prototype designed to explore the possibilities of this kind of interface for historical information, and subject to changes. The underlying data also is only partially implemented. Comments welcome.

Using the Tables

For the Book and Map Digital Archives, and for the Blog, the site uses tables to display rows of information about the currently available files or posts. This can be the full list of all available files, or a subset of the list by the material type (e.g., Municipal Maps). Since the full lists can be long, the table breaks up the lists into pages, which you then can step through, or search, sort, and filter for specific entries.

  • To View an Entry in a Row
    • Click the View image thumbnails (left column) to view/download the full image/document.
    • Click the Title text to see a more detailed description of the entry. Click the thumbnail in the description page to view the full entry.
    • Click the Source abbreviation link (right column) to open the web page for the original source, with more information.
  • To Scan thorough Entries
    • Select the Show drop-down to specify the number of entries to show on each page of the table.
    • Use the Page list to select the Previous / Next page, or a specific page number.
    • Click Reset to remove any table settings and return to the original display.
  • To Find Entries in the Table
    • Click the column headers to sort by the column value, ascending or descending (e.g., Year, Title, Source).
    • Click the Filter drop-down to show only entries with the selected Type and Subtype, or all (e.g., all Maps, or just Maps > Historic).
    • Type in the Search field to show only entries with matching text in the fields (e.g., Pennington, Tax).

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