I KNOW you want to dive right in BUT
Take the time to read the instructions – both the general help/tips page given by the Transcription Centre as well as any instructions given for a particular project. It saves time and your fellow #volunpeers won’t get so frustrated when they come to review your work.
Even if you DON’T read the instructions
Have a look at a “completed” page or two of the project.
Especially if you want to start editing. Sometimes projects are not transcribed in the standard format and there’s normally a very good reason for this! Check it before changing it.
Instructions don’t cover EVERY situation
Realise the Transcription Centre has kept the general help section short. It doesn’t cover all the situations you’ll come across in all the projects they give to us. That’s part of the fun of being a #volunpeer - YOU are creating the content.
Notations and Methods that work for me
The following is how I transcribe for the Transcription Centre. If there is any doubt/issues ask the Transcription Centre as they have the final word on how a project should be transcribed.
Underlined, Strikethrough, Can’t read, good guess
[[underlined]] text [[/underlined]] for underlined text.
[[strikethrough]] text [[/strikethrough] for text that has been struck out by writer.
Main aim is to be searchable so put a space between the [[text]] and the actual transcription.
If you can’t work out what a word is write [[?]]. If you are not sure of several words write [[?]] for each word. For example:
This [[?]] [[?]] sentence I’m not [[?]] of.
If you think you can guess the word, write your best guess inside those double brackets and keep the question mark. For example you THINK the writer has written “Smithsonian” but you are not sure. Transcribe as [[Smithsonian?]]
You can combine ALL of the above. So if the word is struck out & underlined, you can’t read it but you think its “Smithsonian” I would transcribe as:
[[strikethrough]] [[underlined]] [[Smithsonian?]] [[/underlined]] [[/strikethrough]]
I know it can be a bit ugly looking but it IS accurate!
You ONLY need to put these notations in if you are transcribing a project that has two pages per image. You don’t need either of these at the very top or very bottom of a page.
I use the notation [[Blank page]]. If there are two blank pages in the image I use
Often in handwritten projects the writer will have forgotten words or gone back and corrected by adding in insertions. They might use the ^ symbol to indicate this. I transcribe this as
^ [[insertion]] text [[/insertion]]
Where there is an insertion without the ^ I transcribe as
[[insertion]] text [[/insertion]]
I DON’T normally transcribe the [[insertion]] notation where a person has struck out the word and replaced it while writing. In that instance, I use the [[strikethrough]] notation.
BUT you will get the case where a writer has later come along, struck out some writing and added in more information with a ^. In that case I DO use the above notation. Use your own judgement and try and be consistent.
In typed text projects insertions are easier - the ^[[text]] notation is used to show handwritten additions to typed text.
I often come across projects where writers have made notes in the margin. I usually transcribe as
[[margin]] note [[/margin]].
If the writer has made notes in both the left and right margins I’ll transcribe as
[[left margin]] note [[/margin]]
[[right margin]] note [[/margin]]
As to WHERE to put the margin note, that it depends on the project and your judgement. Sometimes it makes sense to put all margin notes at the top of the transcription page, sometimes it makes better sense to put the margin note above the appropriate section. Use your judgement, check other completed pages of the project for a guide and ensure consistency.
If there is preprinted or stamped text in a document I transcribe as
[[preprinted]] text [[/preprinted]]
[[stamped]] text [[/stamped]]
This clarifies to any reader or researcher what the writer ACTUALLY wrote.
Sometimes page numbers are handwritten in circles or text has been circled for emphasis. I’ll transcribe as
[[circled]] text [[/circled]]
I think whether to note that the text is in superscript depends on your judgement. If I do note text as superscript, I transcribe as
1[[superscript]] st [[/superscript]]
However this maybe unnecessary and 1st may do.
Lines in text
This is another example of where you should use your own judgement. I use a variety of methods to transcribe lines drawn in text. Examples of the methods I’ve used in various projects are as follows:
[[line across page]]
[[vertical line]] or [[horizontal line]]
Latin names/place names
Where the writer is using scientific names, terms or place names I’m not familiar with I Google it. I find Google, Wikipedia and www.geonames.org invaluable. Once I think I’ve found the appropriate information I make a note in the “Notes on Transcribing this page (optional)” box so that other transcribers can benefit from the knowledge gained.
If I’m concentrating on one particular project I’ll often keep a piece of paper beside the computer listing the Googled terms so that I don’t have to keep looking them up.
Symbols/accents on letters
Often projects will have symbols/accents on letters etc. I use the Character Map on my desktop computer for these. If I’m unable to find the appropriate symbol, I transcribe it as
I may even describe the symbol. For example:
[[degree symbol]] etc.
Transcribing ” “, Do or Ditto’s
One of the main aims of the Transcription Centre is to ensure any document transcribed is searchable. The Transcription Centre would therefore like any ” marks, Do, or Ditto to be transcribed. For example
Two little red hens
" " " foxes
Should be transcribed as
Two little red hens
" " " [[Dittos for: Two little red]] foxes
Symbols in Botany, Entomology Projects etc
If you come across a symbol here, it is REALLY important to accurately transcribe it. For example in the Bee projects there is often a hand drawn symbol which indicates whether the bee is male, female, neuter, virgin female etc. This is very important information for researchers.
If you can’t find the symbol on Google, transcribe it as [[symbol]] and make a note in the “Notes on Transcribing this page (optional)” box. Hopefully another volunpeer or the Smithsonian staff can add the information.
Other issues in Botany, Entomology Projects
One recent issue that has arisen in the Bee projects is the difference between “collector” and “collection”. “Collector” is the person who actually went out in the field and collected the bug, plant etc. If the specimen label just says “collection of” you can’t put the owner of that collection down as the collector of that specimen. They may have acquired the specimen by various different methods including swapping with other collectors, purchasing it or being given it.
Titles of people (esp. Collectors).
This mainly comes up when transcribing botany or entomology collections. It is REALLY important to transcribe the title of women collectors – be it Miss or Mrs.
We are transcribing old documents and these women are frequently collecting with their fathers, brothers or husbands. Without their title being noted, their work is attributed to these men.
Often married women collectors are using their husbands’ full names. For example I’ve previously transcribed a collector as Mrs D. D. Gaillard (she was the wife of Colonel D.D. Gaillard). If you don’t transcribe her title, her scientific work will be credited to her husband.
This is another example of where you should use your own judgment. Sometimes the image is as simple as an arrow drawing on the text. Some examples are:
[[image – arrow pointing to line above]]
At other times it is a complex drawing of the anatomy of an animal.
[[image – pencil sketch of a bee]]
Or it could be a photograph
[[image – black and white photograph of landscape with three men standing in the foreground]]
I normally do my best to transcribe within [[image - ]] what the image actually is or looks like, as well as how the image is made.
I will also transcribe any written information, labels or key on the diagram in the transcription.
Tables of information in text
This is another example of where you should use your own judgment. There is a lot of variety in the type and size of tables used in different projects. So there is no best way to transcribe them. I often put descriptions of the table inside the [[text]] box and use the | symbol to indicate going from one column to another. For example
[[Table title]] Wallpaper samples [[/title]]
[[Table with four columns with headers Lot Number, Pattern, colour, size]]
Lot Number | Pattern | Colour | Size
1 | Tudor | cream | s
2 | Victorian | red | xl
3 | Edwardian | blue | m
Transcribe the written work as actually written. I’m sure there will be language experts out there keen to research the spelling mistakes!
Other helpful hints.
If in doubt, transcribe as best you can and put a note in the “Notes on Transcribing this page (optional)” box describing the issue. Check back on that page later as a fellow volunpeer may leave some helpful guidance for you.
Contacting the Transcription Centre
You can ask the transcription staff if you have any issues with the Transcription Centre or any projects there. Personally I find the best way is to tweet to @transcribeSI. The staff are wonderfully helpful and friendly. They want to know what you need help with and are keen to get answers out to you.
Another way to contact the Transcription Centre is to fill in the feedback form obtained by pressing the “feedback” tab to the right of the transcription box. The Transcription Centre is also on Facebook so you could also leave your query there.
Contact other #volunpeers
You can always ask for help from other volunpeers via Twitter. Use #volunpeers or follow other volunpeers who have posted to @transcribeSI. Everyone I’ve come across so far has been friendly and keen to help.
If you find something of interest, TELL someone. Don’t assume that they will already know. We are transcribing documents that very few people have seen or read. They’d have to go to the Smithsonian, make an appointment and physically be there to read the whole document.
So email that institute explaining you’ve found mentions of their founder in a diary. Contact that institution with corrections to their database. Tweet links to the bee projects to that conservation group concerned about pollinators. Create or edit that Wikipedia page on that important collector you’ve discovered. Add the name of that scientist to the Smithsonian Wikipedia “to do” list.
And don’t forget to Tweet or Facebook the Transcription Centre with interesting finds. They don’t get to have the fun of REALLY getting to know these projects by transcribing them. Let them share in the delight of the finds we make.
Is it weird that I’m all about this Bumblebee Collection? Cause I totally am.
I am the best at mindless tasks that I can do while listening to biology/virology/skepticism podcasts. They make me happy!
Not to say I haven’t gotten into the Biodiversity collection field notes enough that I forgot to pick up my husband from work today. Cause that happened. Oops.