January 30, 2012
By Elisabeth Grant
The National Archives launched its Citizen Archivist Dashboard last year on December 23, 2011. This well-designed interactive site encourages visitors to engage with National Archives records by tagging, transcribing, editing articles, uploading images, and participating in contests.
While many visitors will participate in the Citizen Archivist Dashboard just because it’s fun, they’re contributing to the National Archives’ important efforts to make historical documents more searchable and accessible. Today, we take a closer look at the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, and encourage you to try it out for yourself.
This effort to use the power of the masses to complete a project online is called “crowdsourcing.” The best example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia, but there are many others. Last June we highlighted a Civil War transcription project that had turned turning to crowdsourcing, and session 138, “Crowdsourcing History: Collaborative Online Transcription and Archives,” at the recent 126th annual meeting featured a whole variety of crowdsourcing projects. Learn more about these projects, session 138, and crowdsourcing tools at the Crowdsourcing History companion website and this recent ProfHacker post.
Citizen Archivist Dashboard
The National Archives, which has an impressive online presence (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and blogs), is striving to one day have all its records available online. To make that dream a reality it’s turning to “citizen archivists” online and in person.
Tags are a way to make articles, images, and other online documents easier to search for and find. Tags are so useful the National Archives has set up a tagging section of the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, and offers examples of how to tag items. For instance, the National Archives suggests than an image of Martin Luther King Jr. could be tagged with “civil rights,” or “1960s.” The tag section directs visitors to add tags to images and documents on the National Archives Flickr page and website, and the NARAtions blog runs a regular Tag It Tuesday! feature to remind readers to participate.
Handwritten documents can be both hard to read and hard to search. Through the transcription section of the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, the National Archives is turning to the public for help in making these documents more accessible to everyone. Some recent documents offered up for transcribing include a letter from Albert Einstein, a World War II poster, and Chinese Exclusion Act case files.
All historians know that documents and records are better understood through historical context. The National Archives realizes that many members of the public have extensive knowledge about items in its collections and encourages those people to contribute and edit articles in the Our Archives Wiki (not to be confused with the AHA’s own Archives Wiki, a repository of information on individual archives, versus individual archival materials).
Upload & Share
Have you ever taken a photo of a document at a National Archives location? If you have, the National Archives would like you to contribute it to its National Archives Citizen Archivist Research Group on Flickr. Along with the image, share as much information (title, record group, series and/or file, box or volume number, etc.) as you have.
Enter a Competition
Finally, to get the public to even further engage with its holdings the National Archives holds occasional contests. None are going on currently, but in the past they’ve included the History Happens Here photo project, I Found It in the National Archives story contest, and the Document Your Environment Student Multimedia Contest.