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 8/1/2022:

  • We've released 800,800+ pages for transcription across 33 Campaigns
  • 520,000+ of these pages have completed transcriptions
  • 143,000+ pages have transcriptions that are currently awaiting a reviewer to check them for completeness
  • Over 138,000 completed transcriptions have been integrated back into the Library's online catalog, making them word-searchable and readable by accessibility technologies
  • There are 7 cataloged, full-text datasets of completed Campaigns now available online
  • 31,000+ users have registered accounts

Latest News


June 30, 2022, Staff transcriber spotlight: Enjoy being curious!

May 12, 2022, Using Crowdsourced Transcriptions: An Interview with Allison Johnson

April 14, 2022, Volunteer Vignette: More accessible and searchable than ever before!

February 24, 2022, Volunteer Vignette: A group effort!

December 30, 2021, Volunteer Vignette: It’s fun to figure out the puzzle!

November 18, 2021, By the People’ Turns 3: A Year in Review

November 10, 2021, Summer 2021 Volunteer Survey: What Motivates ‘By the People’ Volunteers?

October 21, 2021, Using Crowdsourced Lincoln Transcriptions: An Interview with Jon White

August 20, 2021, Reflecting on the Mary Church Terrell transcribe-a-thon with the Douglass Day team

July 20, 2021, Making Room in the Crowd: Library Teleworkers Transcribing in Extraordinary Times

Publications


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.

Press coverage


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

FAQs

By the People is an online transcription platform inviting anyone with an internet connection can 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!

Anyone who wants to help the Library make its collections more discoverable online. Anyone who is interested in history, cultural heritage, literature, languages, art, sciences, and much more. Anyone who wants to be a virtual volunteer, contributing at their own pace and at times that are convenient for them. Students and learners of all ages who want to help the Library and learn new skills.
Through our website you collaborate with other volunteers to transcribe and review collections. At least one person transcribes each page and a different person reviews each transcription. If you are reviewing and find that a transcription needs a few corrections, you can edit that page. Another person will then need to review your new edits. Sometimes more than one person will contribute to transcribe a page. You can start a page and save your work for another person to complete and submit. These started pages are labeled "In Progress." You may also come across an In Progress page with a transcription that needs more work that you can add to and submit. This negotiated editing process allows volunteers to work together toward the best version of a transcription and help each other solve different challenges for each image.

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.

Our goal is to make transcriptions that are readable to computers and humans, not attempting to recreate the layout of the original images. For detailed instructions check out the How to transcribe, review, and tag pages in our Help Center. You can also access abbreviated instructions while transcribing by clicking "Quick Tips" underneath the image viewer.

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.

If you've forgotten your password follow this link to reset it. You will receive an email with a link you will need to click to create a new password. You can also change your password on your profile page if you are logged in.
Your email address gives us the ability to communicate with you. Community managers are here to help with account administration, including changes to your profile, troubleshooting transcription, and answering general questions. We may occasionally send emails to our registered volunteers related to the administration of the website-including site updates, account activity, and to ask for your feedback. We will never share your information with other institutions or individuals. At registration you can opt in to receive email updates on new campaigns and features – you can also register for the newsletter here.

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].

Tagging is an experimental feature. Tags can be used to identify people, places or other information about documents not already identified in the page text or its description on loc.gov. We want to understand how volunteers like to use tags. We also want to understand whether tags can someday be included in the Library's metadata to make items more discoverable.
You may be able to fulfill community service or service learning requirements by contributing to By the People. Keep track of your contributions to the project by registering for an account. Registered users can track their contributions via their profile page. From your profile you can also download an official letter confirming that you have taken part. Note that we cannot track the amount of time you spend volunteering; if needed, please document your own hours.
The language and terminology used in the historical materials on this site reflect the context and culture of their creators. This may include words, phrases, and attitudes that would now be deemed insensitive, inappropriate or factually inaccurate, or may not be appropriate for all ages. Views expressed in historical documents do not reflect the views of the Library of Congress. Because the purpose of crowd.loc.gov is to make the Library’s collections searchable, we ask that all original content be transcribed as it appears in the original material. If you find some material offensive or upsetting, please choose something else to transcribe. If you have questions or comments regarding the material you encounter during your participation here, please contact a Community Manager via [email protected] or join or start a new conversation on the History Hub discussion forum.
Because By the People invites you to transcribe documents, it is best experienced on a device with a keyboard and larger screen. A desktop computer or laptop is best; a tablet with keyboard will also work. Unfortunately, phones are not yet supported. We recommend also using a mouse for more precise zooming. We support access via the two most recent versions of major browsers. You’ll have the best experience if you use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari. The site will not work as designed on the Internet Explorer browser.
By the People runs on Concordia, an open source software developed by the Library of Congress to power crowdsourced transcription. The code is visible and free to reuse: Visit our Github repository for more information. The platform was built utilizing user-centered design with a focus on building trust and approachability. The platform was developed to meet the Library's specific needs, but we welcome modification and use by other institutions and individuals! Everyone is welcome to give feedback about how we can improve the platform. Be in touch!

The Library’s Privacy Policy is a detailed explanation of what kinds of data we collect and store about our web visitors. You can find it in the footer of every page of By the People under "Legal".

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 Library of Congress has long invested in building digitized collections and making them searchable. Our first attempt recruiting members of the public to increase findability of online collections began in 2008 when the Photography and Prints Division published thousands of photographs on Flickr Commons. This long-running project invites visitors to help identify people and places in the photographs and, once verified, this rich information is used to enhance the online catalog and improve access for all users. Read more about the Flickr project here.

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.
Initial staffing for By the People and the development of the Concordia platform has been supported in part by the National Digital Library Trust Fund. By the People was piloted by LC Labs in 2018 and begam a permanant program of the Library's Digital Content Management Division in 2020. Divisions and individuals across the Library of Congress provide additional ongoing support for the collections, engagement, and technology of the program.
In addition to the Library’s own history of participatory projects, other cultural heritage institutions have paved the way for By the People. This program gratefully learns from, leverages, and builds upon the work of many others, including the National Archives and Records Administration's Citizen Archivist, the Smithsonian Transcription Center, the British Library's LibCrowds, the Zooniverse, and other colleagues who have generously shared their work with us.