- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Keene State College is part of a national trend to use the public’s muscle to transcribe historical documents and make history more accessible to people.

The college is working with the New Hampshire Division of Archives and Records Management to host citizen archivist training workshops, where participants learn the ins and outs of reading and correctly transcribing letters, diaries and other historical records.

Out of these workshops will come a core group of volunteers, they hope, who can help libraries, town historical societies and other organizations.

“It does two very good things - it gives ordinary people a way in to their history, and it creates transcriptions that can be on the internet, and makes collections much more accessible,” said Keene State history professor Margaret Orelup.

Libraries and archives around the country have been using the public to analyze images, transcribe documents and classify data. At the Smithsonian Institution’s Transcription Center, volunteers take a stab at transcribing handwritten field notes, botanical specimen sheets and other items, typing the information into online forms. Museum staff or trained volunteers then review the work and approve it.

Joe Antosiewicz attended a workshop in July with his wife. A retired newspaper finance director, the 72-year-old Swanzey resident has taken numerous courses at the college through a lifelong learning program and figured the transcription class might help him understand the writing on envelopes from the early 1800s that he comes across in his stamp collecting hobby.

“There’s a lot of different usages of words, the way they used F for S and the way they shorten words,” he said. “The way they capitalize words in awkward places for emphasis, and then just getting used to reading cursive again. Not too many people do that anymore.”

State Archivist Brian Burford, who led a recent workshop at the college, said his office works hard to preserve paper records, but doesn’t have the staff or resources to digitize them, transcribe them and put them online, plus figure out how to archive digital records.

“It’s one of the reasons I take so much pleasure in this project is because it’s something that paves the way and allows me to say, ‘See, that’s what we need to be doing, that’s what I hope to do with so many more collections to make them available to the public,’” he said.

A grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission funds the project. The next workshop is Sept. 24.

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