“Trexler Transcribes” Launch Announcement

Trexler Library’s Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce the launch of Trexler Transcribes, a public crowdsourcing transcription site. This portal allows members of the Muhlenberg community and beyond to participate in making history more accessible online. 

The first project to be transcribed is the Muhlenberg Family Papers collection. Purchased by Muhlenberg College at auction in 1976, it consists of an estimated 1,900 documents comprising mostly letters written by or to members of the Muhlenberg political dynasty. The collection has been indexed and digitized, but remains inaccessible to scholars because we do not have intellectual control of the contents.  By transcribing these documents, you are helping to make this valuable collection available to the world. 

The documents will be released in topical groups; the first 211 documents to be offered are the correspondence between Henry A. P. Muhlenberg (1782-1844) and his wife Rebecca Hiester Muhlenberg (1781-1841). Henry served as a Pennsylvania representative to the U.S House of Representatives (1829-1838), was a twice-defeated candidate for governor (1835 and 1838), and served as the first U.S. Minister to the Austrian Empire (1838-1840). A preliminary perusal of the contents reveals discussion of social life in Washington, food, fashion, their health and that of their family, weather, Christmas, cholera outbreaks, continued emotional distress over the long-ago death of an infant daughter, and political ambition. Interspersed are references to debates over slavery and nullification, the Bank War, and the attempted assassination of President Jackson.

Over the last decade, crowdsourced transcription has become an invaluable tool,  gaining popularity through widely known projects such as By the People from the Library of Congress and What’s on the menu? from the New York Public Library. By definition, crowdsourced transcription is the act of enlisting dedicated digital volunteers to transcribe handwritten or typed historical documents. Volunteer-created transcriptions allow for improved researching, readability, and wide accessibility to historic content and materials, which, in many cases, may only be publicly available for the first time thanks to these volunteer contributions.

All you need to get involved is an email address with which to create an account. The site includes detailed information about transcription best practices. You can transcribe a portion of a page or several letters at one sitting. You are able to track the letters you’ve worked on to pick them up later, or to see if another volunteer has been able to figure out a hard-to-read word that stumped you. 

Start transcribing today! Visit trexlerworks.muhlenberg.edu/trexlertranscribes

For more information about the project, please contact Susan Falciani Maldonado, Special Collections & Archives Librarian, at susanfalciani@muhlenberg.edu.

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