Volunteering for a Digital World
by Diana DeLugan
© 2015 Diana DeLugan. All rights reserved.
I recently started publishing a digital newspaper called Genealogy Headline News. In the paper, I curate the top genealogy news of the previous week. One article this week titled “Want to Help Index De-Classified CIA Records?” by Genealogy Gems grabbed my immediate attention because it reminded me of the trend to make ours a digital world. It discussed the opportunity to become a National Archives Citizen Archivist.
What is a citizen archivist, and what does it mean to you?
Known to many simply as NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration states that it is the “nation’s record keeper.” Select records are kept forever, due to their historical or legal significance. Although NARA has 3,000 full- and part-time employees, it is simply not enough manpower to keep up with the millions of records that need to be made accessible to the public. Answer to the problem: Our country welcomes you to volunteer.
Citizen archivists are regular people like me and you. They are individuals who are interested in our country’s history and who understand the value of making this valuable information accessible. By sharing our time and energy, we help make our country’s significant records available for education, genealogy research, and personal enjoyment.
Here Is How You Can Contribute as a Citizen Archivist
- Uploading and sharing. For anyone who has personally scanned or photographed copies of NARA records during a visit to one of the several NARA research rooms, there is a FLICKER account where images can be shared on the National Archives Citizen Archivist Research Group. Sharing your recorded images helps get the information to the public faster.
- Tagging. Citizens can also help by tagging images that are already online to make it easier for others to locate exactly what they are looking for.
- Transcribing documents. Imagine transcribing correspondence between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Continental Congress letters written by Benjamin Franklin, or the Deed of Gift for the Statue of Liberty. These and many other opportunities are just waiting for you.
- Transcribing Old Weather. Picture yourself as a time traveler as you transcribe old ships’ logs and decipher worldwide weather from the pre-Civil War period through World War II.
- Video Subtitling. If reading handwritten script or photos is not exciting enough for you, how about subtitling videos like World War I or II films or other films related to US history?
Your Time Is a Valuable Gift
Consider joining the ranks of other citizen archivists. For one archivist’s perspective about why he volunteered and his experience, check out Virtual Volunteering, Retirement Project 2.0 by Suzanne Isaacs on NARAtions, the blog of the U.S. National Archives. The article is a Q&A with citizen archivist Alex Smith. Of course, I can’t suggest that you volunteer at something if I don’t believe it is worthwhile. My only dilemma is deciding which project to work on first.
Diana DeLugan is a proud eighth-generation Arizonan, Otero family historian, singer, and author. To learn more about Diana, find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.