Community Guidelines

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, edit, review, and explore digitized content. To ensure fruitful collaboration for all, please review the community guidelines below before getting started.



This is a community-edited process that helps us improve access to collections.

We are constantly reviewing and refining the text we create here. 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. Editing and reviewing completed transcriptions is essential to making our digitized content more accessible, but please review carefully and do not delete previous volunteer work unless you are sure that a page has been incorrectly transcribed. You are welcome to participate flexibly, in any of the following ways: by transcribing anonymously, by transcribing with an account, by reviewing with an account, or by transcribing and reviewing with an account. We welcome your input; from one word, to one page, to one project.


Volunteers must be 14 years or older to participate in Transcription Center. 

The Transcription Center welcomes all individuals with a computer, internet access, and a curious spirit to participate in our online projects. To be eligible for a volunteer position at the Smithsonian, onsite or online, however, volunteers must be at least 14 years or older. 


We take care to protect your privacy.

Here is our privacy statement; you will also find it on the bottom of every page in the Transcription Center. You are only identified to other users by your self-determined username (contact us to change your username) – and that information only appears in the Latest Updates section on our homepage. Although we take these efforts to protect your privacy, remember that this is a public-facing site and what is transcribed can be read at anytime. Please be careful and do not share personal information when communicating using the “Notes on transcribing this Page” field.


We encourage respectful and engaging communication.

Because collaboration is essential to the Transcription Center’s success, we encourage communication between volunteers. Every transcription page contains a Notes on Transcribing this Page box, where anyone can pose questions, leave further background or contextual information about a project, or comment on a transcription choice or edit. Please feel free to use this space to share your thoughts, tell us about your experience, or ask for help, but contributions should be related to Transcription Center contentTo better reflect and understand the transcription history of each page, do not delete text from the notes box, just add your response or other contribution or query to it.

While on-topic discussion is encouraged, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner and treat other users with respect. Should you have a question about instructions, or disagree with another volunteer on a word or an approach to transcribing, leave a note and another member of the community (volunteer or TC team) can respond. You can also always reach out to the TC team directly by using the feedback button on every page, or by emailing us at Remember our goal: it's not to be perfect but rather to create more SEARCHABLE, READABLE and USEFUL text to better share and create access.

You can also join the conversation on social media –check us out on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

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. 


The Transcription Center is ever evolving and we depend on your feedback to learn and grow.

Volunteer participation is essential to the Smithsonian’s mission of increasing and diffusing knowledge. Your work in the Transcription Center not only helps to improve collection accessibility, but also guides project development, transcription guidelines, outreach and engagement, and technical improvements. We are always working to enhance the Transcription Center platform and appreciate your feedback. Have an idea for improving transcription and review instructions, interested in seeing more of a certain type of project or topic, or want to share your thoughts on another aspect of Transcription Center? Reach out to us at! We’d also love to share your personal experience transcribing Smithsonian collections. Let us know if you’d like to be featured in our Transcription Center Blog, Marginalia.

Thanks for reading and let us know if we can help you get started.