Practicum: Library of Congress’s By the People

The Library of Congress’s By the People website invites volunteers to aid the Library in transcribing and reviewing digitized archival materials. Launched in Fall 2018, this initiative has resulted in the transcription of over 400,000 pages by over 28,000 registered users and countless unregistered volunteers.

By the People’s landing page.

Anyone can contribute to this project! You don’t even need to make an account, although registering will allow you to review and tag pages.

Clicking the “Get Started” tab will take you to the Welcome Guide, which walks users through the contribution process. After reading the linked instructions, you can choose a campaign to contribute to. Each campaign features an archival collection such as, for instance, papers concerning Walt Whitman.

The Walt Whitman Campaign. Along with a short description of the collection, the page includes a chart showing how the campaign is progressing.

To make a transcription, navigate to the desired document and begin typing in the box on the right. Make sure you read the instructions first! You can also click the “Quick Tips” button at the bottom of the page if you need a reminder about transcription standards. When you’re done, click the “Submit for Review” button.

To review another volunteer’s transcription, you’ll need to have a registered account. If you already have an account, you can simply review their transcription, make any necessary edits, and accept the final product.

Along with instructions and the campaigns themselves, the By the People site also includes a discussion forum where volunteers can ask questions and solicit help with transcriptions; an About page with statistics, press coverage, and FAQs; and a list of resources. This list includes lesson plans, tutorial videos, Transcribe-a-Thon How-To’s, and all sorts of other resources for students, educators, and the general public.

The LoC’s By the People project is a great way to give back to your community, even fulfilling some community service requirements. You can get first-hand experience working with primary source documents and contributing to a world-wide public history project. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

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