October 24, 2018 Crowdsourcing Tool Enables Discovery of Unique Treasures at the Library of Congress

Online Project Kicks-Off With Challenge to Transcribe 10,000 Letters to Abraham Lincoln

Press Contact: Benny Seda-Galarza (202) 707-8732
Website: crowd.loc.gov
Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or [email protected]

The Library of Congress today launched crowd.loc.gov, a crowdsourcing program that will connect the Library with virtual volunteers to transcribe text in digitized images from the Library’s historic collections.

This project enables anyone with access to a computer to experience first-hand accounts in history while contributing to the Library’s ability to make these treasures more searchable and readable.

Volunteers can work on selections from the papers of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Church Terrell, Clara Barton’s diaries, Branch Rickey’s baseball scouting reports or memoirs of Civil War veterans with disabilities from the William Oland Bourne Papers.

“Crowdsourcing demonstrates the passion of volunteers for history, learning and the power of technology to make those things more accessible,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The pages awaiting transcription at crowd.loc.gov represent some of the diversity of the Library’s treasure, and the metadata that will result from these transcriptions mean these digitized documents will have even greater use to classrooms, researchers or anyone who is curious about these historical figures.”

The transcripts developed and reviewed by volunteers will be made available on the Library’s website, loc.gov, making them keyword searchable for the first time. This will enhance access to handwritten and typed documents that computers cannot accurately extract text from.

Users will also benefit from greater on-screen readability and compatibility with screen readers used by people with visual disabilities.

“Earlier this month, the Library released its first digital strategy, an ambitious vision to throw open our treasure chest, connect with users and invest in our future. Crowd.loc.gov is an enormous leap forward in connecting with all Americans by welcoming their contributions to their Library,” said Kate Zwaard, the Library’s director of digital strategy. “We are especially excited about this tool’s potential to serve the curious – people who want to learn something interesting and unexpected.”

The Library will continue to add new material, including documents from the Rosa Parks papers, the woman’s suffrage movement, Civil War veterans, American poets and the history of psychiatry.

Crowd.loc.gov will launch with the Letters to Lincoln Challenge, inviting the public to transcribe 10,000 digital images from the Abraham Lincoln papers by the end of 2018.

In support of the crowdsourcing initiative, the Library will host a one-day celebration of Lincoln on the 155th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on November 19, 2018.

The event will be composed of multiple elements, including work stations for a hands-on experience transcribing Lincoln documents, remarks by the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and Michelle Krowl, historian from the Library’s manuscript division, and a walk and talk to see the Gettysburg Address on display.

The software powering the crowdsourcing program has been released by the Library as open source for the benefit and use of other cultural heritage organizations considering similar efforts. View or contribute to the code repository at github.com/LibraryOfCongress/concordia.

This program reflects advancement toward a goal in the Library’s new user-centered strategic plan: to expand access by making unique collections, experts and services available when, where and how users need them. Learn more about the Library’s five-year plan at loc.gov/strategic-plan/ and the digital strategy at loc.gov/digital-strategy/.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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PR 18-134
2018-10-24
ISSN 0731-3527