Finishing #FossilFossick with #FossilStories

On October 9, we challenged Smithsonian Transcription volunteers to transcribe the field notes of Ladd, Ward, and G. Arthur Cooper. See the details of the challenge here.

It took exactly three and a half days for volunteers to completely transcribe 9 sets of field notes totaling 252 pages. An average of 14 people contributed to each project. The range? 35 people co-opted our longest Cooper journal, while only 3 tackled his shortest 6 page journal.

Here’s what happened in the numbers:

  • 12 total projects completed in those days, including our 9 #FossilFossick Projects! 
  • 30 New volunteers! 
  • 252 pages completed – and 712 Pages total over the challenge dates! 
  • 3.5 Days from launch to completely transcribe and review the #FossilFossick field notes! 
  • Visits from 48 countries including Germany, Ecuador, Turkey, India, and New Zealand 
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Sharing the Challenge

Through 114 #FossilFossick Tweets and other communication, the #FossilFossick challenge gathered 192.7k impressions. The challenge announcement e-mail was opened by 1,895 people, who in total clicked on links 177 times. The update campaign e-mail sent 3 days later, pushing us through the last 29 pages, was opened by 1,121 people and resulted in 101 link clicks.

Surfacing Connections

We also asked volunteers to help us track correspondents, specimens, and locations. This part of the challenge is on-going! You can still help by reading the completed field notes (perhaps by downloading the PDF) and entering details in this Google Spreadsheet:

Finds From #FossilFossick Hunters

What did volunteers find interesting about this challenge? Handwriting to buddies to technology and the real personalities behind scientific field work. First, our volunteers were more than amused by Harry Ladd’s adventures and his playful personality, as well as his colorful pals.

Other volunteers tried to determine whether Ward took a street car, golf cart, or automobile from Alexandria to Mount Vernon.

Still others shared information to help one another tackle the challenge – great collaboration even from the start of the event!

What’s Next?

A total success deserves a totally fantastic reward: be sure to tune into the behind-the-scenes tour of Smithsonian fossil collections with Dr. Nicholas Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, via the BHL Periscope on October 26 as a reward for the successful completion of the challenge. More details to come on Twitter and Facebook.

You can explore the field notes in BHL:

You can also read all of the completed #FossilFossick projects by visiting the project pages with these links and downloading the PDFs:

Thanks again to all of our wonderful volunteers who contributed to this challenge! When we collaborate for citizen science, everyone wins!
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Meghan Ferriter is a Senior Innovation Specialist with the National Digital Initiatives division in the National and International Outreach directorate at the Library of Congress. Prior to this, she served as the Project Coordinator for the Smithsonian Transcription Center.