Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Making History More Accessible, One Transcriber at a Time

Hey history lovers -- if you don't think this is the coolest thing since the invention of history, then maybe you aren't a bonafide history nerd. A new project by the Library of Virginia just launched -- it's called Making History: Transcribe, and it's the simplest idea ever - one that I'm sure Kat Potente of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore would be proud of/have already implemented.

Transcribing historical documents is HUGELY TIME CONSUMING. So what makes it go faster? Lots of people working on it together, and sharing the workload. That's what Making History: Transcribe does. The Library of Virginia has digitized documents with high quality scanners and posted them on their website, which allows users (anybody!) to transcribe them, without even needing to make an account. After you submit your work, it gets reviewed by staff members.

To make it easy on transcribers, it gives a few simple directions. The documents can be zoomed in, out, and turned around to make it easy to read. There are instructions about how to transcribe illegible or guessed-at words, and if you've got a lot of questions about reading old documents, then you can get information on writing styles, abbreviations, and transcription tips!

If you find yourself liking this, you can make an account (and of course, I did). This way, if you find yourself doing this a lot, you can come back to the same documents over and over again easily.

After you've clicked on the document that you want to work on, here's what it looks like:

Sure, I can definitely see some potential issues - you'll get people who are terrible transcribers, you might get people who want to be funny by writing up false reports, etc. But transcriptions are checked by staff members who will review the work and make sure it's accurate, and if things start becoming an issue, then I'm sure making an account will become mandatory.

Explore the site here:

Here's Library of Virginia's blog post about it!