Celebrating Four Years of By the People

Today’s guest post is from Abby Shelton, a Digital Collections Specialist and By the People Community Manager in the Digital Content Management Section at the Library of Congress.


Happy fourth birthday to By the People! To celebrate we are highlighting some of the best parts of the last year. Interested in our previous anniversary posts? Check out our Year 1Year 2, and Year 3 celebrations on the Signal.

This was truly the year of new content! Since October 2021, we launched 14 new campaigns or additions for volunteers to transcribe. Our new campaigns were Early Copyright Title Pages, Frederick Law Olmsted, Federal Theatre Project, Gladstone Collection of African American Military History, Women’s Suffrage Sheet Music, George O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz correspondence, Hannah Arendt, Joseph Holt, and the World War III Rumors Project. This year marked our first collaboration with the Music Division at the Library with the Federal Theatre Project playbills and Women’s Suffrage Sheet Music campaigns. We also added pages to the Walt Whitman, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Civil War Soldiers campaigns.

A collage of campaigns from FY 2022 including the Gladstone African American Military collection, Hannah Arendt papers, Federal Theatre Project, and Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz correspondence. 

Volunteers rose to the task, completing over 197,000 pages and saving over 711,000 transcriptions! We welcomed 5,000 new registered volunteers this year and our anonymous transcribers continued to work hard, contributing over 94,000 transcriptions to By the People. Our volunteers are truly the heart and soul of the program so we love to celebrate them! Over the year, we continued to publish posts highlighting their experiences. If you have not already, check out these posts to find out what it is like to be a By the People volunteer:

We hosted two different challenges this year to focus attention on Frederick Law Olmsted in celebration of his 200th birthday in April 2022 and on the Blackwell Family Papers and National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from July through August 2022. Olmsted volunteers completed 1,300 + pages and saved 4,800 + transcriptions in April. Our Manuscript Division partner Barbara Bair worked with Olmsted 200 Bicentennial Committee to promote the challenge through their online newsletter, and we used their #CelebrateOlmsted hashtag on Twitter to spread the word. In July and August, we featured women’s suffrage materials-specifically the Blackwell Family Papers and National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in an effort to complete these long-running campaigns. Volunteers completed 9,800+ pages in two months, closing out all but a few challenging pages from each campaign. We also mailed postcards to volunteers all over the US (and UK!) who emailed us with an interesting suffrage fact.

Colleagues across the Library helped us return over 99,000 transcriptions back to loc.gov. We were able to add volunteer transcriptions to the following collections: Walt Whitman (11,133), Mary Church Terrell (24,936), Abraham Lincoln (28,816), John & Alan Lomax (9,521), Herencia/Spanish Legal Documents (1,037), Historical Legal Reports (6,108), Gladstone African American Military History (3,098), Suffrage sheet music (1,118), Frederick Hockley (4,652), Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz (584), George Washington (593), and the Federal Theatre Project (7,761). We’re grateful to our colleagues for their help in this crucial part of the process!

Sheet music for “The New Woman,” composed by Elizabeth Barr and published in 1902. Part of the women’s suffrage sheet music campaign transcribed by volunteers in 2022. //www.loc.gov/resource/mussuffrage.mussuffrage-100224/.

Our team also began to dig into the impact that volunteer transcriptions have on search and discovery in loc.gov. There is more to come on this in the next year but as a first step, we interviewed a few different researchers who have used transcription to further their work. You can read about Allison Johnson’s work on Civil War veterans here and Jon White’s book about African American correspondents in the Lincoln collection here. We hope to publish more of these in the future. Volunteers told us in a survey last year that they are motivated by knowing that the transcriptions make the collections more accessible to researchers and we want honor volunteer efforts by telling the stories of people who are using the transcriptions.

By the People ends this fourth year of the program with gratitude-to our volunteers and Library colleagues that make the work possible! We look forward to what the next year will bring and we hope you will follow along with us.

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