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The University of Texas at Austin


Briscoe Center Launches Natchez Trace Transcription Project

Public encouraged to get involved, transcribe documents

September 11, 2013

detail from transcriber page

The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, has launched a crowdsourcing project aimed at transcribing important documents found in the Natchez Trace Collection. The project, "Making History Searchable" involves the digitization and posting online of historical documents that can be transcribed by volunteers in their web browser.

"We’re always looking for creative ways to enhance the accessibility of our collections," said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "This project enables volunteers to help transcribe Natchez Trace documents, which allows them to be searched online with greater accuracy and speed."

Volunteers can browse the documents (rated beginner, intermediate and advanced), selecting one they are comfortable transcribing. Alternatively, one can search for a certain type of document by date or keyword. Once a document has been selected, volunteers can begin typing what they see in a text box. It is possible to comment on a document, and zoom in and out to get a better view of the text.

"We’ve tried to make this as simple and elegant as possible," said Brenda Gunn, associate director for research and collections. "Remember, it's not necessary to retain any formatting - just focus on the accuracy of the words you're transcribing. All submissions will be reviewed by an archivist."

The Natchez Trace Collection, a series of collections totaling more than 450 linear feet of materials, documents the history of the Lower Mississippi River Valley from 1760 to the 1920s. The collections illuminate the lives and activities of government officials, politicians, soldiers, bankers, jurists, planters, merchants, physicians, clergy, educators, slaves, and homemakers who lived and worked in the parishes and counties of Louisiana and Mississippi, particularly in the region centered around Natchez, Mississippi.

The University of Texas began collecting materials on the history of the American South soon after it opened in 1883. In 1914, Major George W. Littlefield, a Confederate veteran and University Regent, donated funds to the University to promote those efforts. Over the years, the Littlefield Fund for Southern History enabled the University to assemble a major collection on the history of the South.