How Our Volunteers Shed Light on Women’s History
By Caitlin Haynes, coordinator of the Smithsonian Transcription Center
What was life like for American teenagers in the 1800s? What types of beauty products did women use in the 1910s? How much math do you really need to know to become a NASA astronaut? The answers to these questions and more are held within the Smithsonian's collections. But with millions of historical items within our museums, finding this information can be challenging. That's where you can play a part. Digital volunteers in the Smithsonian's Transcription Center help unlock the Smithsonian's historical materials. And you can join in!
Transcription—the process of typing out the words written on a document—makes the text on each historical page easier to read and search online. As the Coordinator of the Transcription Center, I get to work with more than 18,000 people around the world to transcribe historic diaries, letters, and magazines. Together, we're helping everyone learn more about the past.
For Women's History Month, Transcription Center volunteers transcribed more than 4,000 pages of material from women artists, scientists, and leaders. Included were notes from astronaut Sally Ride, personal letters and girlhood diaries from the 1880s to the 1950s, and advertisements for hair cream in the early 1900s. By transcribing and reviewing these documents, Transcription Center volunteers helped share the contributions of women and girls throughout history. Now, anyone interested can learn more about Sally Ride's experience as the first American woman in space. They can also read through the (relatable) highs and lows of teenage friendship in the 1880s diary of artist Olive Rush.
Caitlin Haynes works as the coordinator of the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Haynes collaborates with digital volunteers and Smithsonian colleagues to explore, improve, and share the Institution's historical collections.
Astronaut Sally Ride. NASA.