Photo Credit: Trounce via Wikimedia Commons

Project: Smithsonian Transcription Center

If you have spent much time in museums, you’ve likely spotted the occasional open back room door … offering a tantalizing glimpse into the guts of the institution where all the important curation work happens. Many of these rooms contain important collections that aren’t available to the general public, perhaps because they are too delicate, or because there isn’t enough display room, or because they haven’t been thoroughly reviewed, studied, and interpreted.

At the Smithsonian Institute, researchers want to make more of their collections accessible, and a great way to do that is to digitize them. To that end, they need your help in transcribing several projects.

Digitization through transcription and imaging achieves several goals. First, it makes collections searchable and machine readable, which will help speed up the research process tremendously. For researchers in the humanities, transcribed documents are an important asset for art, history and literary scholars. For scientists, a digital collection creates thousands of new data points to explore and compare. And of course, it also allows you and I to virtually poke around all of those museum back rooms.

There are currently about 30 projects available to choose from, including everything from bumblebee specimen label transcription to digitizing the experiment journal of Joseph Henry. If you’re not into transcription, you can also help with proofreading, by checking already transcribed material against an image of the original.


Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can connect with her on Twitter @chandraclarke.