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Pitch in to review crowdsourced Lomax transcriptions!

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Black and white photograph depicting Alan Lomax sitting at a table, holding  a pen in his right hand. There are papers on the table in front of him.
Alan Lomax at his office in New York City, ca. 1965. Alan Lomax collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Back in September, the American Folklife Center helped launch a crowdsourcing campaign focused on transcribing about 9000 pages of handwritten and typed Alan Lomax manuscripts. This campaign is running on By the People, the crowdsourcing platform developed by the Library of Congress. The ultimate goal is to create machine-readable electronic text versions of Lomax’s materials so that these are more readily searchable and accessible for users, including people with cognitive or visual impairments.

As of today, volunteers have transcribed around 8800 of these field note entries, letters, and other valuable materials from Lomax’s fieldwork in the U.S. and Caribbean, but only 1765 pages have been marked as “completed.” Why is this? For a page to be considered completed it needs to go through two sequential processes: transcription and review. Transcription is the process whereby a user types the handwritten or typed original text. Review is the process in which another user compares the transcript to the original and either approves it or makes edits to make it more accurate.

There are just over 7000 pages waiting to be reviewed, and the AFC is asking for your ongoing help with a “challenge”: we’d like to have 3000 pages from the campaign reviewed and finalized by January 31, 2020. The date is significant because it would have been Alan’s 105th birthday. Celebrate Lomax’s life and work by exploring and experiencing these documents firsthand. Completing transcription for the current batch of Lomax materials also sets the stage for releasing the next batch. This second phase of transcription will focus on fantastic materials from Alan’s 1950s fieldwork in the British Isles, and while the release of this batch is not scheduled until a bit further into 2020 we want to wrap up the first batch well in advance!

Even if you’ve not actually transcribed any of the Lomax materials, you can still be a reviewer. And, if you have transcribed, you can also review—just not the pages that you have transcribed. While those without accounts can transcribe, to review you need to register for a free account at: Once you have an account, navigate to the Lomax campaign, and either click on the “needs review” filter or find a project you are interested in, then choose the materials that need review from within that project.

Screenshot of By the People website, featuring information and document images from the "Blues in the Mississippi Night, 1947" project. There is a yellow circle around the filter tab for documents that need review.

Once you land on a document that requires review, check the typed transcription against the original. If everything looks accurate, approve it by clicking the “accept” button. But, if you find that something needs to be modified, click the “edit” button and make the corrections. After that, you will need to submit it for review (keeping in mind that you cannot review your own transcriptions—so someone else will have to take that page on). You can find more detailed review instructions on the By the People site, and can always reach out to the By the People community for support via its History Hub discussion forum.

Screenshot from the By the People website, featuring a handwritten document from Lomax collection next to the transcription a volunteer has created. There is a yellow circle highlighting the "Accept" button to indicate how a user would finalize their review.

The enthusiasm that people have brought to the Lomax transcription campaign has been wonderful, and we hope this challenge will extend that energy into the review process. Head over to By the People, register for an account, and become part of our ongoing efforts to make collections durable and accessible!



Comments (4)

  1. I am interested in finding out more about Alan Lomax

    • Patricia- Thanks for the note, and for reading our blog! The AFC staff are quite knowledgeable about Alan, and you are more than welcome to send an inquiry to our general email: folklife at loc dot gov. We’ll make sure that your question (or questions) find the right person.

  2. Hi all, has this project been completed? If not, I’d love to help.

    • Hello, Erin- Thanks for reading the blog, and for expressing interest in the crowdsourcing project with Lomax materials. It is an ongoing effort, so please do follow the links and pitch in!

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