Assist the Smithsonian's Transcription Center in digitally transcribing documents from the Great Depression, including a historic black newspaper.
The main function of any museum is preserving the past, and the Smithsonian Institution has been hard at work making valuable artifacts accessible to the public. Right now, they need you—yes, you—to help with an incredible transcription project!
The Smithsonian Transcription Center is a volunteer-based organization that assists in transcribing the museum's vast collections. Since 2013, volunteers, or "volunpeers," have scoured the collections of two Smithsonian museums—the African American History and Culture Museum and the Anacostia Community Museums—to transcribe digitally for their website.
The documents are reflections of African American culture during the Great Depression, ranging from political pamphlets to advertisements. So far the volunteers' efforts have exceeded a thousand pages and are available to view online. Their current project? Transcribing a D.C. newspaper called the New Negro Opinion, which was created by the New Negro Alliance, an activist group.
The paper came to fruition following an incident of racial discrimination against black workers, and it hits close to home. In 1933, the Hamburger Grill, a restaurant on D.C.'s U Street, fired their black employees and replaced them with white ones. The incident spurred a backlash and a successful boycott by the New Negro Alliance, resulting in the previous employees getting their jobs back.
The group protested other businesses with a record of racial discrimination, including People's Drugstore and Sanitary Grocery Company, now the major chain Safeway (the latter case even made it to the Supreme Court in 1938.) In addition to these successes, the paper reported on general civil rights issues like equal employment and workplace discrimination. Both were short-lived, with the paper folding in 1937 and the group in 1941. While the paper's lifespan was brief, it's proven to be a rich historical resource of the time in which it was published.
It's no coincidence that the project's focus comes during February, which is also Black History Month.
Today, almost 15,000 "volunpeers" have transcribed over 500,000 pages to the staggering online collective, like ledgers, field notes, photos, and even audio recordings. Since the Transcription Center operates digitally, volunteers can contribute any time and communicate on a 24/7 basis. Interested in volunteering? You can find out more here.
What do you think of the Smithsonian's preservation efforts? Are you interested in becoming a "volunpeer"? Sound off in the comments!