Crowdsourcing Transcription

I really, really want to do this. Crowdsource transcription, that is.  I have been following Ben W. Brumfield’s Collaborative Manuscript Transcription blog for a while, and it has just about all of the information we need in order to figure out a path forward.  Beginning to explore how transcription might tie into our Digital Collections is on our project agenda for the fall.

In a recent presentation about crowdsourcing, Brumfield emphasizes the point that while many view crowdsourcing as “free” labor, it is more like being “free like a puppy,” meaning that there are many, many costs associated with crowdsourcing transcription, and a primary motivation should be about engaging the community with collections.

Currently, the University of Maryland Libraries has several transcriptions of parts of collections available online.

Stepter Family Papers: a researcher/genealogist transcribed these letters, and provided them to us in PDF format for sharing on our website. We uploaded the PDFs to the directory where we store supplementary finding aid materials and linked to them through the finding aid.  While searchable within each page, these letters are difficult to discover outside of the collection and it is not possible to cross-search.

Diary of Susan Mathiot Gale: I transcribed this years ago for a research paper. It is sitting on my computer.

Katherine Anne Porter correspondence: A group of students transcribed selections for a course project but these are not available online at present.  In the next year, OCRd versions of select Porter correspondence will be available online.

Sterling Family Papers: A group of students transcribed and encoded these letters in TEI for a course project in 2006.

And there are more, of this I am certain.  My dream is to develop an interface that will allow us to, at minimum, ingest and index basic, textual transcriptions and display them in conjunction with digital images.  A second phase would involve developing crowdsourcing capabilities to allow users to add, edit, and annotate.  A third might involve allowing for more specific transcriptions (TEI instead of full-text, for example).  There are so many interesting projects out there to explore.

Jennie Levine Knies is the Manager, Digital Programs and Initiatives, at the University of Maryland Libraries.