Read and Archive Rare Old Texts

<p>It used to be that only researchers had access to the rare, old, fragile texts of the world documents such as the records of the War Department of a nascent United States, or the diary of a woman living on a tobacco farm in the 1910s. Now many libraries are posting scans of those letters and diaries online, so anybody can see them. And some archives are looking for volunteers to work on those texts, too, by typing them up or proofreading them. These crowd-sourced transcription projects seem to be popping up everywhere. Here are eight thriving ones. Click on their titles to learn about joining. </p>

North American Bird Phenology Program

<p>"Phenology" is the science of when things happen: <a href="http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/450-how-do-flowers-know-when-to-bloom.html">when flowers bloom</a>, when bears hibernate, when birds embark on migrations. Here, volunteers are working to transcribe 6 million bird-watching cards that record when migrating birds arrived and departed from the U.S. The phenology science team then analyzes the data. So far, they've found that <a href="http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bpp/Research2.cfm">some bird species are arriving</a> in the spring earlier than they did 100 years ago, perhaps in response in global warming. </p>

What's On The Menu?

<p>Did you know a "complete dinner" with a Maine lobster salad cost $2.60 at the Ice Terrace in New York City in 1944? It's hard to get a single cookie at that price in the city now. The New York Public Library has posted scans from its collection of 40,000 Big Apple menus dating from the 1840s onward. Volunteers can type up the menus, which are mostly clearly printed and much easier to read than most of the texts in this list. </p>

Distributed Proofreaders

<p>Buying books on your <a href="http://ebook-reader-review.toptenreviews.com/">e-reader</a> can add up, but there are millions of copyright-expired books in the world that should be free. <a href="%22http">Project Gutenberg</a> is a free online collection of professionally printed, public domain books that you can read online or download to your computer or e-reader. All of Project Gutenberg's text files are provided by volunteers, the majority from Distributed Proofreaders. </p> <p>Don't worry, volunteers don't need to type up a whole book. The books are <a href="http://ocr-software-review.toptenreviews.com/new-optical-character-recognition-technologies-improve-ocr-software.html">scanned with reading software</a> first, but the software often makes mistakes, so the project needs proofreaders to fix slip-ups such as "arid" in place of "and." "We call them 'scannos,'" Distributed Proofreader board member Martin Straesser told InnovationNewsDaily. "That's not typos, because the printed text is correct but the scanned text then has the wrong word."</p> <p>At the time of this writing, Distributed Proofreaders has provided 22,629 books to Project Gutenberg.</p>

Old Weather

<p>From the late 1700s to the early 1800s, <a href="http://www.lifeslittlem">British Royal Navy ships ruled the seas</a>, trading and stocking England's coffers with wealth from around the world. These ships kept logs, updated several times a day, as to their position, temperature and atmospheric pressure. Now scientists want to analyze that data to compare the weather then with weather now, to see the effects of climate change. People can volunteer to type up those logs for later analysis.</p> <p>Old Weather is an offshoot of the older and better-known citizen science project <a href="http://www.space.com/11409-alien-planets-kepler-telescope-public.html">Galaxy Zoo</a>, which harnesses volunteers to classify galaxies by their shapes.</p>

Civil War Diaries & Letters Transcription Project

p>Civil War enthusiastsand maybe anyone who likes a look at other people's letters and diariesmay enjoy this University of Iowa project. From one 1861 letter, with all the original spelling and grammar: </p> <p><em>Twenty fours hours have passed since I left Monroe, where men never were treated better. the folks turned out enmasse to bid us farewell, I shook hands with more than forty, and how many I kissed I shant say, but the girls of Monroe are generous, they treated me well, and Mises Hurlburt, Halsted, Barnes, Lockwood, and a host of others, I shall always think of with the greatest respect. </em></p>

Papers of the War Department

<p>Military letters, clues to early relations with American Indians, and the fate of $7 out of every $10 spent by the U.S. government can all be found in the papers of the U.S. War Department from 1784 and 1800. George Mason University researchers put all 45,000 of the War Department's early papers online for people to see. Volunteers can transcribe pages if they like. </p>

Transcribe Bentham

<p>Wearing a white collared shirt, tan pants, black waistcoat and jacket and a round straw-colored hat, the 180-year-old preserved corpse of English philosopher Jeremy Bentham has greeted visitors to the University College London since 1850. Now anybody can view and transcribe Bentham's writings for the college. He wrote 60,000 papers in his lifetime, on history, politics, law, philosophy and economics.</p>

The Edgerton Digital Collections (EDC) Project

<p>Those more drawn to scientific history than political history may be interested in tagging pages of MIT professor Harold "Doc" Edgerton's lab notebooks. Edgerton developed techniques to capture photos of moving objects, resulting in photographs such as <a href="http://edgerton-digital-collectio">this one of a milk drop and its splash</a>.</p> <p>Know of another cool project we missed? <a href="http://www.facebook.com/InnovationNewsDaily">Leave InnovationNewsDaily a note on Facebook</a>.</p> <p><em>You can follow </em><a href="http://innovationnewsdaily.com/"><em>InnovationNewsDaily</em></a> <em>staff writer Francie Diep on Twitter @</em><a href="https://twitter.com/franciediep"><em>franciediep</em></a><em>. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @</em><a href="https://twitter.com/"><em>News_Innovation</em></a><em>, or on </em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/InnovationNewsDaily"><em>Facebook</em></a><em>.</em></p>

8 Crowd-Sourced Transcription Projects You Can Contribute To