The Smithsonian and its holdings are massive. If you are fortunate to live in or near DC and/or have a chance to visit there, you can easily spend days, possibly weeks just visiting the Smithsonian museums. Just a couple of weeks ago I was visiting two museums (the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M Sackler Gallery) which I had never been to before. I also know that what we see if really the “tip of the iceberg” for what is contained in its massive collection.
In the Smithsonian’s efforts to make more of their collections available to us, it is using crowdsourcing techniques and enlisting “Smithsonian Digital Volunteers” (aka transcribers). Currently, over 1800 users have or are transcribing over 10,000 documents. As a volunteer (you will need to signup) you can select either a theme or museum or archive of interest to see what projects are currently available for transcribing. There is an amazing diversity of projects available. Though many may not include information about your ancestors, they do have the potential to give you insight into their lives or just introduce you to something you were previously unfamiliar with!
Don’t see a project here that catches your eye, then maybe you want to help
and its transcription
Don’t forget FamilySearch and its indexing project.
Or, maybe there is a local project like the North Carolina Family
Records Online project Genealogy Vertical
File Transcription Project. NARA
As you visit various genealogy or family history related websites, see if they might also be using crowdsourcing to expedite making material more quickly available to researchers online. Might you be able to help?
Editor’s Note: Do check out the Best of Both Worlds, Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age – a new e-book exploring “the efforts of many world-class institutions, including his own [the Smithsonian] to use technology to open their collections and programs to the world.” There is also a short introductory video.
Editor’s Note: Other Upfront with NGS articles about the Smithsonian:
- Past Imperfect -- Smithsonian Blog with the tagline, History with all the interesting bits left in (2013)
- Don't Overlook the Smithsonian As You Do Your Research! (2011)
Editor’s Note: Other Upfront with NGS articles about Crowdsourcing:
- Bay Area history exhibit aided by crowdsourcing (2013)
- Ancient documents go digital at Duke -- glimpses of a distant past, so different yet so similar! (2013)
- Luis von Ahn: Massive-scale online collaboration -- Really Neat Genealogy Applications (2013)
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