What is a transcribathon?

A transcribathon (or transcribe-a-thon) is an event where participants gather to make open-access transcriptions of manuscript documents. Sometimes these are marathon-style events that last all day. Sometimes transcribathon participants also help to encode or translate manuscripts. This post details some recent transcribathons that have given inspiration to our project and provides links to more resources.

The #TRANSCRIBEBOND event at UVA’s Carter G. Woodson Institute and Center for Digital Editing

On August 14 and 15 of this year, UVA’s Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies worked with other campus divisions to launch the Julian Bond Papers project with a transcribathon. This ongoing project aims to prepare the papers of Prof. Julian Bond—civil rights icon, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Georgia state representative, and UVA professor—for inclusion in a scholarly edition. Click here to sign up to participate in this ongoing project.

Prof. Deborah McDowell, Alice Griffin Professor of English and director of the Woodson Institute at UVA, says, in the article linked here, “Bond’s speeches, in particular, illuminate much about the history and challenges of social struggle and political activism. This new project, designed to collect these speeches in one place, represents one example of what we hope will be an ongoing and mutually beneficial collaboration on digital humanities projects across the University.”

Read more about the #TranscribeBond project by searching for the hashtag #TranscribeBond on social media, or by clicking HERE.

The Douglass Day Transcribathons

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Follow this link to watch a video transmission from this year’s Douglass Day transcribathon: http://coloredconventions.org/hbd

On February 14 or Douglass Day, the Colored Conventions Project (led by a team of scholars, graduate students and undergraduate researchers at the University of Delaware) organizes transcribe-a-thons to celebrate Frederick Douglass on his chosen birthday.

In 2018, participants from some 64 colleges, universities, and cultural institutions across the country transcribed some of the Freedman’s Bureau papers from the Smithsonian museum’s digital archive.

Participants’ combined efforts have helped make the Freedmen’s Bureau papers more accessible to family historians, African Americans searching for information on their ancestors, and historians seeking to better understand the years following the Civil War.

Click HERE to learn more about the Colored Conventions Project, and to WATCH a video of the 2018 Douglass Day Live Broadcast.

The Folger Shakespeare Library and Kislak Center Transcribathon

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Screen shot of Dromio screen and manuscript taken from https://collation.folger.edu/2014/12/a-transcriba-what/

In 2014, the Folger Shakespeare Library and UPenn’s Kislak Center organized a path-breaking transcribathon in Philadelphia around digitized manuscripts from the Folger’s collection, the Smith family poetical miscellany (1620-1665), and a long poem dedicated to Queen Elizabeth called “A dream of bounden due.”

A group of over 35 participants used an online transcription and encoding tool called Dromio to transcribe these manuscripts. A blog post on this event by Paul Dingman explains that “The Penn transcribathon served as an opportunity not only to promote paleography to a larger audience but also to test the [Dromio] interface with a number of users who have differing levels of—and sometimes no—experience in transcribing manuscripts.”

Outcomes of this event included 243 partially transcribed manuscript pages (of which 185 were completely transcribed) and, perhaps more importantly, renewed interest among participants in attending in another transcribathon.

You can read more about this event and other Early Modern Manuscripts Online transcribathons by clicking on this sentence.

The NOLA Jazz Museum’s Transcribathon shares some important goals with these projects, including promoting paleography to a wide audience, making early Louisiana and early African-American history available to genealogists and historians, and creating a collaborative community space. Our event also stands out from these important predecessors in part because it invites participants to transcribe and translate documents in French and Spanish.

Have you ever participated in a French or Spanish transcribathon before? Have you participated in any transcribathons? Tell us more in the comments below!

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