Transcription Volunteer

The Smithsonian Transcription Center seeks to engage the public in making our collections more accessible. We're working hand-in-hand with digital volunteers to transcribe historic documents and collection records to facilitate research and excite the learning in everyone.

Started in 2013, The Transcription Center is a website (freely accessible 24/day) connecting volunteers across the world with Smithsonian collections. This crowdsourcing project was developed as a collaborative way to improve and increase the quality of public engagement with Smithsonian materials, increase access and use of our digitized content, and create pathways of learning and new knowledge between the public and Smithsonian staff. In short--the Transcription Center is a place for you (and anyone in the world) to explore materials held within the Smithsonian and play a part in making those collections more accessible. We are actively seeking volunteers to join our community. With your help, we can make our vast collections in art, history, and science more accessible to anyone with a curious spirit!


















Why Does Transcription Matter?

Together, we are unlocking secrets hidden deep inside our collections that illuminate our history and our world.

What Collections are Available?


The Transcription Center opened in July 2013 with thousands of documents across 31 projects from eight Smithsonian museums, archives, and libraries. We have grown with the help of volunteers to include over 3,000 projects from fifteen participating museums, archives and libraries. Explore projects available for transcription and review:


Field Notebooks

Collected by the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Archives, these notebooks include botanical collecting in China, photographs from Brazil, ornithological observations, documenting fur seals in the Bering Sea, the Smithsonian-Roosevelt Expedition, and much more. New field notes added regularly!


Art and Design 

Join us to transcribe provenance records, rare books, explore an artist’s diary--or all of three! What will you discover as you turn the pages, cards, and manuscripts from the Smithsonian's archival and library collections? 


Biodiverse Planet

From botanical and entomological specimen sheets from the National Museum of Natural History, to field books documenting ocean ecology in the nineteenth century, there are many materials available related to biodiversity and the natural world. Transcription of the these materials will make these incredible historical collections available to researchers around the world.









Freedmen's Bureau

The Bureau of Refugees, Freemen, and Abandoned Lands, often referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established on March 3, 1865. The duties of the Freedmen's Bureau included supervision of all affairs relating to refugees, freedmen, and the custody of abandoned lands and property. Please help us transcribe these records and learn more about the experiences of formerly enslaved men and women during Reconstruction.





Explore even more collections available for transcription!


Who's Behind this Project?


To get in touch with questions, suggestions or just thoughts about the Transcription Center, please contact us here.

This project is a product of many many passionate, creative, and dedicated individuals who have contributed subject matter expertise, technical solutions, ideas & feedback, content and design, and much much more. Learn more about the organizations and groups involved: