doctor’s visits, their illnesses, and, sadly, their deaths. Yes—you
do become absorbed in the people, and losing one of them is like
losing a relative or a friend.10
Next Steps
In October, after volunteer transcriptionists had made short work of the original
collection of 38 diaries, the project scope expanded to include 80 sets of letters
containing over 5800 pages of correspondence. With this additional content, the
newly renamed Civil War Diaries and Letters Transcription Project supplements
the first-hand accounts of soldiers with those of their families and friends back
home, allowing a much fuller view of life during the war.
This winter, the project will expand further with the creation of the
Crowdsourcing Collections @ Iowa gateway site, which will provide access to
additional opportunities for users to help enhance the UI Libraries’ content.
Next up is crowdsourcing transcription for items outside of the Civil War
materials, including manuscript cookbooks from Special Collections, as well as
19th-century children’s diaries held in the UI’s Iowa Women’s Archives, and in a
partner institution, the State Historical Society of Iowa. This spring, the libraries
also plan to move a Flickr pilot into production to allow commenting and
tagging for historic photographs harvested from the Iowa Digital Library,
migrating the user-generated data from Flickr back to the metadata records
into the Digital Library. This will follow similar workflows to those developed
for the transcript project.
Conclusion
This success of the Civil War project not only confirmed public interest in such
endeavors, but was evidence that crowdsourcing efforts can get off the ground
without computer programmers, specialized software, or major grant funds. The
highly mediated nature of our workflow can lead us to feel a little self-conscious
when compared to some of the more high-tech efforts—Iowa’s transcription
project runs on “peopleware” rather than software—but it makes sense for the
institution. Overstaffed with talented, detail-oriented catalogers in technical
services and understaffed in IT, Iowa adapted its crowdsourcing plans to fit,
in order to “go to war with the army we’ve got.” In the battle for public
engagement and value-added collections, the ends have more than justified
the means.
RLI 277
13
Experimenting with Strategies for Crowdsourcing Manuscript Transcription
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C O N T I N U E D
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DECEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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