Reading Someone Else's Diary ✍🏻 📜
(Actually, this post talks about historical document transcription but that doesn't sound nearly as exciting:)
During the Covid pandemic, I was not able to do many of the volunteer activities I enjoy. One day, I read that the Library of Congress was looking for volunteers to help transcribe historical documents. While this may not initially sound all that interesting, it can be and is almost like peering into someone’s diary and trying to understand their scribbles. The Library of Congress (LOC) has collected many types of documents, and in order to catalog and search them more easily, they need to be transcribed by human eyes. As you can see, much of the writing is difficult for even the best optical character recognition (OCR) program to handle. The LOC offers various categories of documents for volunteers to translate so you can pick something that you are interested in. Also, if you decide to give it a shot, you can do as little or as much as you like and can start and stop over a period of time. It really is a very easy way to volunteer on your own time.
The following picture shows examples from the Hannah Arendt Project, and although most of these are typed pages, they still need a transcription. You can see in the upper corner that (at the time I visited this site) there were over 17,000 pages not started by volunteers and an equal number completed.
The note below shows a note I recently transcribed that was part of The World War II Rumor Project. You will see the original document on the left and my transcription on the right. This was a short project and only took a few minutes.
The following is another example I completed previously from the Susan B. Anthony Papers, Daybook and Diaries Project from 1874. This was a little tougher to understand, so having some skill in deciphering handwriting is helpful.
As you can see, I pick short documents I can transcribe when I have a few spare minutes. There are much longer documents you can work on, and if you register and sign in, you can work on a little at a time and return to where you left off or jump into another transcription that someone else started. You can also decide to simply review someone else’s work if you’d rather not transcribe it yourself.
While historical document transcription might not sound like the most exciting thing to add to your list of 50 Things, it’s worth trying, especially if you have an interest in a particular kind of history.
The Library of Congress home page for getting started transcribing historical documents.
Library of Congress Crowdsourcing on Twitter
Speaking of Twitter, 50 Things is there too! I just set it up so I’d love it if you follow!
Visit the LOC’s Historical Documents campaign page and try a short transcription.
If you know someone who would like this activity or the 50 Things newsletter, please forward this newsletter to them so they can subscribe too!
Thanks for reading! I hope you are enjoying this newsletter and are having a great time working on your own list of 50 Things! - Linda
PS - Do you remember the recent post about black out poetry? Here is another related site (for a black-out poetry maker) for you to check out.