Three months into our Scripto-War Department Papers partnership, we have over 200 transcribers. We thought it would be interesting to learn a little more about the volunteers who have devoted many hours to transcribing. We turn now to a short interview with one of our more active transcribers, Patricia Gerard, to learn a little more about her background and experiences with the project:
PWD: Briefly, what is your editing background, if any?
Patricia Gerard (PG): I have edited publications for over thirty years, off and on, from marketing to educational publications and newsletters.
PWD: Why were you interested in helping transcribe?
PG: As a recent graduate student and employee in the Archives of Appalachia, I was fascinated by the necessity for me to “translate” older documents to researchers because of their inability to decipher script. This led to a seminar research paper on the fading literacy of cursive writing. I have a continuing interest in both history and the role of writing in society. Providing access of archival materials to researchers and interested users is a key component of being an archivist.
PWD: What things did you find challenging about either the editing or the tool?
PG: I found that the more one spends time reading the scripts of documents, the more fluency develops in understanding the style of script and formation of letters. I have not made use of all aspects of the tool but find it quite simple to use.
PWD: What surprised you about the documents or the tool?
PG: The greatest surprise I have found was in the literacy of the writers; most of the documents I have transcribed were written by very educated individuals. I found far fewer mistakes than I would find in papers by a class of high school seniors today. All, with the exception of one, were quite simple to transcribe, requiring only a small degree of concentrated thought to ascertain the individual letters or words.
PWD: Has the tool met your expectations with regard to its utility or its ease of use?
PG: The tool is quite simple to use.
PWD: Do you have any suggestions to improve the tool, the site, or instructions?
PG: I seem to find the “editor’s note” function one which I frequently use. If there is a way to bring up this function in the same way the “strike through” and “superscript” keys operate, this would be helpful. The same suggestion applies for “[undecipherable].” I use the “signature” key to sign-off my work when transcribing is complete but I am not sure whether this is the purpose of this application.
From time to time we’ll offer theses spotlights as a way of getting to know the kids of folks who transcribe historical documents for fun.
Until next time, keep transcribing!