I will be celebrating VCU's very good luck this Friday the 13th when the Folger Shakespeare Library's Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project team visits Richmond to lead a transcribathon for faculty, students, staff, representatives from local institutions, and interested members of the general public.
My colleague Joshua Eckhardt and I began discussing the possibility of holding a transcribathon at VCU last december, as we were transcribing and encoding manuscripts for EMMO as members of the Folger Institute's week-long Advanced Early Modern English Paleography workshop. Wouldn't it be great if our students could contribute to this ambitious project at its very early stages, while at the same time having the occasion to wrestle with the predictably unpredictable challenges of working with primary sources? Thanks to the help of EMMO project leader Paul Dingman and the time and financial support of many colleagues at VCU, the transcribathon is just weeks away.
EMMO seeks to digitize, transcribe, and encode (using tags in XML) hundreds of unique manuscripts in the Folger's collection in order to make them—the images, transcriptions, and metadata—available to future researchers, teachers, and students. This means that participants in our transcribathon will not only be creating transcriptions from high-resolution images of two seventeenth-century manuscripts, but they will also be tagging distinctive features of these manuscripts. This tagging will eventually make proper names, places, dates, doodles, marginalia, &c., findable through EMMO's search function.
Never fear, though! The work we all do at the transcribathon will be vetted by experts before it's released into the EMMO database, so newcomers to paleography needn't worry about producing flawless transcriptions.
And anyone is welcome to join in. There is no charge for participating—and no registration necessary. We're encouraging participants to bring their own laptops, although there will be a number of desktops and loaner laptops available at the event.
Please feel free to email me (cmbourne [at] vcu [dot] edu) if you have questions! In the meantime, you'll find a little FAQ below and the official events page here.
WHAT IS A TRANSCRIBATHON?
WHEN IS VCU'S TRANSCRIBATHON?
Friday, November 13, noon to 4 p.m. (NOTE: Participants are welcome to come and go as fits their schedule.)
WHERE WILL THE TRANSCRIBATHON BE HELD?
James Branch Cabell Library, Second-Floor Multipurpose Room (250), VCU Monroe Park Campus
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE?
The event is free and open to the public. We especially encourage undergraduate and graduate students to participate!
(HOW) SHOULD I PREPARE?
No prior experience with paleography or transcription software is required. However, if you and/or your students would like to do some warm-up exercises, you can find images of manuscript pages (and accurate transcriptions) on the Folger's "Practical Paleography" site. If you focus on American material, the Library of Virginia's "Making History: Transcribe" project offers a great transcription interface to practice.
WHAT WILL WE BE TRANSCRIBING?
We will be working on as-yet untranscribed pages of two manuscripts from the Folger's collection: V.a.103 (pictured above) and V.b.110. Both feature extracts from well-known literary works, as well as personal notes, quotations from classical authors, aphorisms, medical receipts, recipes, epitaphs, household bookkeeping, &c. The Folger's Curator of Manuscripts Heather Wolfe, who will be on hand for the VCU transcribathon, details the challenges and pleasures of working with both these manuscripts here.