Between 1999 and 2002, the Library of Congress tasked the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Illinois with transcribing thousands of letters sent to and from President Abraham Lincoln. Staff finished about half of the missives (mostly those penned by Lincoln himself), and in 2018, the Washington, D.C. library decided to recruit volunteers to transcribe the remaining 10,000.
Last month, the “Letters to Lincoln” project—conducted via the library’s “By the People” crowdsourcing platform—concluded after two years of work, reports Michael E. Ruane for the Washington Post. Now, transcriptions completed by thousands of volunteers are set to join the 10,000 already available online. (In total, the library’s Lincoln papers constitute 40,000 documents, around half of which are digitized. Find volunteer-transcribed pages here.)
“Crowdsourcing demonstrates the passion of volunteers for history, learning and the power of technology to make those things more accessible,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in a 2018 statement.
The newly transcribed pages “represent some of the diversity of the Library’s treasure,” she added, “and the metadata that will result from these transcriptions mean these digitized documents will have even greater use to classrooms, researchers or anyone who is curious about these historical figures.”
Covering everything from general correspondence to political advice, military news related to the Civil War, and personal and family matters, the documents showcase the wide variety of information that came across the 16th president’s desk—including advice shared prior to Lincoln’s inauguration by a sender identified only as W. A.