Scanning a book or document and making the images available on the web is a great thing, but often more work is required to make
digitization completely usable. Here's how the Smithsonian Institution is drawing on the work of volunteers to help transcribe
digitized documents. -Editor
It’s the end of the day, you’ve worked hard, and now you’re home and it’s time to relax. So you open up your laptop and settle in to
transcribe some bee specimen labels. Or the packing list of a space shuttle. Or the field notes of a naturalist tromping through early 19th
... or buyer's names in a 19th-century coin sale? -Editor
It may sound odd, but plenty of people would rather parse the curly, old-fashioned handwriting of a bugle player in a Civil War military
band than stream an old episode of Breaking Bad, as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s online Transcription Center. So far, 5,883
volunteers from around the world have transcribed more than 150,000 pages from over 1,000 projects.
This effort exists because of a simple fact: just digitizing something isn’t the last step in making something useful to scholars or the
“Digitizing materials is really important but that’s not the only step to making them accessible,” says anthropologist Meghan Ferriter,
project coordinator of the Transcription Center.
Launched in 2013, the project invites anyone with access to a computer to choose from a buffet of documents supplied by 14 of the
Smithsonian’s libraries, archives and museums. Volunteers participate anonymously or create profiles, and each project comes with specific
instructions. Participants read scanned pages and type their transcriptions into a field below. Many users work on multiple projects in
small chunks, so that any given text is transcribed by a team. Transcriptions are reviewed by fellow volunteers and then signed off on by a
Smithsonian staffer before being declared complete.
To read the complete article, see:
HOW THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION IS
CROWDSOURCING HISTORY (www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-the-smithsonian-is-crowdsourcing-history)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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