The UK National Archives currently has in its collection 1.5 million pages of handwritten diaries kept by soldiers of World War I. They're some of the most requested documents in the National Archives reading room, but until now have been accessible only to anyone who's made the trip to London. But now the archivisits are working to put them online, and you can help them.
The project is called Operation War Diary, and it comes from a partnership between the National Archives, the citizen science initiative Zooniverse and the Imperial War Museum in the UK. The diaries have all been scanned and posted online for citizen historians to look at and transcribe. According to the project:
The war diaries contain a wealth of information of far greater interest than the army could ever have predicted. They provide unrivalled insight into daily events on the front line, and are full of fascinating detail about the decisions that were made and the activities that resulted from them.
To participate, users just pick a diary and get started. They’re then given a scanned page to classify and document. Users are asked to take notes of particular data points—the date of the entry, whether the entry lists casualties, what people it mentions, if it has a map and more. The project has been running for eight weeks now, and already participants have created:
- Over 260,000 tags relating to named individuals
- Over 332,000 tags relating to places
- Almost 300,000 tags relating to activities
- The amount of volunteer effort put in so far is equivalent to one person working 40 hours a week for four years.
And while they've been creating all that useful data, they've also had the chance to immerse themselves in these documents. If you're interested in hearing first-hand stories of World War I, you can take a deep dive and help the archives, all in one go.
H/T Alexis Madrigal