Community Transcription-Eleven Months On

March 5th, 2012

It’s been eleven months now since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription. Nearly a year ago, we offered the Scripto transcription tool, 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 550 users-fully 97 of them have transcribed within the last 90 days-this continues a trend of increased users, but also more active users. Those transcribers have made more than 3,840 saves to War Department documents, which is about 200 more than last month. That translates to more than 790 finished documents, along with another 120 documents begun. Editors have nominated an additional 90 for transcription. Additionally, transcribers have initiated approximately 210 conversations using the “talk” feature. We also know that on average, each document is edited between three and four times before it is finished.

Our transcribers truly represent a cross-section of life: we have university professors, genealogists, hobbyists, editors, librarians, historical re-enactors, firefighters, and many other kinds of folks transcribing. There are transcribers from every American state, and from five different continents. Affiliations range from the Seneca Nation to the Daughters of the American Revolution, and from the Society of the Cincinnati to major research universities. Their interests range from personal research, to genealogy, to professional projects. Some of our transcribers had extensive experience with historical documents when they began; for others, this is their first encounter with two hundred-year old letters and handwriting.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 intelligence reports detailing the movements of Indian parties. Others describe treaty negotiations or terms. Many documents chronicle criminal proceedings; there are financial records and officers’ commissions, as well as supply inventories.

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