Transcription Resources & Guides

Ready to get started transcribing?

Visit By The People at the Library of Congress

*Please note that the LOC will post a large batch of new materials for transcribing during our event on the morning of Feb 12th*

By The People is free & open for anyone to use. It’s very beginner friendly. When you help transcribe on By The People, your work will eventually go into the LOC’s main catalog — new things in our national library thanks to your work!

New materials posted on February 12th

A large collection of Mary Church Terrell’s papers (~4800 pages) will be posted to the By The People website on the morning of February 12th. We regret that this release timing is unable to be changed. If you want to transcribe before then, we can heartily recommend their other campaigns, including the project on Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote.

What is a transcribe-a-thon?

A transcribe-a-thon is an event in which people gather in person or online to work simultaneously on a crowdsourcing project. We share cool finds and more on social media, connecting across all of our locations.

Our main activity will be transcribing the words on a platform created by the Library of Congress called By The People. We’ll help transcribe all sorts of documents from the papers of Mary Church Terrell. No experience is needed. The platform is very beginner friendly!

Who can join the transcribe-a-thon?

Anyone with an internet connection and a computer/laptop is more than welcome to join! No prior experience is needed. We will be posting tutorial videos during the week before Feb 14th. Our online platform is free to use, and will also provide lots of instructions how to sign up, get started, and find help. We’ll even have a forum. You can post questions on the forum to get help from our experts. Our librarian & historian experts are standing by & eager to make the process fun & engaging for all!

Do we need computers?

We suggest one laptop per 1-3 people. Transcribing in small teams of 2-3 people can be a lot of fun! Or, people can take turns transcribing. 

Add’l Resources from By The People

Note: these resources come directly from LOC’s website:

For Educators

Host an event

Transcription help

The majority of handwritten documents in By the People were penned between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Spencerian Script (Approx. 1850-1925) is a script style considered the American standard writing style prior to the widespread adoption of the typewriter.

If you are new to historical transcription you may run into unfamiliar spellings and abbreviations common for this style of script. The resources provided below demonstrate many of these and how to transcribe them correctly.

Register for accounts to help review

Accounts are not required on By The People, but we heartily recommend registering for an account! If you have an account, you can help review things that other people have transcribed. All items on By The People have to be transcribed and then reviewed before they can go back into the LOC’s catalog. The more help reviewing the merrier!

Register for an account

What happens to the transcriptions after our work?

What’s next? 

Completed By the People transcriptions will typically be published in the Library’s digital collections on within a year of the campaign’s completion. Once published, transcriptions make the collection full-text searchable. The text can be viewed alongside the original image for readability and be used by adaptive technology like screen readers. The transcriptions will also be published as a bulk dataset for download and exploration.

There’s plenty more to explore and contribute to for the Library of Congress!  Just some of the other ongoing By the People transcription projects:

And check out more lesson plans, primary source sets, and other classroom resources from the Library of Congress.

Demonstrations on Feb 5, 12, and 14

During the broadcasts on Feb 7 + 14, our experts will demonstrate how to use the platform. We’ll explain how to (1) create an account, (2) find pages to transcribe, and (3) share finds on our forums and on social media. We’ll have time for Q&A on Feb 7, along with sharing our behind-the-scenes quality control process.

Troubleshooting during events

We will have a team ready to answer questions on February 12 & 14. Due to the expected volume, we may not be able to answer everyone’s questions right away. If local event organizers can spend 10 minutes getting familiar with By The People, you’ll be able to answer most questions for folks in your group.