J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Manuscript Transcription in Your Own Home

This evening at 5:00 P.M., the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture is hosting an online workship titled “Making History thru Handwriting: An Introduction to Manuscript Transcription.”

Julie A. Fisher from the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia and Sara Powell from Harvard University will discuss transcribing handwritten documents, the importance of that task in making more historic sources available for study, and practical tips for transcribers.

They will also talk about opportunities for the public to join transcription projects taking place across the United States and in Europe. This is a trend made possible by digital imaging. Transcribers can work at archives or at home, and images can be expertly manipulated to make marks clearer. That work can also go on when we’re staying healthy at home. There’s even specialized software for managing such projects.

Among local projects, Harvard University has invited people to participate in transcribing the thousands of documents from eighteenth-century North America that it has digitized in recent years. Another large crowd-sourced project is Transcribe Bentham at University College London. And the Georgian Papers Project straddles the Atlantic. More ongoing projects are listed on the From the Page software website.

Julie A. Fisher, Ph.D., specializes in Early American and Native American history. She’s developed digital humanities projects over the past four years at the American Philosophical Society and as a consulting editor with the Native Northeast Portal (formerly the Yale Indian Papers Project) at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. In March 2019 she hosted the Omohundro Institute’s first Transcribathon.

Sara Powell is the assistant curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at Houghton Library, specializing in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts—so she’s familiar with older handwriting styles that baffle us even more than ours will baffle the students of the late twenty-first century.

This workshop is scheduled to run from 5:00 to 5:45 P.M. on Wednesday, 13 January. It is free. To register, one must be logged in to the Omohundro Institute.

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