Community Transcription-18 Months and 1,000 Transcribers

October 25th, 2012

It’s been eighteen months now since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription, and ever since then we have been steadily adding finished documents to our archive. What started with just a dozen or so volunteers has grown into an active, vigorous community of volunteer transcribers.

We offer here yet another snapshot at our transcription activity.

To date, we have 1,039 users-fully 178 them have transcribed within the last 90 days, which is nearly 20%. This continues a trend of increased users, but also more active users. Those transcribers have made more than 6,615 saves to War Department documents, which is about 300 more than at the last update. That works out to 1241 finished documents, along with another 19 documents begun. Additionally, transcribers have initiated approximately 322 conversations using the “talk” feature. We also know that on average, each document is edited about three times before it is finished.

Our transcribers truly represent a cross-section of life: we have high school teachers, librarians, demographers, doctoral candidates, journalists, historical re-enactors, CEOs, and many other kinds of folks transcribing. There are transcribers from every American state, and from six different continents. Affiliations range from major research universities to historical societies, and from the National Park Service to the Coast Guard. Their interests range from personal research, to genealogy, to dissertation research. Some of our transcribers had extensive experience with historical documents when they began; for others, this is their first encounter with two hundred-year old letters and handwriting. Many of our transcribers have only worked on a few documents, but several have transcribed dozens of them.

The documents themselves vary widely in content. Some are orders to military officers. Others describe treaty negotiations or terms. Many documents request supplies or instructions; there are financial records and officers’ commissions, as well as transcripts of disciplinary proceedings. One recent document included an allegation of forgery.

As we continue forward with the project, users may still register for a transcription account.