Nothing is easy. But things that come harder are more appreciated, so we really appreciate all the help we have gotten to make this image available online:
What you see above is the first scanned microfilm image from the Legation's archives of diplomatic documents (it's an 1803 letter to the Secretary of State from James Simpson, US Consul in Tangier 1797 – 1820). When I first wrote about this in 2011, I hoped that some reader would take pity and get us the means to access our dozens of microfilm boxes labeled "Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Tangier, 1797 – 1906."
Last December, at the American Studies in the Arab World conference in Marrakesh, a Moroccan graduate student asked me if TALIM had documentation on the more than two centuries of Moroccan-American relations. I told her my sad story of spools of microfilm, with no way of reading them. Luckily, Dr. Anouar Majid of the University of New England overheard our exchange. He asked me to send him the specs of what we needed.
A few weeks later, Christmas to be exact, I received a shipping notice of a box coming to us from Colorado. Dr. Majid and UNE came through. We had our microfilm reader-printer-scanner. Thank you, Anouar Majid. What a Christmas present to researchers present and future!
Now, we needed a computer to host our new microfilm machine. Serendipitously, Serena Epstein, our graphic artist friend who was ending her job at the American School of Tangier
and returning to the US, offered us her brand new Mac Mini. How many soon-to-be unemployed Twentysomethings are ready to part with a valuable computer? Thank you, Serena. Your contribution was timely and made the hardware complete.
So, on to the matter of software and installation. Again, the Gods were with us. Ayla Amon, our museum management intern, had just successfully installed a database to help us manage our museum collection. She gave a hand to NYU researcher Anna Reidy, in Tangier for her work on soundscapes, who took on a thorny problem of Mac – Windows "virtualization" and got the Windows software to work on our Mac Mini. Anna, thankfully, enjoys the challenge of getting things to work, and our test image at the top of this post is but the first of what we hope will be a systematized collection of Tangier diplomatic archives, online.
So there we are. Nothing is easy. But thanks to Anouar Majid, Serena Epstein, Ayla Amon, and Anna Reidy, TALIM has a rich new vein of research awaiting scholars of American diplomacy in Morocco, dating back to the earliest days of the republic. Who's going to sign up to help share the wealth of information?