On October 24, 2018, the Library of Congress (LC) launched a new crowdsourcing program at Crowd.loc.gov. The unveiling of this new program corresponds with Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden’s 5-year Strategic Plan that “puts users first,” and grants increased access to LC’s holdings. This application builds off of previous Library of Congress crowdsourcing applications such as Beyond Words, Roll the Credits, and the 2008 Flickr initiative, The Commons.
So how does it work?
Users are encouraged to transcribe, review, and tag documents grouped together in thematic “campaigns,” posted to the Crowd website. Presently, there are five listed campaigns where users can choose to interact with a variety of sources—from official correspondence to speeches and diaries.
The website tracks the progress of each campaign using a blue bar. This means that in just three months, over 15,000 images of the “Letters to Lincoln” campaign have been transcribed and marked ready for review.
Crowd does not require participants to create a profile to transcribe files, however an account is necessary to review or tag documents.
Here is an example of the transcription portion, using a letter from the “Mary Church Terrell: Advocate for African Americans and Women” campaign.
The website allows multiple volunteers to work on the same page, save partially finished pages, and edit transcriptions of other participants before submitting for review. Options for full screen viewing and zoom help users focus on cursive letters and miniscule punctuation marks. Two buttons at the bottom of the page provide volunteers with “Quick Tips” for transcribing or redirect to the History Hub forum (moderated by LC staff members) for more complicated questions.
So, maybe you’re done transcribing and you’ve decided to review another user’s work. Here’s a 1908 letter from Terrell’s collection that’s ready for review:
On this page, the transcription box is locked until you press buttons to edit or accept the text. Once you accept the reviewed document, a box prompts you to submit tags for identification and organization. Varying perspectives among users are expected to provide diverse subject terms and expand the current Library index for an increasingly accessible database.
Now what happens once you submit the document for final review?
This speech from “Letters to Lincoln” has been completely reviewed and finalized. It will now appear in the campaign with an orange hyperlinked description. Users are still able to view the document; however, no further changes can be made. Upon selecting a finished page, a table lists the percentage of progress and the number of contributors for that page.
Once the entire campaign is reviewed and finalized by LC staff, users can select a link to view the finished product in the official online collection. Maintaining the finished documents within each section of the campaigns permits volunteers to return to their previous work and personally connect to the official Library of Congress collections.
Although a multitude of documents from the “Letters to Lincoln” campaign have already been transcribed and finalized, there are still four more sections waiting to be accessed. Will you shuffle through the William Oland Bourne’s disabled civil war veteran collection, or perhaps get lost in the papers of Clara Barton?