Library of Congress - By The People Campaign

In the Fall of 2018 the Library of Congress launched a crowdsourcing website which allowed users to create accounts to transcribe historical documents. This is an excellent and rewarding opportunity for those interested in studying the humanities as you can interact directly with hundreds of thousands of primary source documents.

Library of Congress Volunteer Responsibilities
The different responsibilities for volunteers on the website.
Volunteers transcribe, tag and review those transcriptions so that the Library of Congress can publish these on their main site to improve the metadata around certain documents. This will permit historians and researchers to more easily utilize these resources in their studies and make it easier for the general public to access since the documents will be easier to read with a helpful transcription.

There are currently sixteen different "campaigns" or themes related to women's suffrage, the civil war and even legal documents from the Spanish Empire courtesy of the Law Library of Congress. However, it is nearly guaranteed that the figure for the number of campaigns will soon be outdated given that the librarians are constantly adding in new documents for volunteers to transcribe!

Letter from Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln regarding William Wallace
Letter from Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln (1863)
The letter above is one of the coolest in my opinion within the collection. It is a letter from Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln during the former's time as the military governor of Tennessee. It introduces a friend of Johnsons, William Wallace, to the President. When you read one these little-known documents you can imagine yourself as a historian trying to contextualize it within the time period. How do we place this letter within our understanding of the relationship between Johnson and Lincoln? To what extent does William Wallace play a role in acquainting Johnson and Lincoln? To what degree does the letter foreshadow Lincoln's eventual choice of Johnson as his running mate for the 1864 election? You can imagine yourself not just as the transcriber of a letter but as an amateur historian seeking to illuminate this letter and place it within its proper contexts.

If you are interested in this specific letter you can check it out on the transcription website here:

Letter from William Seward to Mary Todd Lincoln regarding a honor from the French Government
Letter from William Seward to Mary Todd Lincoln.
A second letter I was excited to transcribe was from William Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State, to Mary Todd Lincoln regarding the honor bestowed by French government upon the widow of the much-beloved Abraham Lincoln. This transcription added on an extra international perspective to the understanding of the different responses to Lincoln's death.

Like the other letter you can find the whole series on the Library of Congress transcription page:

This transcription is also published within the main Library of Congress archives:

Published Transcription of the Letter from William Seward to Mary Todd Lincoln.
Published Transcription of the Letter from William Seward to Mary Todd Lincoln.
And of course the medal is also available as another series for transcription! It certainly paints for a rosy picture of the relationship between France and the United States at this point in time.

Medal from the French Medal Committee issued to Mary Todd Lincoln.
Medal from the French Medal Committee issued to Mary Todd Lincoln.
It is my hope that these few examples from the hundreds of thousands available within the Library of Congress crowdsourcing site illuminate the many hidden gems within these primary source documents. If you are ready to get started, please visit the homepage of the Library of Congress - For the People campaign:


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