You’re viewing an archived page from Douglass Day 2023. Details may not apply to Douglass Day 2024.

Instructions 2023

Every Douglass Day, participants, wherever they are, work together to transcribe historical documents that help tell the story of Black activism in the United States. This year’s transcribe-a-thon focuses on the papers of Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

How do I transcribe?

The papers to be transcribed will become available February 14 on Zooniverse, a platform for crowdsourced transcription.

We recommend setting up an account on Zooniverse before February 14, even though you can transcribe without one. Creating an account will give you the ability to keep track of your transcription work and save documents that you find particularly interesting to a personal “collection” on the site, so that you can revisit them later.

If you poke around on the site, you’ll find other transcription projects that contain either handwritten documents, print documents, or a combination of the two. These will give you a feel for how the Zooniverse transcription interface works. You might even want to contribute to one of these other projects as a warm-up exercise! (As you’ll quickly discover, not all the projects on Zooniverse revolve around transcription. In fact, as the name of the platform may have already suggested to you, it began as a hub for crowdsourcing scientific data.)

We expect the Douglass Day organizers to provide some video tutorials for this year’s project on their YouTube channel about a week before the transcribe-a-thon. However, you can begin to get a sense of how the Zooniverse transcription interface works by watching the series of short videos explaining the tasks for last year’s transcribe-a-thon, focused on the Colored Conventions Project.

Yikes! This looks hard!

If you’re not used to transcribing—and especially if you’re not used to transcribing handwritten documents—the activity takes a little getting used to. But don’t worry! When you open a document to transcribe, you should transcribe what you can; you can move on at any time. The interface gives you tools for indicating words on the manuscript surface that are crossed out, inserted, or unclear. It also provides you a way to leave notes.

If you pull up a page that just seems overwhelming, you can move on to another one. If the project gives you the opportunity to record names in the documents rather than transcribe, you may feel that that’s a way to contribute that works better for you.

Remember, every contribution to the project, no matter how small, helps increase the value of these documents for the community of scholars and other people to whom they are meaningful. And community is the beating heart of Douglass Day.

So set aside your worries, roll up your sleeves, and pitch in as best you can!

The short video below, from Douglass Day 2020, provides a great explanation of why transcription matters and how participants transcribe on Zooniverse.