Alone in a crowd …
transcribing together
A crowd-sourcing project by Cambridge Digital Library
undertaken during the University of Cambridge's closure
period due to the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020
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This information and instructions can also be downloaded as a Word or PDF file.

“Alone in a crowd … transcribing together” is a crowdsourcing campaign by Cambridge Digital Library with the aim of transcribing digitised material that does not have any existing research project to do so.

As much of the University of Cambridge is currently physically closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we have been turning our attention to the possibilities of what can be achieved remotely.

At its core, Cambridge Digital Library values access, collaboration, engagement, innovation and inspiration. In these times of physical isolation, digital platforms can provide a focal point for those with a variety of interests and skills to come together as a community.

Our digital objects are not simply facsimiles. While fantastic images of unique and distinctive collections provide virtual access, transcription unlocks their potential to be something more than the original item.

The benefits include:

  • Aiding discovery – with so much digital content, it can be tricky to explore
  • Enriching our understanding and aiding accessibility
  • The application of further digital research methods such as automated analysis

What do we do with your transcriptions?

Once a transcription file is complete, we incorporate it into the metadata file of the item. As well as being indexed by our search engine, the transcription of each page will then display adjacent to the digitised image when a user selects to view the transcription tab. The metadata files in Cambridge Digital Library are also downloadable from the site under a CC BY-NC creative commons licence.

What are we transcribing?

We have so much amazing content that it’s difficult to know where to start. To get this going, we’d like to focus on a collection of nearly 400 small notebooks used by botanist Oliver Rackham. A Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and serving as Master of the college from 2007 to 2008, Rackham would record his observations of nature in these notebooks.

Now part of the archive collections at Corpus Christi, they contain a wealth of data about the natural world that’s just shouting out to be unlocked by being transcribed!

If you want to know more about Rackham and his work, check out the Oliver Rackham Collection page on Cambridge Digital Library, where you can also explore the notebooks.

How do I do this?

Get started by setting up an account and joining the project

Read our Guide to Transcribing

Follow the step by step instructions to start transcribing!

Back for more?

Log back into your GitHub account.

Screengrab showing where to sign back in to GitHub

You will see your list of tasks/issues that you've been working on.

Screengrab showing your task list when you log back in to GitHub

You can also go straight to our entire list of tasks, log in from there (top right) and then find the task you've been working on.

Screengrab showing our whole list of tasks