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?
- Discovery: Transcription turns handwritten and typed documents into searchable and machine-readable resources. See newly created records for hidden collections: Numismatic currency proof sheet records.
- Readability: Transcription preserves these historic documents for future generations as practices like cursive handwriting are less emphasized in school. See example of transcribed Charles Francis Hall's journal during arctic exploration in 1860.
- Humanities Research: Digitized and fully transcribed documents are an incredibly valuable asset for art, history, & literary researchers across the globe. See examples: Monuments Men, Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook and more.
- Scientific Research: Transcription of handwritten collection labels will create millions of specimen data points available to the scientific community for research and discovery. Create records for Botanical specimen, Entomology specimen, Pollen specimen index cards, Paleobiology specimen, and more.
- Education: From high school to graduate studies, transcription allows students to engage with primary source materials – a key part of the learning experience. Example of transcribed text searchable for education: Fieldbooks contain keywords "belly feather".
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 fourteen participating museums, archives and libraries. Explore projects available for transcription and review:
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!
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?
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.
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.
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:
- Anacostia Community Museum Archives
- Archives of American Art
- Archives of American Gardens
- Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- National Museum of American History
- National Museum of American History - Archives Center
- National Museum of Natural History-Department of Botany
- National Museum of Natural History-Department of Entomology
- National Museum of Natural History-National Anthropological Archives
- Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Institution Libraries
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
- Library and Archives Systems Support Branch team, OCIO
- Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) team, OCIO
- Quotient, Inc.
- Office of Public Affairs