You don’t have to travel to Washington D.C. or Philadelphia to be involved up close and personal to rescue and make more publicly available, America’s most seminal historic documents of the prior 200-plus years.
In fact, ordinary citizens can work from home, partnering with the Library of Congress (LOC) to play a vital translator rescue role in salvaging the content of all manner of documents that reveal who and what America was and became.
And what catastrophe triggered a recent public virtual 911 emergency call from Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress to harness the talent and civic spirit of citizens across America?
Water damage and floods? Mildew? Fire? Paper-eating insects? Humidity? No.
Computers — combined with someone’s idea, a decade or more ago, to abandon standard teaching of cursive writing in America’s public schools — are the culprit. These unintended consequences threaten library preservation of America’s history.
LOC seeks (unpaid) translators from English into English who can work from home. Access via crowdsourcing at Crowd.loc.gov.
Computers, thought to be infallible miracles, are confounded — unable to read thousands of handwritten (in cursive) and some pounded out (on upright typewriters) — American documents ranging from baseball scouting reports of Hall of Famer Branch Rickey (1881-1965), known for breaking Major League Baseball barriers by signing black player Jackie Robinson, to constituent letters written to President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).
“Computers cannot accurately translate (cursive and typed-on-uprights text) without human intervention,” Hayden said.
You can help, Hayden implored in a public unveiling of a national and international public crowdsourcing effort which can be accessed online via crowd.loc.gov. Nonspecialists are welcome. Time is of the essence.
“Library of Congress invites the public to volunteer to transcribe and tag digitized images of text materials from Library collections. Volunteers will help the library while gaining new skills, like parsing primary sources or reading cursive.
“Volunteers will type what they see in the image. After other volunteers verify, these transcriptions will return to the loc.gov interface for pubic search and use, enhancing metadata of existing collections,” Hayden said.
Only registered users can review or add tags.
“Coming soon are materials related to Civil War veterans, women’s voting rights, American poetry, the history of psychiatry and more,” Hayden said.
LOC employees Lauren Algee, Elaine Kamlley, Victoria Van Hyning and Meghan Ferriter are leading the public effort, according to Carla Hayden.