About By the People
By the People invites you to transcribe, review, and tag digitized pages from the Library’s collections. Everyone is welcome to take part! Volunteer-created transcriptions improve search, readability, and access to handwritten and typed documents for everyone, including people who are not fully sighted.
All transcriptions are made and reviewed by volunteers before they are returned to loc.gov, the Library's website. You don't even need to create an account to transcribe, but registered users can also tag and review other people's transcriptions. Learn how to start contributing in our Welcome Guide.
We launched By the People in Fall 2018. The name was announced November 19 at our very first transcribe-a-thon on the 155th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The phrase comes from the closing line of that speech, which states “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." The name reflects the spirit of democracy of this undertaking which asks you to join us in making the Library of Congress accessible to all.
By the People by the numbers
Data as of 10/1/2020:
- We've released 363,000+ pages for transcription across 20 Campaigns
- 216,000+ of these pages have completed transcriptions
- 52,000+ pages have transcriptions that are currently awaiting a reviewer to check them for completeness
- 16,315 completed transcriptions have been integrated back into the Library's online catalog, making them word-searchable and readable by accessibility technologies
- 18,400+ users have registered accounts
October 1, 2020, Volunteer Vignette: Transcribe without fear, don’t be intimidated!
September 14, 2020, Celebrating another year with By the People
February 5, 2020, Transcribe the Rosa Parks Papers for African American History Month
October 17, 2018, New Online: Theodore Roosevelt Papers
Federal News Network, August 25, 2020, Library of Congress enlisting volunteers to help transcribe documents
The Washington Post, August 10, 2020, Lincoln’s mail included advice, warnings and a call to shoot deserters
Mental Floss, July 31, 2019, The Library of Congress Needs Help Transcribing 16,000 Pages of Suffragist Diaries, Letters, and Documents
Smithsonian Magazine, July 30, 2019, The Library of Congress Needs Your Help Transcribing Suffragist Papers
Washington Post Magazine, June 17, 2019, The National Archives has billions of handwritten documents. With cursive skills declining, how will we read them?
Wired, April 14, 2019, Tech that connects us -- And makes us better humans
By the People is an online transcription platform where anyone with an internet connection can transcribe documents from Library of Congress digitized collections. Everyone is welcome to contribute!
This crowdsourcing project invites members of the public, non-specialists and specialists alike, to help make data more usable and discoverable. Crowdsourcing at the Library of Congress invites volunteers to explore collections while gaining new skills, for example, learning to read older forms of handwriting such as cursive.
Learn how to get started in our Welcome Guide and then jump in!
Materials on By the People represent the diversity of the Library’s collections and are selected from across Library of Congress curatorial divisions. You’ll encounter presidential papers; the personal archives of leaders of movements including women's suffrage, abolition, and civil rights; the work of writers like Walt Whitman; documentation of music and traditions by folklorist Alan Lomax; and much more.
We add new content regularly! Sign up for our newsletter to hear about new Campaigns and Challenges.
The data contributed by volunteers like you can be used in many different ways. The transcriptions produced through By the People will typically be published in the Library catalog on loc.gov within a year of a Campaign's completion. Once there, it is full-text searchable, can be viewed alongside the original image for readability, and be used by adaptive technology like screen readers. The text for each item and page can be downloaded via loc.gov.
All contributions to By the People are released into the public domain so anyone is free to use or reuse the data. Data from completed campaigns will also be made available as datasets for bulk download.
If you need help accessing the data or want to share how you're using transcripton data, please contact us at [email protected].
You can transcribe anonymously, but you also choose to register if you would like to review or tag. In order to make sure a transcription is submitted by a real human, anonymous users are be prompted to fill in a captcha before their first submission will be accepted. The Library’s captcha is an image of a few letters and numbers that you must transcribe into a box below the image. We will never share email addresses or any other personal information of registered volunteers.
A session cookie will be used in your browser while you are transcribing so that you do not need to enter a captcha every time you work on a page. Session cookies for anonymous users are limited to 24 hours, so you will only be prompted to enter a captcha once a session.
Session cookies are used for registered users too, so that your contributions can be saved to your account. Check out your user profile to see how many pages you have transcribed, tagged and reviewed. Registered user session cookies last two weeks.
Two additional crowdsourcing efforts within the Library include Fix It, which invites you to review transcription of public television programs, and Beyond Words, where you can identify cartoons and photographs in the Library's historic newspaper collections.
Citations for each campaign image is listed here. Image titles not linked are not available on loc.gov. Contact the Library of Congress custodial unit listed for information about access and use via Ask A Librarian
Anna E. Dickinson Papers
"Anna E. Dickinson". [Between 1855 and 1865]. Brady-Handy photograph collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Branch Rickey: Changing the Game
"Father of baseball farm system, Rickey checks his 18 minor-league teams on office blackboard with Branch Jr., farm boss". Rhodenbaugh, Harold, photographer. 1946. LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Carrie Chapman Catt Papers
"Catt, Carrie Chapman". Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Miscellany; Photographs, Image 128. - 1920, 1890. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
"Battle of Port Hudson". J.O. Davidson; Facsimile print by L. Prang & Co. Boston. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Civil War Soldiers: "Disabled but not disheartened"
"Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series I $1,000 in prizes, awarded in; Entries 221-230, Image 43". 1866. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
Clara Barton: "Angel of the Battlefield"
"Clara Barton - from portrait taken in Civil War and authorized by her as the one she wished to be remembered by". [between ca. 1890 and 1910]. LOT 8532. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers
"Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her daughter, Harriot--from a daguerreotype". [Between 1890 and 1910 of daguerreotype taken 1856]. Unprocessed in PR 13 CN 1979:169. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Letters to Lincoln
"Abraham Lincoln papers: Series 2. General Correspondence. -1864: Unknown to Abraham Lincoln, 1860 Envelope; endorsed by Lincoln". 1860. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
Mary Church Terrell: Advocate for African Americans and Women
"Mary Church Terrell, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front". [Between 1880 and 1900, printed later]. BIOG FILE - Terrell, Mary Church. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Organizing for Women’s Suffrage: The NAWSA Records
"Woman suffrage procession". 1913. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words
"Rosa Parks Papers: Events, 1951-2005; Featuring or honoring Parks; 1956-1959". 1956. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
Rough Rider to Bull Moose: Letters to Theodore Roosevelt
"Theodore Roosevelt". 1901. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote
"Suffragists demonstrating against Woodrow Wilson in Chicago. National Woman's Party Records, Group II, Container II: 276, Folder: Group Photographs Nos. 45-58". Library of Congress Manuscript Division.
Susan B. Anthony Papers
"Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated, and Susan B. Anthony, standing, three-quarter length portrait". [Between 1880 and 1902]. BIOG FILE - Anthony, Susan Brownell. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
The Blackwells: An Extraordinary Family
"Group portrait of members of the Blackwell and Spofford families outside on a lawn". [Between 1880 and 1893]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
The Man Who Recorded the World: On the Road with Alan Lomax
"Alan Lomax and Raphael Hurtault listening to playback. La Plaine, Dominica". June 1962. Alan Lomax collection (AFC 2004/004), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
"This Hell-upon-earth of a Prison": Samuel J. Gibson's Andersonville Diary
"Andersonville Prison, Ga. South east view of stockade". [Photographed 1864, printed between 1880 and 1889]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Walt Whitman at 200
"Walt Whitman". Cox, G. C., photographer. 1887. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.