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
As of 5/1/2023
- We've released 872,000+ pages for transcription across 38 Campaigns
- 643,000+ of these pages have completed transcriptions
- 132,000+ pages have transcriptions that are currently awaiting a reviewer to check them for completeness
- Over 147,000 completed transcriptions have been integrated back into the Library's online catalog, making them word-searchable and readable by accessibility technologies
- There are 11 cataloged, full-text datasets of completed Campaigns now available online
- 34,600+ users have registered accounts
May 16, 2023, The crowdsourced transcription lifecycle – from conception to retirement
April 6, 2023, Volunteer Vignette: Student and Teacher team up to transcribe Federal Theatre Project playbills
February 23, 2023, Volunteer Vignette: Transcribing Spanish history
November 29, 2022, Do volunteer transcriptions improve search and discovery in loc.gov?
November 7, 2022, Celebrating Four Years of By the People
September 27, 2022, Summer Suffrage Transcription Challenge Wrap-up
August 25, 2022, Volunteer Vignette: The Youngstown State University Transcribing Club
June 30, 2022, Staff transcriber spotlight: Enjoy being curious!
Journal of Open Humanities Data, February 4, 2022, By the People Crowdsourcing Datasets from the Library of Congress.
Code4Lib Journal, November 5, 2019, 'With One Heart': Agile approaches for developing Concordia and crowdsourcing at the Library of Congress.
Archival Outlook, September 2019, "And the Crowd Goes Wild!” Crowdsourcing Baseball History at the Library of Congress.
The Post and Courier, April 4, 2023, Library of Congress crowd-sourcing info about 1865 SC petition for voting rights
Mental Floss, May 14, 2021, The Library of Congress Needs Your Help Transcribing Clara Barton's Diaries, Correspondences, and Other Rarely Seen Papers
Mental Floss, March 8, 2021, The Library of Congress Needs Your Help Transcribing James Garfield’s Diaries
Smithsonian Magazine, December 4, 2020, Library of Congress Seeks Volunteers to Transcribe Letters to Theodore Roosevelt
Mental Floss, December 1, 2020, The Library of Congress Needs Help Transcribing More Than 20,000 Letters Written to Teddy Roosevelt
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 inviting anyone with an internet connection to transcribe documents from Library of Congress digital collections. Everyone is welcome to contribute!
This crowdsourcing project enables members of the public to help make data more usable and discoverable while gaining new knowledge and 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 collections including the Manuscript Division, Law Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, Music Division, and Rare Book and Special Collections.
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. All active projects are listed at the top of our Campaign page. Sign up for our newsletter to hear about new campaigns and challenges.
You don't need to register to transcribe! Registered users can also review and tag and can track their work on their profile page. Register here for a By the People account.
You also don't need an account to read and benefit from the community of practice on the History Hub discussion forum. You can register for a separate account to contribute posts or comments. We encourage you to share questions, insight into the material you are transcribing, and your experience. Other volunteers can respond to and benefit from your posts! History Hub is a moderated forum. Community Managers check in regularly to approve comments and engage in discussion, and will try to answer questions within 3-5 business days.
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 alongside the digital images 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 retired 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.
The LC Labs experiment Beyond Words, which invited users to identify cartoons and photographs in the Library's historic newspaper collections, was the direct forerunner to By the People and directly informed our program and platform development.Another ongoing crowdsourcing effort for Library of Congress collections is the the Archive of American Public Broadcasting project Fix It+, which invites you to review transcription of public television programs, including some from the Library.