Making Sense of the Past

Having just received my login and password for the PWD website, I am happy to report that one more document is transcribed!  I chose a letter regarding the purchase of Marine articles by the Navy.

I found the website a bit of a challenge to navigate.  Finding a document that had a picture online took a few minutes.  There were several that were “print version only” and one that was noted as “completely illegible”.  Interesting that a completely illegible document would be on the site to be transcribed.  I wondered if it was an oversight, or if the creators simply added all the documents for the sake of completeness.

Transcribing the document was difficult, as already noted by several others.  Some of the words, while not illegible, were indecipherable, simply because I could not recognize all the letters together as a word.

The author enjoyed a good run-on sentence, and the salutations and closings obviously harkened from an earlier and more formal time period.

My thoughts on crowdsourcing returned to me.  Am I really the best person to be transcribing this document?  If I knew more of the history, understood the nuances of the language better (because I studied the time period regularly), could I have done a better job?  Or is the fact that the document is now transcribed (I hope, I’m not sure how one confirms that the document is actually transcribed.  Perhaps my internet connection failed at the moment I hit “save”, because it looked like it was still an option to “save”, even after I had saved.) good enough to get someone started?

This experiment does encourage me to think about checking the work of transcribers, should I be in a situation to benefit from their work.  I truly appreciate that many documents are now available, accessible and word-searchable.  However, I think I will be checking the original to see if the transcription is correct or if there are nuances to be read.

One comment

  1. Excellent point about the reliability of the transcribers. I think this echoes the point made by Trevor Owens, where he notes that many times the volunteers for projects such as these are people with a vested interest, and sometimes training, in the subject matter.

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