The Papers of the War Department Project is enlisting the help of our community of users to transcribe the documents in the archive. With over 45,000 documents and hundreds of thousands of individual pages, we have a monumental task ahead of us. Nonetheless, the digital archive provides us with a unique opportunity to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm of users to improve the archive for everyone. By working to transcribe individual archival pages, contributors will help us improve all users’ ability to locate the documents they need by providing text essential to the website’s search engine. Additionally, the project editors will gain an important insight into the topics and issues from the collection that are especially interesting to the community. Finally, Transcription Associates have the opportunity to learn about the history of the War Department in the first decades of the new nation, and to contribute to preserving and presenting that history for the public.
PWD contains many interesting possibilities for members of the user community to investigate. And, the documents related to those topics are ready for users to transcribe. For example,
Not everyone has a particular research interests, so the editors have compiled a list of Candidates for Transcription.
Unlike many documentary projects that consist of the papers of a single individual, the Papers of the War Department features materials written by hundreds of different authors. Transcription associates will encounter vast differences in handwriting. Similarly, the archive contains many different kinds of documents in addition to traditional correspondence, such as accountant records, Indian treaties, inventories of equipment, and draft notes. Transcribing these varied formats also will pose a challenge. Thus, the editors have compiled a set of Transcription Guidelines to assist associates in their work.
PWD’s work with community transcription is part of a larger project to make crowdsourcing possible for archivists and documentary editors with digital collections. We are using a slightly customized version of the Center for History and New Media’s open source tool, Scripto, for transcription. We will use the feedback from this implementation to improve the tool.
Scripto can be plugged into any content management system through the use of some simple connection scripting. Editors interested in adding transcription to their archive can experiment with the tool in its current beta state. In the near future, CHNM will release a series of connector scripts for common content management systems.
The implementation of Scripto with the Papers of the War Department, and the creation and editing of the archive itself, has been generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
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