Claire Horton is Deputy State Archivist at Indiana Archives and Records Administration.
First, tell us about your documents.
Our first project is to create an index to Indiana’s World War I Service Record cards. These cards detail a soldier’s service in the military, and list biographical details like residence, date of birth, and place of birth. We chose this project to coincide with the centennial of World War I and it is one way in which we are honoring our veterans.
What are your goals for the project?
We have several goals with this project. First, we want to increase the accessibility of our collections. This particular collection has always been available at the Archives, but now people know about it! They are able to search from home, and even see the images from home. One of our volunteers said “I enjoy being able to help do something that will make it easier to find information that took me years to find when I first started genealogy.” As more archives embark on digitization and transcription projects, our history becomes much more accessible.
We are also hoping to reach a new audience. This project has allowed us to interact with a group of people who have never visited the Indiana Archives before and may have never heard of it. It is my hope that we have been able to illustrate the value of the Indiana Archives to more people and that our volunteers will continue to stay involved.
How are you recruiting or finding volunteers/collaborators?
We have recruited volunteers on social media, at our events, and from within our existing volunteer program. We have also advertised in the newsletters of various Indiana organizations, including the newsletters for state employees, genealogical groups, and local libraries. We also have some volunteers who found us via FromThePage. Overall, we have a very diverse group of volunteers, some of whom don’t even have a connection to Indiana. Many of our volunteers are only active for a few weeks, so it has been important for us to continue to recruit new volunteers as the project progresses.
Can you share your experience using FromThePage?
This has been a very rewarding experience. I’ve enjoyed seeing the connection our volunteers have made with the history found within these cards. They often share interesting finds—one volunteer found her great-grandfather’s card unexpectedly. I think this interest level is possible with many different collections found at the Archives, and it’s been very valuable to have a platform where we can make that connection happen.
It’s also been a very efficient way for us to get a large collection indexed. Multiple people (we have over 100 volunteers, and about 25 are active a given week) can work at the same time, at any time of the day, from anywhere. The collection is also available online to researchers as it’s being indexed, which is something we haven’t been able to offer before.
Any suggestions for other archives (especially state archives) thinking about similar projects?
Keep it simple! Many of our volunteers enjoy working on this project because it is quick and easy, and they can get through several cards in one sitting. We chose to focus on indexing a few main fields rather than transcribing the whole card. It’s a more efficient way for us to get the project done, and it avoids any confusion with the military jargon used on the cards. Because the cards are scanned and available online, this additional information is still available to anyone looking at the card.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Many of our volunteers have said that their favorite thing about the service cards is seeing the cities and towns listed. Many of these places are very small and obscure, or no longer exist. This is an added benefit that never occurred to me when we first started this project.