BHL Adds Functionality Allowing Partners to Upload Crowdsourced Transcriptions of Digitized Archival Materials
The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) has added functionality to allow BHL Partners to upload transcriptions in place of the automatically-generated OCR (Optical Character Recognition) for archival materials digitized in BHL. This functionality supports transcriptions generated as part of Partner crowdsourcing projects on Smithsonian Transcription Center, DigiVol, and From the Page.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR), also called text recognition, translates text characters in scanned documents into code that can be used for data processing and enables searching of document text. Handwritten archival materials like correspondence and field notes are notoriously problematic for OCR software. Full-text searching of these materials is significantly hampered by poor OCR output.
Crowdsourcing the transcription of archival materials has become a popular way to generate machine-readable text that enables searching and discoverability. Several BHL Partners are using crowdsourcing platforms (e.g. Smithsonian Transcription Center, DigiVol, and From the Page) to transcribe field notes, correspondence, and other archival materials that they have digitized in BHL.
With this new functionality, these transcriptions can now be uploaded in place of the automatically-generated OCR for these items, allowing them to be full-text searchable and enabling our taxonomic name recognition software to index scientific names within their pages. Since the transcribed text can be viewed alongside the digitized page image, users can also more easily read materials with difficult-to-decipher handwriting. Thus, this new functionality makes it easier for researchers and the public to explore these valuable primary source materials and access specific information from their pages.
Participating Partners have begun uploading transcriptions to BHL. To date, transcriptions have been uploaded from Partner crowdsourcing projects with BHL Australia, Ernst Mayr Library of Harvard University, The New York Botanical Garden, and Smithsonian Institution Archives. This is an ongoing process, and more transcriptions will be uploaded to the Library over time.
Interested in transcribing archival materials? Several BHL Partners have active transcription projects on various crowdsourcing platforms. Follow the links below to explore the opportunities and get involved:
- Ernst Mayr Library of Harvard University on DigiVol
- The John Torrey Papers from The New York Botanical Garden on From the Page
- Smithsonian Institution Archives on the Smithsonian Transcription Center