30 September 2014

Smithsonian expands its crowdsourcing -- it's amazing what we can ALL accomplish in just a few minutes ...

The Smithsonian always has a place in my heart and I’ve written about it a few times before (see note at end).

It is also an institution that has been working diligently to take advantage of crowdsourcing to make part of its massive holdings available to us.  I’ve previously talked about this, Smithsonian + Crowdsourcing Digitization = Lots of really neat stuff available to us!.

It seems that it’s time for an update since The Wall Street Journal published a post, The Smithsonian Works to Digitize Millions of Documents.

In an epic effort to turn the reams of archival material at Washington's Smithsonian Institution into digitally searchable files, museum officials have turned to the crowd: They've created a new Transcription Center that allows any interested person to sift through scanned, handwritten documents and submit their own transcriptions online. On the center's site, which officially launched last month, people ...  can click on a photocopy of a document, zoom in, decipher its sentences and send in their typed transcription with a click.

The article also mentions some other crowdsourcing projects for The New York Public Library and the University of Iowa Libraries, amongst others, that are quite relevant to family historians.

Back to the Smithsonian -- when you visit The Transcription Center, you can browse on projects by Museums and Archives or Themes, read about “how to transcribe” (which also includes how to review). Don’t want to transcribe, then someone to review what others transcribed is always needed!

I personally find that transcribing documents can be very challenging between issues of handwriting, unfamiliar terminology, unusual names, and the many other challenges to deciphering what has been written by others.  That said, there is nothing more satisfying than putting in the effort to be so challenged and create something that just might make a future researcher’s search that much easier.

It’s really quite simple -- select a project, click on the Start Transcribing (or Start Reviewing), Read the Tutorial for the project (or if you are familiar with the project you can select “I’ve already read through it and I’m sure I know what I’m doing.”) and then you will see a page like this and you are off and running to start transcribing (in the right hand box) what you see in the image to see to the left. 

Even if you can only decipher a word or two or a phrase or two – it doesn’t matter! Every single word that is transcribed is one less word for someone else to have to worry about.

With so much material that won’t be transcribed and searchable in our lifetime, nothing says we cannot at least try to get a whole bunch of it done so we can use it

Have you participated in a crowdsourcing project tied to genealogy or family history? What did you think? 

Are there other genealogical or historically-themed crowdsourcing efforts (besides those listed below) which family historians might want to participate in?

Editor’s Note: Other articles on Upfront with NGS about the Smithsonian ...

Editor’s Note: Other articles on Upfront with NGS about Crowdsourcing ...

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