This post is by Kathleen McGuigan with contributions from Julie Miller and Victoria Van Hyning, both of the Library of Congress.
“That’s so beautiful, but what does it say?” This is what we often hear from visitors to the Library of Congress when they see letters and other documents written by hand. This phenomenon — the inability of so many people to read handwriting — is the byproduct of a moment of technological change. The digital age has transformed us from people who read and write by hand to people who type and read on a screen, from letter-writers to emailers, texters and tweeters.
Why does it matter? This isn’t just a question of nostalgia…when people are unable to read old documents, they lose one way to make personal contact with the past.
The Library of Congress launched By the People in the autumn of 2018. The application invites users to transcribe, review, and tag digitized images of manuscripts and typed materials from the Library’s collections. Everyone is welcome to take part! You don’t even need to create an account, but if you do you’ll have access to additional features such as tagging, and reviewing other people’s transcriptions. The transcriptions will improve search, readability, and access to handwritten and typed documents for those who are not fully sighted or cannot read the handwriting of the original documents.
Join Library experts for an hour on February 12, 4-5 pm ET, and hear how all transcriptions are made and reviewed by volunteers before they are returned to the Library’s website. Discuss the possibilities of using this tool in your work with students.
The webinar is free, but registration is required.
For more information on “By the People,” please see this blog post, from which the first two paragraphs of this post were excerpted.
Let us know in the comments if you have questions that you hope the webinar will address. Also let us know if your students have contributed to “By the People” – we’d love to know how you implemented it and how your students responded.