2019: A Year in Review

2019: A Year for Audio, Archival Collections, & Amazing Activity in the Transcription Center

The final year of the decade was an exciting one here in the Transcription Center, with thousands of digital volunpeers working alongside Smithsonian staff to transcribe, review, and enhance our historical collections. As usual, we were blown away by all that was accomplished. Check out some of 2019's amazing stats below: 




Of course, the impact of volunpeer work and Transcription Center projects, can't be meaured by numbers alone. Projects from across the Smithsonian covered a wide array of historical topics, new features and technical developments created new avenues for increasing accessibility of archival collections, and insight and information shared by volunpeers enhanced collection metadata and provided invaluable resources for researchers. Here's some highlights:


TC Sound: Launch of Audio Transcription

The Transcription Center’s primary project this year was the long-awaited platform development of transcription of archival audio recordings. TC Sound – the first federal crowdsourcing project of its kind – invites the public to help preserve historic audiovisual collections and ensure their accessibility by creating time-stamped captions. 



The inclusion of audio recordings into the Transcription Center has been a major goal of the TC team and collaborating Smithsonian units for many years now. With more than 290,000 analog audiovisual collections within the Institution, dangers of degradation and loss are high, and sound recordings currently online without captions remain inaccessible to individuals hard of hearing. Transcription of these materials not only unlocks the historical richness within sound recordings to all interested individuals, regardless of the ability to play or hear the audio, but also helps Smithsonian staff better advocate for the preservation and continued care of these important, but fragile, collections. Learn more in our TCSound campaign blog post


Volunpeer Feedback & Spotlights

The dedication, enthusiasm, and skill of our volunpeer community is always impressive and humbling, and 2019 was no exception. Many of you went above and beyond transcription and review, and shared additional information on historic collections, the TC process, and more. Longtime volunpeer, Beth Graham, wrote a series a blog posts on her tips and tricks for reviewing Freedmen's Bureau Records and transcribing - and deciphering - 19th century handwriting.



In addition, other transcribers helped further enhance archival metadata and historic information by leaving additional contextual information about collections in project notes. See two examples of this here and here. Volunpeers also helped the TC team enhance and develop the Transcription Center platform. Feedback regarding the launch of TC Sound (including instructions, functionality, and more), the simplification of general instructions, and outreach efforts were invaluable and greatly impacted how we edited and created projects and site content. 


And of course, conversations between volunpeers and the TC team on social media kept us entertained and engaged! Many volunpeers and researchers shared interesting discoveries, asked questions, collaborated on projects, and provided their reasons for transcribing and interest in TC. Check out some of our favorite volunpeer and user posts on social media in 2019. 


Top Projects


With over 2,000 new projects added to the Transcription Center this year, it would be impossible to list them all. A few favorites though, stood out: 

Manila Davis Talley Scrapbook, NASM Archives

Manila Davis Talley (1898-1973) soloed in October 1929 and received her pilot's license in April of 1930. She joined Curtis-Wright Corporation as a saleswoman in late 1929 or early 1930. Talley joined the 99s (international association of female pilots) in 1930 and was a founding member of Betsy Ross Corps, a private 1930s female auxiliary/reserve for the Army Air Corps. Talley was the third woman to go through Air Force War College, in December 1966. 

Delegate Magazine Issues, 1960's-1980's, NMAAHC

Founded by Pittsburgh Courier journalist C. Melvin Patrick, each yearly-issue of Delegate contains hundreds of photographs providing coverage of African American professional and fraternal organizations, special events, award recognitions, individuals of note, and newsworthy situations. The magazine was a virtual year in review of African American life in the United States during the 1960s and 1980s. Published by MelPat Associates, Delegate magazines were distributed free of charge by African American organizations at their conferences and meetings.

Apollo 11 Sound Recordings, NASM Archives

Volunpeers helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 by transcribing sound recordings from the landmark event. Part of the National Air and Space Museum's Archives' United States Space Program Oral History Collection [Kapp], this set of recordings related to the Apollo 11 mission include crew press conferences, loops of audio from the launch director, the flight director, and the Public Affairs Office, and the reaction to the moon landing in the press room of the Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston, Texas. Every TC Sound segment transcribed helps make the history of Apollo 11 and the U.S. Space Program more accessible.

Devra Kleiman Notebooks, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Included were materials documenting the research and professional activities of conservation biologist Devra G. Kleiman, 1952-2010. Kleiman began her professional career in 1972 as the first female scientist at the National Zoological Park (NZP) where she was hired to manage the zoo's captive breeding program. During her career, Kleiman helped establish the Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado, a Brazilian non-governmental association for the conservation of golden lion tamarins; served on many international committees, working groups, and task forces for species conservation; and was affiliated with numerous non-profit conservation organizations.

Lisa Chickering & Jeanne Porterfield Sound Recordings, NAA

Lisa Chickering (1922-) and Jeanne Porterfield (1923-2010) were travel filmmakers, photographers, and writers in New York City whose professional output spanned from the 1960s through the early 2000s. These materials directly relate to Chickering and Porterfield's professional film output, including corresponding film lectures delivered by Chickering and Porterfield on the travel lecture circuit. Lecture recordings are largely undated but provide a glimpse into the timing and delivery of (and audience reaction to) Chickering and Porterfield's longer lecture films. 

Dorothea Dreier Papers, Archives of American Art

Painter Dorothea Dreier was born into a close-knit, socially progressive family based in Brooklyn, New York. One of five siblings, Dorothea's sisters Mary E. Dreier and Margaret Dreier Robins were social reformers and suffragettes, and her youngest sibling, Katherine S. Dreier was a better-known artist and cofounder of the Société Anonyme, an organization dedicated to the promotion of modern art in the United States. Margaret Dreier Robins was a founder and member of the New York Women's Trade Union League. Mary E. Dreier was involved with the New York Women's Trade Union League, serving a term as president, and served as chair of New York City's Woman Suffrage Party. The sisters' correspondence with Dorothea, affectionately referred to as Dodo, DAD, or Dadakins, gives insight into their labor and political activities, as well as ordinary family news and events.

Transcription Center activity in 2019 resulted in MANY discoveries, shared knowledge, and improved accessiblity of historical collections. Together, we furthered the usability and discoverability of Smithsonian materials for researchers around the world. We simply couldn't do it without all of of you, our amazing volunpeers. Thank you for making another year in TC so succesful and enjoyable. What did you learn this year? We'd love to feature your TC story in a blog post or newsletter- so reach out! And stay tuned for even more exciting projects, developments, and events as #WeLearnTogether in 2020.