06 October 2017

Library of Congress Launches labs.loc.gov

Library of Congress Launches labs.loc.gov

From our friends at the Library of Congress!  A new play space where digital collections will be further explored and that normally means greater access for researchers!

New Online Space Designed to Empower Exploration and Discovery of Digital Collections

The Library of Congress today launched labs.loc.gov, a new online space that will host a changing selection of experiments, projects, events and resources designed to encourage creative use of the Library’s digital collections. To help demonstrate the exciting discoveries that are possible, the new site will also feature a gallery of projects from data challenge winners and innovators-in-residence and blog posts and video presentations from leaders in the field.

“We already know the Library of Congress is the ultimate treasure chest, but with labs.loc.gov we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Whether you’re tagging images from our digitized historic newspapers to help future visitors, or exploring the changing nature of democracy through the 25 million bibliographic records the Library recently made public, we are providing tools and inspiration that will lead to new uses and new ways of looking at the incredible materials here at the Library.”

The Library of Congress digital collections present immense potential for exploration. Labs will enable users at every level of technical knowledge to engage with these vast resources. Visitors can try experimental applications and crowdsourcing programs, and tutorials will provide a steppingstone for new computational discovery. Follow developments on Twitter at @LC_Labs.

“We’re excited to see what happens when you bring together the largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled with the power of 21st-century technology,” said Kate Zwaard, the chief of the Library’s National Digital Initiatives office, which manages the new website. “Every day, students, researchers, journalists and artists are using code and computation to derive new knowledge from library collections. With labs, we hope to create a community dedicated to using technology to expand what’s possible with the world’s creative and intellectual treasures.”

Some of the initial offerings are:

Crowdsourcing: Beyond Words

One of the first features on labs.loc.gov is Beyond Words, a website that invites the public to identify cartoons and photographs in historic newspapers and provide captions that will turn images into searchable data. This fun crowdsourcing program grows the data set of text available for researchers who use visualization, text analysis and other digital humanities methodologies to discover new knowledge from Chronicling America—the Library’s large collection of historic American newspapers. Beyond Words is available as a pilot project to help the Library of Congress learn more about what subsets of Library data researchers are interested in and to grow the Library’s capacity for crowdsourcing.

“What I like about crowdsourcing is it gives people a chance to discover hidden gems in the collection. You never know what you’ll find poking through old newspapers,” said Tong Wang, the IT specialist who created Beyond Words during a three-month pilot innovator-in-residence program.

Beyond Words will also generate public domain image galleries for scholarship and creative play. As this data set grows, educators, researchers and artists will be able to group image collections by time frame, such as identifying all historic cartoons appearing in World War I-era newspapers…

Read the remainder of the press release here.

For the Beyond Words element, I suggest that you click on “Get Started!” first where some important information about the project is given and there are a couple of really quick tutorials (they take seconds to view) on what is involved if you decide to participate.

Interested in participating, from the main page click on “Try It” and you will then get to pick what state interests you and opt to “mark” “transcribe” or learn more.

It’s that easy!

Visual elements in newspapers are so valuable and yet not able to be deciphered via Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Our involvement in marking and transcribing the visual elements of newspapers will greatly enhance the material we’ll be able to access from those newspapers already available to us via Chronicling America!  Now instead of just stumbling across cartoons and photographs as we explore text-based entries, we’ll be able to search for them!

Do you plan to help with this crowdsourcing project?

What crowdsourcing projects have you already helped with?

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