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Frederick Douglass Transcribe-a-thon allows everyone to preserve history from home

Kiki Gill, a Westminster College senior, demonstrates how easy it is to start preserving historical documents during the Writing Center’s second Frederick Douglass Transcribe-a-thon in the Writing Center on Feb. 27. Not everyone had the time to participate during the event, the Smithsonian Transcription Center allows anybody with a computer and internet access to help transcribe historical texts. (Photo by Josh Messier)

Anybody with a computer and internet access has the ability to preserve history, according to Christopher LeCluyse, professor of English and director of the Writing Center at Westminster College.

The Writing Center hosted its second annual Frederick Douglass Transcribe-a-thon Wednesday, which gave students and faculty a space to transcribe unpublished historical documents related to African-American history.

The event was based off a national transcribe-a-thon launched by the Colored Conventions Project, according to LeCluyse.

By signing up for a free account with the Smithsonian Institute’s Transcription Center, anybody can browse the available documents and see what percent of each one has been transcribed as well as how many people have contributed.

“That’s the cool thing,” LeCluyse said. “Even though we’re holding this one event for one day, people can volunteer to transcribe texts anytime they want to, and they can do it anywhere they want to.”

This accessibility is helpful for some students like Kiki Gill, a Westminster senior, who said she signed up but didn’t have time to participate during the event.

“I wish I had more time today to do it,” Gill said. “But I’m definitely still going to give it a chance.”

Others said they were excited about the transcribe-a-thon and its possible impact, like Dr. Tamara Stevenson, associate professor of communication, who volunteered last year.

“The actual transcribing process was definitely a labor of love, but certainly worth it,” Stevenson said. “Hopefully events and initiatives like the Transcribe-a-thon will make it easier for these works and voices to be included in schoolbooks and other spaces to expand the knowledge and perspectives that these works offer.”


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Joshua Messier is finishing up his last year at Westminster College with a communication major and a minor in art. Originally from New Hampshire, Joshua moved to Salt Lake City for the best snow in the country. He's more than excited to graduate and see what will come next in life.

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