{ subscribe_url:'//blogs.loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/folklife.php' }

Crowdsourcing Information and Disinformation: The World War II Rumor Project available through By the People

Staff from the American Folklife Center and By the People have again teamed up for a crowdsourcing campaign. We are asking volunteers to read and transcribe the Center’s World War II Rumor Project. The digital collection is online and the crowdsourcing campaign is now live.

The World War II Rumor project was conceived by U.S. Government’s Office of War Information (OWI) in 1942, a time when people learned about world events from radio, newspapers, and from each other. Understanding and tracking the spread of rumors about the war had value to the OWI in a time of national emergency.

Rumors contain information that is unvarifed and with uncertain origin. Yet the act of passing this information suggests that it must be true. Everyone engages in spreading rumors and the topics span the range of human imagination. As well, the way in which a rumor is spread or embellished often reflects–and to the listener, defines–community values, at times benign and at times quite malicious.

Although the World War II Rumor Project was often described as a “rumor control” effort, the researchers were well aware that control of rumors and misinformation in a free society with a free press is extraordinarily difficult. The project provided an opportunity to study the spread of rumors, to learn about rumors circulating that might have an impact on national security, and to create educational outreach to help head off rumors in the first place.

Illustrative examples abound in the collection. The document below, from Jacksonville, Florida, Aug. 15, 1942, cites two current rumors. The first was overheard from a bus passenger. A submarine had been sunk after attacking an oil tanker and “it” (either the tanker or the submarine) could be seen from the air by plane. A second rumor quotes someone as saying that they were not following government encouragement to purchase war bonds because the bonds might not retain their value after the war. One commonality is found in both rumors: the teller relays important information withheld by official media or government sources.

manuscript page detailing rumors heard in Jacksonville Florida in 1942

To join the crowdsourcing effort, go to the By the People web page. Volunteering is accomplished in a few steps that include online training. Our campaign, “Information and Disinformation: The World War II Rumor Project” is broken into five areas that reflect the collection’s organization.

The collection documents project administration as well as rumors gathered from individuals and from schools. Private individuals were enlisted to write down rumors in their communities and send them to federal agency field representatives. These “correspondents” included dentists, beauty shop operators, policemen, proprietors, and librarians who had access to rumors in their communities. Additionally, teachers collected rumors, jokes, rhymes, and anecdotes about the war from high school and college students. Subjects include Adolf Hitler, Japan, race relations, rationing, and rhymes and stories composed or recorded by students. Be aware that because of potentially offensive and racist language and views, which reflect both their time and circumstances, this transcription campaign may not suitable for all volunteers.

This is the third crowdsourcing collaboration between the American Folklife Center and By the People. At the Library and in the Field: The John and Alan Lomax papers followed closely The Man Who Recorded the World: On the Road with Alan Lomax. As I described in a Folklife Today blogpost titled “ETL: Searching the Lomax family papers through the magic of crowdsourcing,” the crowdsourced data has been ingested into the digital collections, meaning that large portions of the John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax papers and the Alan Lomax collection are full-text searchable. The same will happen in the current campaign.

I know that people want to contribute to Library collections and crowdsourcing provides that opportunity. Volunteering is fun, engaging, and helpful because the work enhances LC digital collections. As a reference librarian with two decades of experience, I assure potential volunteers that some researcher really does want to learn about rumors of World War II submarine activity off the Florida coast! Your assistance will make a difference.

VHP’s New Online Exhibit: Transcribed Correspondence Collections

Today, the Veterans History Project (VHP) debuts “Line by Line: Transcribed Correspondence Collections,” a new online exhibit focusing on nine digitized, fully transcribed correspondence collections. Part of the suite of interpretive resources released earlier this month focusing on letters in the VHP archive, this online exhibit came to life a bit differently than others on […]

I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Illustrate My Letter

The following is a guest blog post by Justina Moloney, an archivist at the Veterans History Project (VHP). I’ve always wished I had a more skillful ability to draw. Of course, I can doodle like nobody’s business, but to truly master even the basics of perspective and form, that I’m lacking. I’ve doodled while taking […]

Researcher Spotlight: Susan Carruthers

Researcher Susan Carruthers is professor of history at the University of Warwick and author of several books including the newly published Dear John: Love and Loyalty in Wartime America (Cambridge University Press, 2022). As Susan discussed in a previous guest blog post, and in this video, Veterans History Project (VHP) collections served as a key […]

Telling Dear John Stories: VHP Collections in Action

The following is a guest post by Dr. Susan Carruthers, professor of history at the University of Warwick and author of several books including Dear John: Love and Loyalty in Wartime America (Cambridge University Press, 2022). She used Veterans History Project collections in her research for this volume, and also in research for her previous […]

Sharing Our Story: Carl Chamberlain’s VHP Collection

This is a guest blog post by Michael Chamberlain, whose family recently donated his father’s large WWII photograph collection to the Veterans History Project (VHP). As the executor for my father’s estate, I know how difficult it can be for families to consider handing over what is sometimes the only tangible legacy of a family […]

“I Would Want to Know the Circumstances”: Edwin Groce (New York), Rose Bushnell (Idaho) and an Act of Kindness during WWII

The following is a guest blog post by Nancy Groce, PhD, Senior Folklife Specialist at the American Folklife Center. Edwin (“Eddy”) Groce was my uncle and my father’s only sibling, but we never met. Years before I was born, twenty-year old Eddy and nine of his shipmates died in the fiery crash of his B-24J […]

The Power of Words, the Power of Belonging: What the Navajo Code Talkers Taught Me

The following is a guest post by Nathan Cross, VHP Archivist and primary author of VHP’s Navajo Code Talkers LibGuide. The Veterans History Project (VHP) is pleased to announce a new resource designed to introduce VHP’s holdings related to the veterans known as Navajo Code Talkers. These veterans, Native Americans who served in the Pacific […]

Arkansas: Home to Good Sweet Tea, Southern Hospitality and Amazing Veterans

The following is a guest blog post by Mitch Friesenborg, a summer intern in the office of U.S. Senator John Boozman (AR). He attends Harding University, and is a member of the Arkansas National Guard. In the year 2021, the United States is in relative peace. No teenager today is anxious at the chance they […]