The Smithsonian Institution has joined the crowdsourcing revolution: It launched a Transcription Center website where volunteers can help transcribe thousands of document images, such as Civil War diaries, letters from artists Mary Cassatt and Grandma Moses, and old American currency.
Over the past year, nearly 1,000 volunteers participated in a beta test of documents in high demand by researchers, resulting in about 13,000 pages of transcriptions.
According to the Smithsonian’s press release, “In one instance—transcribing the personal correspondence of members of the Monuments Men held in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art collection—49 volunteers finished the 200-page project in just one week.”
A Reddit community devoted to the Applachian Trail transcribed the 121-page digitized diary of Earl Shaffer, the first man to hike the entire length of the trail. Hiking enthusiasts, naturalists and other researchers now can search the digital version, helping to preserve access while protecting the fragile original.
Another volunteer reviews each completed transcription before it’s certified by a Smithsonian expert. To participate, register here and click Tips for quick instructions. You can choose a project by theme (such as American Experience or Civil War Era) or by contributing repository.