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EN 5394 - Research in English and Cultural Studies: Open Projects

Resources for students in this course and others conducting research in the humanities.

Crowdsourcing Definition

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines crowdsourcing as "the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers." Academic or scholarly crowdsourcing examples are provided below. Many of these examples originate from library or archival collections. Other forms of crowdsourcing include citizen science projects.

Crowdsourcing Projects

  • Book Traces - University of Virginia
    • A crowd-sourced web project that photographs and shares marginalia and other unique features of print nineteenth- and early twentieth-century books on library shelves.
  • The Civil War in Letters - Newberry Library Transcription Project
    • A project transcribing letters from Illinois Civil War soldiers.
  • Dear Professor Einstein: The Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists in Post-War America - Oregon State University
    • A project transcribing correspondence with the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists between 1945-1951.
  • Decipher History - Illinois State University, Milner Library
    • Transcribe handwritten diaries, letters, photo descriptions, and more.
  • Decoding the Civil War - The Huntington Library
    • A consortium project to digitize and transcribe the Union Army telegrams from The Thomas T. Eckert Papers housed at the Huntington Library. Seeking 75,000 volunteers!
  • ‚ÄčDIY History - University of Iowa Libraries
    • Correspondence and other handwritten documents from the University of Iowa Libraries archives. Collections include diaries and letters from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Iowa women, social justice, and more. Some collections contain documents that have been transcribed, but that need review at this time, while other collections need transcription.
  • Making History Searchable: Transcribe It! - University of Texas at Austin, Briscoe Center for American History
    • A volunteer project that transcribed 205 documents from the Natchez Trace Collection between September 2013 to February 2015.
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Citizen Archivist 
    • Volunteers can transcribe documents, tag records, subtitle videos, upload and share files, or edit articles from the Citizen Archivist Dashboard.
  • New York Public Library Labs
    • Building Inspector - the project extracts, corrects and analyzes data from historical maps in the New York Public Library collection.
    • Emigrant City - a public project that will extract structured data from over 6,000 handwritten 19th and early 20th century mortgage and bond ledgers from the Emigrant Savings Bank.
    • Ensemble - a community transcription project of early 20th-century New York City theatrical playbills. 
    • What's on the Menu - A community transcription project of New York City menus dating from the 1840s to the present.
  • Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive - Northeastern University
    • "A crowd-sourced archive of pictures, videos, stories, and even social media related to the Boston Marathon; the bombing on April 15, 2013; the subsequent search, capture, and trial of the individuals who planted the bombs; and the city’s healing process."
  • Smithsonian Digital Volunteers
    •  More than 6,000 volunteers have transcribed and reviewed digital copies of field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, manuscripts, photo albums, and more from the Smithsonian's vast collections since June 2013.
  • Transcribe Bentham - University College London 
    • Engages "the public in the online transcription of original and unstudied manuscript papers written by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the great philosopher and reformer."


MapGive is an exciting open mapping project and volunteer opportunity. Follow the link to learn how to contribute to a map-"wikipedia" for parts of the world where detailed geographic data is lacking.


The project is developed by the State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit, and aims to make geographical data available to responders in a crisis, or for help in developing resources in under-served communities.

Articles about Crowdsourced Projects