Crowdsourcing connotes a big, public project that anyone can work on, but what you may not know is that about a third of the activity we see on FromThePage happens within private projects -- ones where you have to be invited to transcribe. Since these are invisible, I thought I’d highlight how some institutions are using these projects.
When COVID hit, many institutions launched private projects for their staff to work on from home. The USDA National Agricultural Library listed their projects on an internal remote work directory for field workers. FromThePage worked really well for folks who didn’t have VPN access to the rest of their network. Other institutions reacted to the sudden need for remote work by posting staff-only projects, providing employees at places like the Wisconsin Historical Society or student workers at Iowa State with ways to log hours during lockdown while improving library metadata.
Respect for copyright or indigenous ownership may also be reasons for private projects. The Beinecke Library at Yale University had staff transcribe the papers of 20th-century literary figures like Langston Hughes or James Baldwin, which are still under the copyright of the literary estates. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Lakhota language revitalization program limited their material to community members to better serve language learners and maintain indigenous control over the project.
Projects looking for particular, specialized skills may also use private projects to limit access to people with those skills. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has private projects to translate diaries from Dutch, French, Yiddish, and other languages. They recruit a single volunteer with skills in the language of the diary from their network, and the volunteer focuses on that single item. Dartmouth College started a public transcription project for their Wrangel Island collection, then made the project private for staff to create item-level metadata from the images and transcriptions.
Some organizations use private projects to refine their processes before “going public”. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission started their transcription efforts by hiring a clerk to transcribe an index to historical court cases. This let them learn about the transcription and FromThePage in a low-stakes way, and begin exploring how to integrate crowd contributions into their digital archive’s metadata schema while still providing an extremely useful index to interesting material in their collection. Now they are launching a public project.
The Alabama Department of Archives and History use private projects for very public crowdsourcing -- they promote the projects heavily, but ask volunteers to reach out to the project lead to be added. This lets her send training material, build direct relationships, and assign targeted material to volunteers from the same region as the material.
The scholarly editing projects we host -- like the Civil War and Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi and the Wilford Woodruff Papers -- use a combination of public crowdsourcing and private editing, annotation, and review in advanced workflows on FromThePage.
Finally, we have to mention the many private classroom projects students work on to learn primary source research, editing, or deep reading. If you’re interested in these, we have a webinar on how folks use FromThePage to teach with primary sources coming up next week on July 21, 2022.
Have materials that could benefit from crowdsourced transcription? Reserve a call with Ben and Sara.