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5 More Citizen History Projects to Bookmark (Part 3)

by Stephanie Fulbright, Graduate Student, Vanderbilt Divinity School on

Photo of a school supported by the Freedmen’s Bureau in North Carolina. Photo shared by the NMAAHC (Source: Learn NC, University of North Carolina).

Libraries, museums, and other academically oriented non-profits often collaborate with each other on research efforts. Recently, they are reaching out the public for help as well using the model of citizen science projects. This is the third post in our series on citizen-history projects. Over a few blog posts, we’re highlighting some of the most interesting examples of institutions inviting the public to participate in research, transcription, tagging, and other tasks. We hope these inspire you and your organization’s efforts to engage audiences. You can see previous posts here and here. For more on the rise of citizen history, check out this blog post from NCPH.

If you know of any other interesting citizen history projects, let us know by contacting Hannah Hethmon, Membership & Marketing Coordinator at: hethmon@aaslh.org.

Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project

The National Museum of African American History and Culture recently announced the Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project. The Bureau was established in 1865 and provided employment, legal, and medical aid and helped locate family members for newly emancipated African Americans. Using the Smithsonian Transcription Center, this crowdsourcing initiative aims to transcribe images of the Bureau’s nearly 2 million records. Once transcribed, the records are keyword searchable and available to anyone interested in family history and the Reconstruction Era.

Learn more about the project and get involved.

Mapping the Fourth of July

Faculty and students at Virginia Tech are leading a project to create a digital archive of primary sources detailing Fourth of July activities in the United States. They’re looking to answer questions about how the holiday was celebrated during various times in US history, such as the Civil War. Citizen historians are invited to help transcribe, tag, and the thematically group the sources.

Learn more about the project and get involved.

Children of the Lodz Ghetto

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is looking for help “reconstruct[ing] the lives of school children who fell victim to the Holocaust. By piecing together information from online databases and scanned records, you will enable the museum and other researchers to understand more fully the experiences of young people from the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust.” (website)

Learn more about the project and get involved.

Decoding the Civil War

This is a collaborative project seeking to “citizen archivists” who will help transcribe and decode source, “creating materials that will be of use and openly available to scholars interested in telegraphy, cryptography, communications during wartime, technology, civilian-military relations, and many other aspects of the Civil War or American history more generally. Perhaps the most meaningful outcome is that the collaborative will provide public access to previously unavailable historical records in a format that will lead to a better understanding of communications, technology, and the course of the Civil War.” (About page) This is a joint project between The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens; the Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum; North Carolina State University; and Zooniverse.

Learn more about the project and get involved.

What’s on the Menu?

The New York Public Library has one of the largest collections of menus in world- they have ~45,000 menus from the 1840s to today. They are a working on a project to make the menus more available, by digitizing them. They are looking for public help with “transcribing our historical restaurant menus, dish by dish, so that they can be searched by what people were eating back in the day.” (webpage)

Learn more about the project and get involved.

BONUS PROJECT: Thanks to readers who have submitted new projects to enhance future posts in this series!

New York Public Library: Transcript Editor

The New York Public Library also has an initiative called the “Community Oral History Project,” which seeks to preserve the New York City’s unique and diverse history and culture by interviewing and bringing together stories from its residents. The “Transcript Editor” project helps the library fix computer-generated transcripts from hundreds of stories from the library’s Community Oral History Project.”

Learn more about the project and get involved.

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