Smithsonian asking for digital volunteers to help transcribe historical documents

Just finished watching “The Wire” for the umpteenth time? Listened through each and every one of your friends’ Spotify playlists? If you’re looking for a new way to keep your mind and fingers moving amid the COVID-19 pandemic, consider transcribing documents for the Smithsonian.

The esteemed culture and history organization has issued an ongoing call for digital volunteers to lend their efforts in transcribing noteworthy historical documents. Volunteers can help transcribe anything from specimen logs from influential botanists to notebook entries from World War II POWs and interviews from midcentury artists.

Volunteers could also say they helped train the next generation of astronauts through one particular project. While training for her eventual forays into space, astronaut Sally Ride meticulously wrote handwritten training notes. The National Air and Space Museum acquired over 38,000 pages of archival material from Ride’s career, which Smithsonian volunteers can help transcribe.

There are general instructions provided to volunteers, but different projects may have their own respective guidelines and tutorials. The Freedmen’s Bureau Papers project, for example, details various stylistic and indexing considerations that transcribers need to take into account. But once volunteers have a firm understanding of the general and unique requirements of each, they can get started on their helpful transcription efforts right away.

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If you’re looking for other virtual volunteer gigs, VolunteerMatch allows you to search for digital opportunities across a variety of cause areas. Idealist also details various organizations that needs volunteers and resources for finding virtual volunteer positions.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.