Bringing History Alive--Using Crowdsourcing to Transcribe Oral Histories

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Veterans Oral History Transcription Project, a joint collaboration by the State Library and State Archives of North Carolina, celebrates the contributions of women service members. Made possible with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (ILMS), the website contains biographies of North Carolina women, their service, as well as links to audio oral history interviews and “crowdsourced” transcriptions. This encourages people to hear and read the women’s experiences in their own words. 

The Project

Veterans Oral History Transcription Project websiteThe Veterans Oral History Transcription Project is a website that has biographies and audio files of twelve North Carolina women who served in the U.S. military. The interviews in this project are part of the larger North Carolina Veterans Oral History Program, which currently contains over  1100 interviews.

The project team wanted to engage volunteers and the public by “crowdsourcing” the transcription of the audio files and create text files of the interviews. This created transcriptions that are online, searchable, and discoverable to the public. 

Technology

To successfully carry out the project, the team needed not only volunteers, but also tools to make it easy for the volunteers to find and transcribe the recordings. The team chose Omeka, a free, flexible and open source web-publishing platform. 

Using Omeka allowed us to create the web page for the project, which includes brief biographies of the veterans, transcription instructions, and links to audio files to be transcribed. The transcription interface itself was created with an Omeka plug-in called Scripto. 

Transcription Process

Volunteers register themselves as users, then log into the Scripto interview page for their veteran of  choice. Once logged in, volunteers simply listen to an interview and, on the same page, type what they hear. Audio can easily be paused or rewound. 

To ensure that no saved work is deleted permanently, Scripto uses special software that uploads the current transcription to a database each time it is saved. Should volunteers accidentally delete some or all of what they typed, they can easily revert to the most recent version of their transcription  with a single click.

Getting the word out

The call for volunteers for the North Carolina Veterans Oral History Transcription Project has been highlighted on both the State Archives and State Library’s social media accounts, blog posts and in local newspapers throughout North Carolina including the Brunswick Beacon, covering Brunswick County, NC, and the Pilot and the Sandhills Sentinel, both covering the Sandhills Region.  

Progress to date

As of May 31, 2019, nine interviews have been transcribed by volunteers donating their time. After all the interviews have been transcribed, they will be published at http://digital.ncdcr.gov.

Help Transcribe 

We still need help transcribing interviews for Gladys Dimmick, Dorothy Shade, and Gladys Pittman. Please visit our Help Us Transcribe page: bit.ly/NCVetsOHTP if you would like to volunteer. 

Questions

If you have questions about volunteering or need additional information about this project please email, digital.info@ncdcr.gov or call Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist, (919) 814-6854. For more projects like this, please visit TranscribeNC.

Funding 

This project is made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the N.C. Department of  Natural and Cultural Resources (IMLS grant number LS-00-18-0034-18). 

Author: 
Kelly Eubank, Head of Content and Information Delivery
Mike Millner, Systems Support Librarian