In today’s guest post, Abby Shelton interviews a By the People volunteer, Kathleen, who has gone above and beyond! By the People is a crowdsourced transcription program launched in 2018 at the Library of Congress. Volunteer-created transcriptions are used to make digitized collections more accessible and discoverable on loc.gov. You can read our most recent Volunteer Vignette on the Signal here.
Abby: What motivates you to volunteer on the crowdsourced transcription program, By the People?
Kathleen: I love contributing to the group effort of preserving these important documents and making them accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live. The project feels especially urgent since some of the original documents are fragile and fading, and future generations may have difficulty reading cursive writing. And – bonus! – I get to learn about the history and lives of fascinating, diverse people.
Do you have any special skills or interests that relate to transcribing or reviewing documents?
My professional background is as a corporate paralegal, so I drafted, proofread, revised, and carefully read documents throughout my career, paying attention to detail. (Back in the day, these tasks were done manually.) I’ve been retired for nearly three years and thoroughly enjoy using my skills as a By the People reviewer.
What have been some of the most compelling or interesting documents you’ve come across? Why?
I discovered By the People in June 2020, after reading an article about Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden. A few weeks later, with Broadway closed due to the pandemic, I watched the filmed version of Hamilton that was made available on a streaming service. Imagine my delight when, soon after, I was reviewing transcriptions of George Washington’s Papers and came upon documents involving Alexander Hamilton, complete with his beautiful signature! Sweet serendipity.
What advice do you have for new or first-time transcribers?
I suggest that you take time to read the How-To instructions in the Help Center as well as any FAQs. And, every so often, read the Quick Tips to refresh your memory.
Free space! What else would you like to add?
My sincere thanks to the By the People staff and to those who do the transcribing that I then get to review. It’s a joy to collaborate with all of you.
Thank you for sharing your insights. Preserving history is for me, as sitting with a grandchild reading a book, imparting some message of importance that they too will one day be able to reflect upon its significance in their life and the lives of so many others.