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About the Project

Transcribe Maryland is the University of Maryland Libraries pilot project and online workspace where participants can improve access to our Special Collections documenting state of Maryland history and culture and other fascinating topics.  Users can “delve deeper into history” by transcribing historic documents from a variety of collections that represent the personal, political, and cultural lives of a fascinating array of people.  There is something that will appeal to everyone on Transcribe Maryland.

Transcription through crowdsourcing is a tool that can transform how students, researchers, and general users interact with special collections.  Instead of just providing images of documents online, electronic transcription provides access to the content of the documents with the goal of making that content searchable in the future.  Transcription will promote much more sophisticated uses and analyses of historical documents for general and scholarly purposes.  In addition, creating a crowdsourced transcription project will garner interest in Special Collections from around the world and reach user populations that can only visit our collections remotely.  Finally, crowdsourcing empowers communities, whether they are local or global, to interact more deeply with history and make it their own. 

Transcription Tips

  • The current document viewer has limited zooming/rotating capabilities – we’re working on fixing this.  In the meantime, try right clicking on the image of the document and opening in a new browser window.  You can then adjust the sizes of the edit transcription window and the document image window so that they are side by side.  You can also use your web browser to zoom more efficiently by using the "Zoom" option available in most browser menus.

  • Make sure to save your work frequently by clicking on the “Edit Transcription” button. If you don’t save before you navigate away from the page, your work may be lost.

  • Transcribe the text as it appears in the original document. Maintain spelling, punctuation, grammar, abbreviations, contractions, and any inconsistencies.  If you absolutely cannot resist correcting spelling mistakes, please enter the correctly spelled word in brackets after the misspelled word: werk [work].  You should also use brackets to spell out abbreviations such as: Feby 19th 1863 [February 19, 1863].

  • If you aren’t sure of a word but want to guess, indicate with square brackets and a question mark, e.g. [town?].  If you can't decipher the word at all, use [illegible]. If you spot [illegible] in an already started transcription, feel free to correct it if you can determine the word.

  • There’s no need to account for formatting (e.g. spacing, line breaks, alignment).The goal of the transcription is to provide text for searching. Don’t transcribe hyphens or spaces in words that occur at line breaks.

  • You can transcribe text that has been crossed out.  You can indicate that text has been crossed out by inserting [the following text crossed out] and [end crossed out text] around the crossed out text.

  • When transcribing parts of the letter that were written around the edge of the paper or written cross-wise on the paper add information in brackets before transcribing this part of the text. For example add the transcribed information to the end of the letter and write [written at the top of page 1] or [written across page 1] before transcribing the text.

  • Consider the context. If you are having trouble with a word or passage, read “around” it and think about what a likely word would be, or look for other letters and spellings in the document that are similar.


Q: Do I have to register?
A:  Yes.  Anyone may contribute to the site – there is no special expertise necessary.  If you would like to transcribe documents, registration is required. Creating an account will allow you to track the documents you have worked on previously. Registered users may eventually be asked to assist in approving transcriptions.  Additional features for registered users may be added in the future. 

Q: I have a question, transcription tip, or feedback to share, who should I contact?
A: You can email us directly at transcribe@umd.edu You can also complete a brief survey about the site. 

Q: How do I find more information about the people in represented in the collections?

A:  Finding aids (guides) to many of the collections represented on Transcribe MD are available via ArchivesUM, the UMD Libraries archival finding aids database.  These finding aids often provide contextual information bout the people and events represented by the documents.

Q: What happens to finished transcriptions?
A: Transcriptions of entire documents, once complete and approved, will be downloaded and eventually added to the UMD Libraries Digital Collections. We are still working on developing this process!  The goal is to make these completed transcriptions searchable and available to interested researchers. 

Q: How did we make Transcribe MD?
A:Transcribe Maryland is built upon the open-source Omeka platform (version 2.4) from the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University. The creation and management of transcriptions is handled through the Scripto community transcription plugin for Omeka (version 2.0) together with the CSVImport plugin and an up-to-date version of the Scribe theme (which was originally made for the University of Iowa Libraries' DIYHistory project).  Daniel Berthereau currently maintains an enhanced version of the former as well as a version of the latter that works with the current version of Omeka (https://github.com/Daniel-KM/scribe, https://github.com/Daniel-KM/CsvImport), which were critically important to this project.  Scripto uses MediaWiki, the software that powers Wikipedia, to manage user-contributed data, which allows users to continually improve their transcriptions and contribute new information.  Documents for transcription were extracted from the University of Maryland's Fedora-Based Digital Collections Repository through its API by means of a custom export script written in Python (https://github.com/jwestgard/transcribe-md), which extracts and prepares object metadata in the form required by the CSVImport plugin.  The Transcribe Maryland project was inspired by Iowa's DIYHistory project and by the Library of Virginia’s 'Making History--Transcribe' project. The Transcribe Maryland team is still in the process of on implementing improvements to the site, and welcomes your suggestions for enhancements.

Some of the text for this About/FAQ page is based on the Library of Virginia’s transcription project Making History - Transcribe project. 

© University of Maryland Libraries 2016