Community Transcription Update-Twenty Months On

December 18th, 2012

It’s been twenty 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 1,157 users-fully 192 them have transcribed within the last 90 days, which is about 16%. Those transcribers have made more than 7,503 saves to War Department documents, which is about 800 more than at the last update. That works out to 1,369 finished documents, along with another 17 documents begun. Additionally, transcribers have initiated approximately 349 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 students, museum curators, demographers, doctoral candidates, tribal historians, park rangers, musicians, and many other kinds of folks transcribing. There are transcribers from every American state, and from six different continents. Affiliations range from theological seminaries to historical societies, and from the National Park Service to the Chickasaw Nation. 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 Some of our transcribers had extensive experience with historical documents when they began; for others, this is their first encounter with two hundred-year old letters and handwriting.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. Some of our transcribers have no particular interest in the War Department Papers, but are evaluating Scripto to use in their own projects.

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. A recent series of documents showed that a high-ranking military officer was involved in international espionage.

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