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Harnessing The Power of We: Transcription, Acquisition and Tagging

In honor of the Blog Action Day for 2012 and their theme of ‘The Power of We’, I would like to highlight a number of successful crowdsourced projects focused on transcribing, acquisition and tagging of archival materials. Nothing I can think of embodies ‘the power of we’ more clearly than the work being done by many hands from across the Internet.

Transcription

  • Old Weather Records: “Old Weather volunteers explore, mark, and transcribe historic ship’s logs from the 19th and early 20th centuries. We need your help because this task is impossible for computers, due to diverse and idiosyncratic handwriting that only human beings can read and understand effectively. By participating in Old Weather you’ll be helping advance research in multiple fields. Data about past weather and sea-ice conditions are vital for climate scientists, while historians value knowing about the course of a voyage and the events that transpired. Since many of these logs haven’t been examined since they were originally filled in by a mariner long ago you might even discover something surprising.”
  • From The Page: “FromThePage is free software that allows volunteers to transcribe handwritten documents on-line.” A number of different projects are using this software including: The San Diego Museum of Natural History’s project to transcribe the field notes of herpetologist Laurence M. Klaube and Southwestern University’s project to transcribe the Mexican War Diary of Zenas Matthews.
  • National Archives Transcription: as part of the National Archives Citizen Archivist program, individuals have the opportunity to transcribe a variety of records. As described on the transcription home page: “letters to a civil war spy, presidential records, suffrage petitions, and fugitive slave case files”.

Acquisition:

  • Archive Team: The ArchiveTeam describes itself as “a rogue archivist collective dedicated to saving copies of rapidly dying or deleted websites for the sake of history and digital heritage.” Here is an example of the information gathered, shared and collaborated on by the ArchiveTeam focused on saving content from Friendster. The rescued data is (whenever possible) uploaded in the Internet Archive and can be found here:

    Springing into action, Archive Team began mirroring Friendster accounts, downloading all relevant data and archiving it, focusing on the first 2-3 years of Friendster’s existence (for historical purposes and study) as well as samples scattered throughout the site’s history – in all, roughly 20 million of the 112 million accounts of Friendster were mirrored before the site rebooted.

Tagging:

  • National Archives Tagging: another part of the Citizen Archivist project encourages tagging of a variety of records, including images of the Titanic, architectural drawings of lighthouses and the Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii from 1898.
  • Flickr Commons: throughout the Flickr Commons, archives and other cultural heritage institutions encourage tagging of images

These are just a taste of the crowdsourced efforts currently being experimented with across the internet. Did I miss your favorite? Please add it below!

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Posted in archival community, Blog Action Day, digitization, transcription, virtual collaboration

2 Comments

  1. Shawn

    At the University of Iowa, we’ve recently expanded and relaunched our successful Civil War Diaries and Letters Transcription Project as DIYHistory (http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu). The new and improved site includes culinary manuscripts, women’s diaries, and more.

  2. Jeanne

    Shawn,

    Thanks so much for sharing the link. It looks like a great project – and I love the range of materials you have available for transcription!

    Jeanne

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