Update: As of January 15th, 2,200 pages have been completed -- 800 to go by the end of the month!
You all are so good at challenges, we have another for the month of January! We're featuring Alan Lomax, whose 105th birthday would be on January 31st. Lomax was the most famous American folklorist of the 20th century. From 1936 to 1966 he traveled the country and the world recording thousands of musicians, storytellers, and other tradition-bearers. He worked with friends and family, as well as cultural icons such as Zora Neale Hurston and Pete Seeger. His detailed field notebooks document encounters with Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, Bessie Jones and others.
So far we've made U.S. and Caribbean materials available, and are waiting until these are mostly complete before releasing materials from the United Kingdom. So this month we ask you to put your considerable talents and energy towards reviewing pages to bring the "completed" count to 3,000 by Alan's birthday on Jan. 31. This will let us start bringing transcriptions back to loc.gov, and will move us closer to adding new materials. Jump in to Lomax review here!
As of January 1st, 1,732 Lomax pages were complete -- 1,268 to go!
Update! Volunteers completed transcription of all of "This Hell-upon-earth of a prison", Samuel Gibson's diary and letter, in less than 36 hours!* We then challenged you to review "Disabled but not disheartened" and volunteers jumped in to move 371 pages to completed! Incredible work! We hope that you'll share your reflections and takeaways from these campaigns in the comments below.
Stretch goal, "Disabled but not disheartened":
So, "what's next?" you ask. With the holiday still a few days away, we hope you're up for a 2nd Veteran's Day challenge!
Let's complete all 1,572 pages needing review in the "Civil War Soldiers: 'Disabled but not disheartened'" Campaign by the end of Veterans Day. This is a lot of material, but you all have shown yourselves to be an incredible community, and we think you can do it! This campaign features entries from the left-handed penmanship competition created by a reformer, poet, editor, and clergyman named William Oland Bourne for Union soldiers who lost their right arms in the conflict. Reviewing these pages you'll encounter soldiers' personal accounts of battle and loss, as well as their lives after the war, when they trained themselves to write left-handed and returned to civilian life and work.
This was one of our original campaigns launched in October 2018. It would be amazing to round out the review of these letters by wounded soldiers, so that we could publish the full set of transcriptions back on loc.gov. That would be a lot to be proud of, and grateful for, this Veterans Day.
Progress: 371 pages completed! (since challenge launch 11/8, 9am EST)
|Thursday 11/7, 2pm EST||0||3||1,572||3,572|
Friday 11/8, 9am EST
|Friday 11/8, 5pm EST||0||0||1,427||3,720|
|Saturday 11/9, 8:30 am EST||0||2||1,371||3,774|
|Saturday 11/9, 6:15 pm EST||0||2||1,350||3,795|
Sunday 11/10, 9:00 am EST
|Sunday 11/10, 5:00 pm EST||0||2||1,304||3,841|
|Monday 11/11, 9:00 am EST||0||2||1,290||3,855|
|Monday 11/11, 5:15 pm EST||0||2||1,230||3,914|
|Tuesday 11/12, 12:00 pm EST||0||1||1,203||3,943|
Original challenge, "This hell-upon-earth of a prison":
“Today is the holy sabbath: but there is no sabbath here; Oh Liberty; Law & Order! Thou canst not be appreciated till thou art once lost”
So wrote Union soldier Samuel J. Gibson in the depths of his agony while held as a prisoner of war at the notorious Andersonville prison camp in Georgia. Gibson’s diary of 1864-1865 documents part of his military service, capture, experience at Andersonville, and ultimate release. Today we are publishing the 200-page diary, as well as a letter Gibson wrote to his wife as "This Hell-upon-earth of a Prison." We launch this new campaign to challenge you, the By the People community, to completely transcribe and review Gibson's writings by the end of Veteran's Day (November 11th). Once all of the pages have been reviewed we can publish the transcriptions back on loc.gov where they’ll will make these important documents fully searchable.
Documents such as these connect us all to the past, but for some people this connection is personal. Several of Samuel Gibson’s descendants are alive today, including his great granddaughter, Peggy. Read her experience of learning about the diary here.
This week we invite you to engage deeply with Gibson’s writings, and to treat your volunteer service as a chance to think about the veterans in your own life and your own history. We'll track daily numbers here, so check in to see progress toward our goal!
If you’re new to review, read through our How-To Review guide before getting started.
|Monday 11/6, 9am EST||90||0||0||0|
Monday 11/6 6:30pm EST
|Tuesday 11/7 9:10am EST||1||7||0||82|
|Tuesday 11/7 1:10am EST||0||1||0||89|
*As of 11/12 one Gibson page remains "in progress" to to a user page reservation.
Starting Tuesday, October 1 the staff of the Library of Congress Manuscript Division reference team will join your By the People community managers in moderating and responding to CROWD History Hub posts. We're piloting this approach to better leverage their deep collections and public service expertise and work towards long term sustainability for Library of Congress crowdsourcing.
LOC Manuscript Division is already active in the community, responding to your collections-related question with their fantastic expertise. You've probably already seen their many helpful and illuminating posts (like Re: Anna E. Dickinson mother -- Marmee or Maumee?)! This new responsibility will be managed by a different staff member each month, so you'll get to meet many more of the folks who work behind the scenes with our fabulous collections to facilitate research.
Don't worry, your trusty community managersVictoria and Lauren are still around to help out with your crowdsourcing queries and learn from the experiences and findings you generously share in this space.
Please join us in welcoming the LOC Manuscript Division further into our community!
We've got something new we think you're going to love! Today we're launching a new By the People campaign The man who recorded the world: On the road with Alan Lomax. The work of 20th-century folklorist Alan Lomax is the bedrock of our understanding of twentieth-century folk music. Discover rich folk traditions by transcribing his field notebooks and correspondence with family, fellow musicians, colleagues, and collaborators.
The Lomax campaign includes notes on performances and interviews with artists like blues guitarist Robert Johnson, folk singer Woody Guthrie, country musician Burl Ives, and blues singers Lead Belly and Muddy Waters. Lomax is credited with bringing all of these artists to popular public attention. The collection also documents Lomax’s extensive travels, including his time as a Library of Congress employee, and the toll his years of fieldwork took on his personal life.
According to Bob Dylan, “Alan was one of those who unlocked the secrets of this kind of music”. Now, we need your help to unlock these documents and make them available to musicians, music lovers, and researchers all over the world. Ride along in the back seat of Lomax's sedan on the way to interview Robert Johnson’s mother, or browse through Muddy Waters’ record collection to see what inspired the iconic bluesman.
We're starting off with materials from across America and the Caribbean, and will later release materials from Lomax's fieldwork in the British Isles, Spain, and the Soviet Union. Read more about the campaign in our Folklife Today blogpost.
A new challenge has arrived, volunteers! From August 12-19, help By the People complete 1,000 pages of "Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote".
This new topic highlights the 70 year battle for women's right to vote, marking its’ 100th anniversary in 2019. Meet suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Mary Church Terrell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Anna Dickinson! Engage with their personal letters, travel diaries, and organization ledgers to watch history unfold before your eyes. You'll see Susan B. Anthony affectionately give her friends nicknames and Elizabeth Cady Stanton write the book that almost rips the movement in half. Transcribe your way from the White House lawn to the beaches of South Africa.
Volunteer review is the crucial final step required to mark pages complete so they can return to loc.gov for research use. Honor the work of these tireless suffrage advocates by helping meet the 1,000 page goal! Anyone can take part, you just need to register for an account to jump into review. We also hope you'll spread the news of this challenge and invite others to join us as we engage intimately with suffrage history.
If you’re new to review, read through our How-To Review guide before getting started.
We’ll log daily numbers here, so check in to see progress toward our goal!
Progress so far:
By 6pm EST on Wednesday, you'd already completed over 1,000 pages! Amazing!!! Clearly we underestimated your suffrage zeal, so we're setting a stretch goal. Can we complete a total of 2,000 by Monday?? Are you up for it?!
Monday, 8/19, 9am EST --
2,258 pages completed!
|Date||Not started||In progress||In review||Completed|
|Monday 8/12, 9am EST||19,966||1,742||15,652||6,257|
Monday 8/12, 5:30pm EST
|Tuesday 8/13, 9am EST||23,805||1,797||16,143||6,635|
|Tuesday 8/13, 5:30pm EST||23,735||1,821||16,578||6,836|
|Wednesday 8/14, 9am EST||23,059||1,852||16,978||7,081|
|Wednesday 8/14, 6pm EST||22,481||1,923||17,187||7,379|
|Thursday 8/15, 9am EST||22,159||1,951||17,363||7,497|
|Thursday 8/15, 5pm EST||21,630||1,963||17,693||7,684|
|Friday 8/16, 9:30am EST||21,287||1,989||17,822||7,872|
|Friday 8/16, 5pm EST||20,998||2,024||17,886||8,062|
|Monday 8/19 9am EST||19,771||2,071||18,613||8515|
("Not started" numbers may went up on 8/14 due to publication of new Suffrage pages!)
Final Update: Our original 500-page review goal was well exceeded by Memorial Day morning!! Incredible work! We issued a stretch goal for the final day of 750 completed... and hit it out of the park too! Final totals as of 10am ET the following morning: 862 pages completed!
Thank you immensely to everyone who participated. We are still eager to hear about what you learned from the men who entered the Left-Hand Penmanship Contest. Share your stories here!
Mon., May 20, 9am
Mon., May 20, 5am
|Tue., May 21, 9:30am||41||7||3,305||1,213|
|Tue., May 21, 5:15pm||26||11||3,296||1,233|
|Wed, May 22, 9:30am||22||9||3,295||1,240|
|Wed, May 22, 5:30pm||17||11||3,281||1,257|
|Th, May 23, 10:30am||8||10||3,236||1,312|
|Th, May 23, 5:00pm||0||12||3,169||1,385|
|Fri, May 24, 9:00am||0||6||3,128||1,432|
|Fri, May 24, 4:00pm||0||6||3,050||1,510|
|Mon, May 27, 7:30am||0||4||2,795||1,767|
|Mon, May 27, 7:30pm||0||5||2,713||1,848|
|Tue, May 28, 10am||0||6||2,582||1,978|
In the lead up to Memorial Day (May 27) we challenge you to “Make It Meaningful” by completing review of 500 pages of “Civil War soldiers: disabled but not disheartened” campaign in honor of those who have served.
This campaign features entries from the left-handed penmanship competition created by William Oland Bourne for Union soldiers who lost their right hand or arm during the conflict. The handwritten pages include reflections on war and loss. Without transcription the digitized images of the original documents are not keyword searchable or accessible for many users with sight or cognitive disabilities. Focusing on review this Memorial Day offers you the opportunity to honor the sacrifices of service members by exploring and meditating on these soldiers’ experiences and helping make them accessible for others.
"There are many men now in hospital, as well as at their homes, who have lost their right arms, or whose right arm is so disabled that they cannot write with it. Penmanship is a necessary requisite to any man who wants a situation under the government, or in almost any business establishment. As an inducement to the class of wounded and disabled soldiers here named to make every effort to fit themselves for lucrative and honorable positions, we offer the following premiums..."
Thus began an announcement in the June 1865 issue of “The Soldier's Friend,” a newspaper edited by poet and reformer William Oland Bourne that focused on the needs and interests of Civil War veterans. The ad invited Union soldiers and sailors who lost use of their dominant arm during the Civil War to submit penmanship samples in competition for a monetary prize. Bourne served as a chaplain at Central Park Hospital during the war, where he was exposed to the often debilitating injuries sustained by soldiers and sailors. Winning entries were displayed in New York and Washington to advocate for the capacity and resilience of disabled veterans. The writings tell the individual veteran’s stories of service and sacrifice and were used by Bourne to advocate for the injured soldiers' value and experiences in post-war society. Learn more about Bourne and the contest here.
And speaking of learning more, we have a special Challenge blog post by Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Manuscript Division. It tells the story of Alfred D. Whitehouse, one of the soldiers who entered Bourne’s penmanship contest twice. This post was written to inspire you during this challenge, and as a way for us to mark and reflect upon the significance of Memorial Day. What other stories can you find in this campaign? Or in the Letters to Lincoln or Clara Barton Diaries?
We'll start the clock at 9am ET May 20 and will track review and completion progress here. Can we review 500 Left-Handed Penmanship Contest pages by the end of Memorial Day? Jump in!
(the below post is reproduced from the Library of Congress blog)
Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Library’s Manuscript Division, recently was working with Barton’s diaries in “Clara Barton: ‘Angel of the Battlefield,’” puzzling over a blurred name. For those of you drawn to such literary mysteries, and who might be intrigued to try your hand on the project, here’s a story of her detective work. Share your By the People stories with us, too!
I recently delved into Clara Barton’s diaries and stumbled across the kind of puzzle that makes my work so fascinating. My story might help you, as a kind of a how-to, in using the Library’s resources in your own research.
It began when I was looking into Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s biography, Clara Barton: Professional Angel. The task at hand was to determine if Pryor used Barton’s diaries to help document Barton’s work following the Sea Islands Hurricane of Aug. 27, 1893, which devastated South Carolina. Yes, it turned out: Pryor cited several dates, and quoted from Barton’s diary entry of October 1, 1893.
Here is that page, from Barton’s May 1893-May 1894 pocket diary. It is tiny, just 5.5 inches tall.
On the project site, I noticed a volunteer had completed most of that Oct. 1 entry, and correctly added brackets for words that were illegible or speculative. Since several brackets overlapped the quotation supplied by Pryor in her book, I added the missing words to the transcription.
Then curiosity took hold. I looked at the other doubtful words. At least one was a name, which the original transcriber reasonably speculated was “Grace.”
On the next page, though, in a sentence that reads, “Sent our telegram to…” the same name now looked more like “De G—-.”
I was intrigued. I wanted to make that identification. But how could I find the name?
First, I turned to the Clara Barton Papers, available online through the Manuscript Division. I looked in the General Correspondence series, which is arranged alphabetically by the name of the correspondent. Scanning the “D” names in the collection finding aid, I got a hit: “DeGraw, Peter V.”
Ideally, for confirmation, in the “DeGraw, Peter V. and Emma” file, I would find a letter to Barton beginning, “I received your telegram of October 2….” That would have sealed the deal. Alas, this was a dead end. There was no such letter.
Still, I kept looking, and I discovered something nearly as good. Years earlier, in 1888, DeGraw had written a letter to Barton. On the back of it, Barton noted, “P. V. DeGraw,” in script that looked convincingly similar to her later diary entry.
That was good, but not quite proof positive.
So, next, I went back to the Barton Papers. I consulted the Letterbook series, which contains copies of letters and memoranda, written by Barton and other Red Cross officials. It is arranged chronologically.
The June 1892-January 1894 volume was promising. An index at the front listed the page numbers of DeGraw correspondence, helping me hone in quickly. And there, on page 502, the mystery was solved. A copy of an Oct. 2, 1893 telegram sent by Barton to “P. V. DeGraw,” notified him that the Red Cross accepted responsibility for Sea Islands relief work.
The telegram includes Barton’s prediction that the work would involve meeting the needs of “thirty thousand people for eight long months with no aid from the Government,” which later accounts suggest was not far from the reality.
That was it. I had my mystery solved. I added in the name to the transcript, delighted.
I was not quite done, though. Barton’s own writings helped interpret another mysterious word in brackets… the final word on October 2:
The transcriber recorded the last two words as “all [ ].” Could I solve that, too?
Barton, I knew, published books on her life and the work of the American Red Cross, so I again consulted the Barton Papers online. First, I went to the Related Resources page, and looked under the “selected Barton publications” list. The Sea Islands relief work comprises an entire chapter in “The Red Cross in Peace and War.” Reading that, I noticed that a passage on page 202 suggested a possible interpretation: “…the Beaufort Relief Commission, as appointed by the governor, was formally released as a committee and immediate re-elected by the Red Cross as its ‘advisory board’….”
Could “all [ ]” actually be “our board.” hurriedly written in a small pocket diary? I think so, but the reviewer of my addition to the transcription will be the judge.
So, to sum up: Through the efforts of previous transcribers, my consultations of the collection finding aid and the Barton Papers, plus Barton’s own writings, the diary entries for October 1-2, 1893, may now be complete.
This might seem like a considerable effort for a short text. But I hope that this example of using numerous parts of the Barton collection to solve its mysteries might help other transcribers understand the context in which Barton wrote about her relief work, and offer ideas about how to track down the people and groups who were part of her universe.
Plus, who are we kidding? The detective work is fun!
We've started celebrations of the Walt Whitman bicentennial early with a Poetry Month launch of our first new campaign! The Library of Congress holds the world’s largest Whitman manuscript collection. “Walt Whitman at 200” presents nearly 4,000 pages of his writings, including poetry from the Charles E. Feinberg Collection and the Walt Whitman Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection, which includes drafts, personal letters, and more. Exploring, transcribing, and tagging these materials will allow you to see how Whitman lived and wrote firsthand. We'll be highlighting Whitman and this campaign in the lead up to his birthday on May 31.
We're kicking off this campaign today with a 4 p.m. ET, virtual transcribe-a-thon co-hosted with the National Council of Teachers of English. The 1-hour webinar will bring together educators and Whitman and crowdsourcing experts from the Library to unveil the campaign and discuss how students can analyze, transcribe, review and tag the Whitman papers. There's still time to Register here.
You may have noticed a few changes to By the People this week. On Monday we released Concordia version 0.4.17, which includes updates and new features we’re really excited about!
A reminder that Concordia is the open source crowdsourcing platform built by the Library of Congress for By the People. We will release code updates regularly and will continue to share those changes here and in our e-newsletter!
Not seeing an improvement that's on your wishlist? You can see what we’re working on AND add your own bug and feature tickets by visiting our Github.
We've published the first batch of By the People #LetterstoLincoln transcriptions! That's right, your work is already searchable in the Library of Congress website. Less than three months after the launch of By the People, we have published 781 transcribed pages. There are actually several thousand other completed pages, but we started with this test batch from Letters to Lincoln. Browse them by following this link or searching for "project at crowd.loc.gov" in the search field at loc.gov.
It is very important to us that we acknowledge your work, so there is an attribution banner and a short sentence in the text file stating that the transcription was produced by project volunteers.
As you might have guessed, volunteers are transcribing at an amazing rate. To keep up with demand we released #LettersToLincoln pages from 1863 in January and just last week opened 1864 as well. Only one project remains unavailable, 1865-1889: Assassination and aftermath. What will you find in these pages? Keep transcribing and we’ll unlock this last fascinating segment of Lincoln’s life soon!
Professor Chandra Manning of Georgetown University shares the following case study of bringing By The People into her "HIST 480 - Lincoln" classroom and student observations gleaned through contribution to the Letters to Lincoln Challenge. How are you using transcription and tagging of Library of Congress for education or recreation? Share your story here on History Hub!
On Nov. 14, History 480 made its mark on history! Or at least on the sources available to people investigating the history of Abraham Lincoln. Together, students participated in the Letters to Lincoln Crowdsourcing Project.
For two and a half hours, they zoomed in on letters written to Abraham Lincoln in 1858 and 1859 that had been scanned by the Library of Congress, and they painstakingly transcribed them letter by letter. In the process, they came face to face with idiosyncratic 19th century spelling and the challenges of sloppy handwriting, but they also caught a glimpse of Lincoln's world in a new way.
They encountered letters to Lincoln the lawyer about upcoming legal cases or recent judgments, which were often mundane but sometimes included amusing tidbits, such as one young man's note about how he is sure that Lincoln won't mind that he has named him as a reference since Lincoln knows his mother and father.
They waded through missives of political intrigue as supporters assured Lincoln that his chances of the Republican nomination were good as early as 1858 or 1859, which were earlier dates than we expected. They were struck by the logistics of politicking; several worked on a letter from a supporter who trekked the state of Illinois drumming up support for Lincoln. They also could not help but notice a lot of trash talking about Seward, the front runner for the Republican nomination, who was alternately portrayed as "weak", "lame" or full of "chicanery." And they nominated "cabal" as the most frequently used 19th century political word, which has now fallen by the wayside.
The class also reflected on the letter as a medium. Even though the letters we viewed were chiefly legal or political in nature, they often revealed a surprising intimate and confiding quality. A writer from Auburn, New York wrote all about living as Seward's neighbor, while another good friend of Seward admitted that he thought Seward was too weak to be nominated. The tone seemed notably different from email communications today, in which we all keep up a bit more of our guard. "The only time I really write an actual letter is a thank you letter," one student reflected, "and these feel different."
The students' efforts made a measurable impact. When we began, 31% of the project's 1858-1859 letters had been completed, but by the time we finished, that number had jumped to 36%.
Our small but important contribution to the project was both a foray into the work of historians and a glimpse into the intimate concerns of Lincoln and his contemporaries.
Save the date to join us in-person or online Monday, November 19! The Library of Congress will mark the 155th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's delivery of the Gettysburg Address with a one-day celebration, featuring a pop-up exhibit of the earliest known draft of the speech, and a Letters to Lincoln transcribe-a-thon for volunteers on and offsite.
In the Washington-area on November 19th?
You're invited to the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building (Library of Congress) for the rare opportunity to see the Nicolay copy of the speech person starting at 10:30 a.m. Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden will kick off the celebration at 10 a.m., followed by a special talk about Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address by Lincoln historian and curator Michelle Krowl. After the speakers, we’ll fill the Great Hall with transcribing stations for a hands-on experience exploring and transcribing Lincoln documents on crowd.loc.gov.
Off site but online?
We’ll livestream the Librarian and curator’s talks, and the reading of the Gettysburg address from 10:00-10:30. After that, people at the Library and online can participate in the #LettersToLincoln Challenge on crowd.loc.gov! Choose an item to transcribe or review, and join in the discussion here and on Twitter!
Opportunities for students
At 10:30 a.m. students onsite and in their own classrooms are invited to transcribe, tag, and review documents received by Abraham Lincoln throughout his career. To confirm participation for your class or students, please e-mail the Community Managers at email@example.com for further instructions.