Community Guidelines

Transcription Center Community Guidelines 

Welcome to the Smithsonian Transcription Center! Every word transcribed helps make our collections more accessible to researchers around the world, and we welcome participation from anyone with a curious mind. 

Transcription Center is a collaborative project between digital volunteers and Smithsonian staff. Volunteers work together alongside archivists, librarians, museum specialists, curators, and the TC team to transcribe, review, and explore digitized content. By joining us in this process, you agree to follow our Community Guidelines. Accounts whose activity is not in line with these Guidelines may be suspended. 


Black and white photograph of three men looking at a computer; circa 1980s; from the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

We engage with the collections respectfully. 

Transcription of historical documents is so much more than typing. The materials we transcribe together include joyful, traumatic, and groundbreaking events, underrepresented voices, and profoundly personal stories and experiences. By transcribing them, you’re not only making these primary sources more accessible and discoverable, but you’re also taking an active role in democratizing history, centering the voices of our shared past, and preserving the Smithsonian’s collections. 

Immerse yourself in these materials and their stories. Give them your full attention and take your time. Think about what you’re learning from the people who produced them. And always approach this process with the intention to honor the voices represented there.  
We are committed to quality. 

Some of these projects are very challenging, but we are only honoring this history and making it more accessible if we are all transcribing and reviewing to the best of our ability.  The TC team works with staff across the Smithsonian to develop and provide instructions for transcribing and reviewing a wide range of projects, and every volunteer should reference these instructions as they work. These instructions can’t cover everything, so look to completed transcriptions when in doubt, make use of the many resources on the site, or reach out to the TC team when you need additional guidance. 

Speed is not our primary goal, so remember to take your time, transcribe and review the content you’re comfortable with, and “save” rather than “submit” any transcriptions that are not yet complete and accurate. 
We transcribe as a community. 

We are constantly reviewing and refining the text we create here together. At any time, pages you have transcribed may be edited by other volunteers and by Smithsonian staff. Your participation on the site indicates that you are opting to join us in this collaborative process and that you understand you will not retain any intellectual property rights to the transcriptions. Creating collaborative transcriptions in this way not only helps us ensure the quality of our content but allows each of us to participate flexibly. Your contribution is making an impact whether it consists of a single word or an entire page. 
We encourage respectful and engaging communication. 

Collaboration is essential to the Transcription Center’s success, and we encourage communication between volunteers. The notes field on each transcription page is a great place to pose questions for other volunteers, leave further background or contextual information about a page, or comment on a transcription choice or edit. If you have a question or feedback for the TC team, you can contact us directly using the feedback button on every page or by emailing We also encourage you to join the conversation on social media (we are active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube). In all these cases, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner and treat your fellow community members with respect. 

Please note that Smithsonian staff does our best to monitor posts and may remove posts, both in the “Notes” field and on social media, that violate the Smithsonian Institution terms of use. Notes and posts left on transcription pages may also be edited or removed for quality control by Smithsonian staff. For example, if the same note is left by multiple users, repeated text may be removed. Additionally, if a note requests a transcription edit, or for a page to be reopened, and the requested action is carried out, the original post may be deleted.  
We take care to protect your privacy. 

The Smithsonian Privacy Statement is available on the bottom of every page in the Transcription Center. You are only identified to other users by your self-determined username, which may occasionally appear in the Latest Updates section on our homepage. (Contact our team to change your username.) Although we take these efforts to protect your privacy, remember that content entered in the transcription and notes fields is publicly visible and can be read at any time. Please take care not to share personal information on the site. 

Anyone is welcome to explore our site and transcribe anonymously, but please note that all registered users in the Transcription Center must be 14 years of age or older. Please refer to the Smithsonian Kids Online Privacy Statement for more information about this policy.