The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
- The delights of browsing the National Park Service's B-roll video archive. [via Motherboard]
- Now available online - University of North Carolina archaeologists and librarians produce an online catalog of artifacts. [via InfoDocket]
- Now you don't see that everyday - A CT scan of a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue shows the mummified remains of a monk inside along with rolls of paper scraps with Chinese writing where his organs would be. [via Colossal]
- Accessing the inaccessible - Drones used to create a 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. [via The Verge]
- 40 years in the making - A brief history of the building of the Washington Monument. [via The Libray of Congress blog]
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture published a new book, Through the African American Lens, that offer iconic images of black culture, activism and community in America. [via Time]
- New blog alert - bloggERS! - the new blog of the Society of American Archivists' Electronic Records Section. [via Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, SIA]
- A piece of photography history - a 19th century photo album by Oscar Gustave Rejlander has been sold, but the United Kingdom has put an export ban on it in the hopes of keeping it within the UK. [via PetaPixel]
- For those of you old enough to remember - A look at a technological icon - The fax machine. [via BBC Future]
- That's Awesome! - An entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London is using LEGOs to build a device that holds fragile insect specimens. [via The Atlantic]
What happens when an organization turns to the Internet 'crowd' for help to make its online collections as accessible as possible? The Archives is several years into its crowd-sourcing initiatives: tagging photographs and solving mysteries on Flickr Commons and transcribing text-oriented materials on the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Our goals are focused on enabling people to virtually look inside these materials and apply data mining and other techniques, enriching and speeding their own work.
In just the past 18 months, over two thousand new volunteers plus an untold number of anonymous contributors have given us a big boost, and the results are remarkable. While the quality and quantity of the effort is impressive – over 300 transcription projects and hundreds more photos available to tag on the Flickr Commons, I am more excited by how I see volunteers' passion for knowledge grow, having an empowering and domino effect.
Looking for the Inside Stories
As the institutional archives documenting the Smithsonian's history of acquiring and disseminating knowledge, we hold a wide variety of both scientific and humanities oriented primary source material that reflects that diversity of the Smithsonian's activities from its earliest days over 169 years ago.
As we selected material for our digital volunteers, I expected them to engage with it, gaining insight and appreciation for the personal efforts and experiences of the individuals behind them. However, volunteers soon uncovered additional, noteworthy individuals and events buried inside those texts.
Going one step further, they began to find connections between different Archives projects, such as the professional and personal relationships between scientists and examples of their work.
Amidst all of these discoveries, the depth of access these volunteers have helped us create has enabled researchers to include these historical sources in computer-driven longitudinal studies.
#WeLearnTogether: The Domino Effect
#welearntogether is a Twitter hash tag these 'volunpeers' have taken to when discussing the projects they are working on. It reflects the community culture we have striven for since the first days of our crowd-sourcing initiatives. So what's this domino effect?
Domino 1: Our volunpeers are using the information they have found, finding links to data held by museums, libraries, and archives at the Smithsonian and helping us to connect those resources to each other.
Domino 2: The volunteers are reaching out to other organizations, and sharing what they have learned so those organizations, too, can update and enrich their own information catalogs. These include JSTOR and the United States National Herbarium.
In the end, the knowledge of our collections has grown, their accessibility improved, resulting in tangible benefits for today’s and tomorrow’s Smithsonian collections users. It is so rewarding to watch these volunteers’ voyages of discovery stoke a passion to discover more and fire an enthusiasm about these collections that has proven to be contagious.
- Record Unit 7148 - David Crockett Graham Papers, 1923-1936, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7272 - Frederick Vernon Coville Papers, 1888-1936 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7267 - Vernon Orlando Bailey Papers, 1889-1941 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7417 - Florence Merriam Bailey Papers, 1865-1942, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Hidden in Plain Sight: Reading Between the Lines with the Smithsonian Transcription Center Volunteers
The Smithsonian Transcription Center volunteers have been busy unlocking the hidden stories from the Smithsonian's collections - including the women in science hiding in plain sight in these digitized pages. From amateur collectors to seasoned gardeners, women made valuable contributions to the Smithsonian's collections. Here's what we're learning and doing together with their information.
Last July, I shared some of the progress of volunteers and their growth as a community. The highlights? Over 450 volunteers transcribed 13,412 pages including 46 different Archives projects. Since then, we have grown our community to over 4,500 volunteers and the completed text of 66,598 pages can now be indexed. This remarkable growth includes 247 completed Archives projects as well.
Updated statistics: Over 450 volunteers at that point had transcribed 46 different Archives projects. That was part of the total 956 volunteers who had completed 13,412 pages by July 2014. Since then, 2,147 volunteers have helped wrap up a whopping 247 Archives projects! The community has grown to over 4,700 volunteers total; they have worked together to completely transcribe and review 67,205 pages - to make searchable text in Smithsonian's Collections Search Center.
Through mysteries, connections, and achievements, the Archives continue to recognize the women in science in their collections. The Archives also shares field notes and books in the Smithsonian Transcription Center, where we have fully transcribed field notes and photo albums from women scientists including Doris Cochran, Cléofe Caldéron, Florence Bailey, and Mary Agnes Chase. Volunteers - whom we call #volunpeers - have also been able to identify at least 25 women who contributed specimens and were recorded in field notes by Joseph Nelson Rose.
Rose was a botanist with the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Smithsonian Institution; his work was prolific and highlighted his great commitment to botanical work and cooperative discovery. How fitting that by transcribing his detailed notes, volunpeers would open a window: private citizens and researchers alike sharing specimens with the Smithsonian Institution. Many of the women in science we've uncovered in the pages were involved in science with informal work or non-institutional roles. The collectors in Rose's pages were professional botanists, and collecting sisters, wives, and amateurs.
In addition to notes on women cultivating botanical collections, we also see women in science in the entomological specimens labels and botanical specimens sheets that volunpeers transcribe. One challenge emerges: what can we do with the knowledge that emerges from the digitized pages? How can we acknowledge the effort of all of the collectors and honor the work of volunteers?
As Smithsonian staff begin to incorporate that information into official records and institutional narrative, we can discuss the challenges openly - in Google Hangouts, blogposts, and social media. By working with volunpeers and others, we might open the problem to group solutions. We can also acknowledge the scientific work in spaces like Wikipedia where challenges remain with representation of women. In this way, the knowledge generated from the Archives' and other Smithsonian collections can be shared with the public. As we approach Women's History Month, we have another opportunity to connect the women in science in these pages to the body of knowledge held at the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the energy of Wikipedia editors.
You can let science talk and help the stories of these women unfold in two ways: by joining the Archives in a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on March 27, 10:00-4:00 pm EST. Here is the running list of women from Joseph Nelson Rose’s field notes:
Women Without Wikipedia Representation
- Wilmatte Porter Cockerell
- Helen S. Conant
- Grace M. Cole
- Mrs. Anna W Kidder
- Miss Jesse P Rose
- Ruth C. Ross
- Miss Gertrude Sinscheimer
- Sister Mary Regina of St. Mary’s Convent (NY)
- Elsie McElroy Slater
- Mrs. Florence A Standley
- Miss Nellie Standley
- Miss V. Tasker of Pennsylvania
- Miss F. N. Vasey
- Mrs. Irene Vera
Women With Articles in Wikipedia
Women Currently Identified by Names Other Than Their Own
- Mrs. Charles Bly
- Mrs. D. D. Gaillard
- Lady Hanbury
- Mrs. Dan Hansen
- Mrs. Eugene A Harris
- Mrs. S. L. Pattison
- Mrs. L. L. Roller
- Mrs. G. M. Wolfe
Or you can share your passion for Smithsonian collections by transcribing with other volunpeers in the Transcription Center.
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