Corinne Midgett of High Point Museum kindly took the time to answer questions from Sara Brumfield of FromThePage, and discussed their project and experience using the platform.
Corinne Midgett is the Registrar of High Point Museum.
First, tell us about your documents.
Our documents are all related to the people of High Point, NC, where our museum is located. We started our FromThePage projects with a collection of property deeds related to several local families and were surprised at how quickly they were completed!
Then, we uploaded a collection of letters from the Fisher family. Some of the letters were written by Eliza Ann Fisher (later Eliza Rogers) and describe her visits to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Eliza’s brothers lived in Chicago, and she frequently traveled there. Her lengthy descriptions of the sights and sounds of the Fair are fascinating to read.
As work on that collection wrapped up, we added a batch of letters written between Eva Spears Moorefield and her brother, Jewell Hilliard Spears, while he served in the US Marine Corps during World War II. Jewell survived the sinking of the USS Wasp in 1942, trained new recruits, including actor Tyrone Power, at Camp Pendleton, and fought in the first ten days of fighting at Iwo Jima in February 1945. He was wounded and died on February 28, but Eva didn’t learn of his death until March 30 and continued to write to him until then.
What are your goals for the projects?
We see crowdsourced transcriptions as a way to engage new audiences with our collection while increasing access. We’re a small staff, but we care for a large collection that includes many archival collections. Before the museum acquired a collections database, cataloging and processing were often minimal, meaning that transcriptions typically weren’t done. I spend most of my time keeping up with more recent donations, so crowdsourcing allows us to highlight past donations that didn’t get the processing they needed. After transcriptions are completed and reviewed, they’re added to our database, along with scans and contextual information, and then uploaded to our online catalog.
How are you recruiting or finding volunteers/collaborators?
We’ve recruited through our social media channels and through an email newsletter that goes out to our members and supporters. When we first started with FromThePage, I was surprised by the number of existing FromThePage volunteers who jumped in to help. Our biggest success with recruiting volunteers came with the Jewell Spears Collection. In April 2021, we posted about Jewell’s story on our Facebook page and appealed for help transcribing his letters. All 104 pages were transcribed in less than a week and we saw a lot of excitement and interest on social media.
Can you share your experience using FromThePage?
Our experience has been positive, although transcriptions have slowed down in the last year. I attribute that partly to my own time being pulled in other directions, leaving less time to add new documents. Our museum was closed to the public for most of 2020, which allowed a lot more time to scan documents and review transcriptions. Over the next few months, I’ll be planning for future FromThePage projects and selecting some new and interesting collections to transcribe. We may survey our members and FromThePage volunteers to find out what kinds of materials they’d like to work on. Additionally, I’ve found that the team at FromThePage has been very responsive to questions and eager to share information.
How does FromThePage & crowdsourcing fit with museums?
From a museum perspective, I think crowdsourcing is a wonderful tool that provides remote volunteer opportunities and increases access to archival materials. It does require staff time to select materials, scan, upload, and review and process the completed transcriptions, but I’ve found processing goes very quickly and smoothly when I’m working with completed transcriptions. Just like everything else we do, it needs an efficient workflow. The hardest part is probably finding volunteers, but FromThePage makes that easier by providing an easy-to-use interface and an existing community of volunteers. It would have been much harder for us to do this without a service like FromThePage.