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Come On, Make Some History!

transcribe We’re happy to announce that Making History: Transcribe is now live! This site will enable users to transcribe documents in the Library of Virginia collections in a collaborative online work space that will host 5-10 projects at a time. The goal is to generate transcriptions to allow full-text searchability in Digitool or other future delivery platforms and increase ease of use. We hope to engage the public in deciphering some of the most interesting items in the Library of Virginia Collections and, with everyone’s help, build a more searchable and useful way to access Virginia history.

The need for transcription vastly outstrips library staff time, both here at the LVA and globally. What better way to solve this dilemma than to engage the public around areas of interest? Developments in open source transcription tools, such as the Scripto for Omeka, are making it possible for users to assist cultural institutions in improving access to and understanding of our resources. Our transcription site is closely modeled after the University of Iowa’s DIY History site, in which they further developed the Omeka Scripto plugin used for crowdsourcing the transcription of documents. UI-Libraries also provided the Scribe theme which dictates the look and experience of the project. The Library of Virginia made only minor changes to UI-Libraries solution, all of which can be found within one of the two following GitHub repositories: plugin-Scripto and Scribe.

The first projects we’ll be transcribing are documents from the Civil War 150 Legacy Project, broadsides from Special Collections, and documents related to Gabriel’s Conspiracy, a failed Richmond-area slave uprising in 1800.

We’re also beginning work on documents in the African American Narrative project. These documents contain the stories of African Americans, slave and free, who lived in Virginia prior to the end of slavery in 1865. Taken as a whole, the individual stories form a narrative of a people that has not been fully told due to the difficulty of accessing the records. The Library of Virginia, with funding from Dominion Power, has begun work on the African American Narrative project to make these stories more accessible. Records scanned and indexed so far include coroners’ inquisitions, freedom certificates, and freedom suits. Stay tuned for more information about this groundbreaking project, and help us get started by transcribing.

In the future, we’ll be selecting collections related to LVA exhibitions and programs, as well as those which tie into our long-term goal of bringing Virginia’s history into the digital age in meaningful ways. If you have any feedback about Making History: Transcribe, please contact us at makinghistory@virginiamemory.com.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Dominion Virginia Power.


–Sonya Coleman, Digital Collections Specialist


  1. Stephanie Thomas said:
    8 October 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I am trying to find out if there is a cohabitation record for Blacksburg, for Feb 27, 1866. I don’t seem to find Blacksburg listed in the Montgomery Co Cohabitation record. In fact, after the first 2 transcribed pages, no cities are listed for husband’s or wife’s birth place; only counties are listed for the remaining pages.

  2. Stephanie Thomas said:
    8 October 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Has the cohabitation registry for Washington County been digitized yet? Also what is the link for accessing the cohabitation records at the LVA?

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