Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
As we add tags or transcriptions to records - all of those words are added to our catalog and it helps improve search results. The added benefit is that we’re unlocking the sometimes difficult to read text for all to understand. By adding this metadata to our Catalog, it also becomes searchable in Google or other search engines, which helps to make our records more discoverable online. We like to say that as we tag and transcribe, we are unlocking history.
Missions are suggestions of records for you to work on. You can always search our catalog for records to tag, transcribe and add comments.
Featured Records are single records that need to be transcribed. Records in this list are replaced soon after they are completed and this list allows us to highlight individual records that may not fit into a larger transcription mission.
The quickest way to tell if a record has been transcribed or tagged is to open up the individual record and look at the thumbnail pages beneath the viewer. If you see a blue tag on the thumbnail image, that means there is a contribution on that page. If the record has multiple pages, each page with a contribution will have a blue tag. But just because a page has a blue tag does not mean the transcription is complete. You can always open up the page to see if the transcription is complete or needs revision. Additionally, if you skip to the middle or the end of a list of records in a mission, often they have not yet been transcribed or tagged.
You can delete any tags you’ve contributed. Your tags appear with an X to the right of the tag. Simply click on the X to remove any tags. If you encounter a tag written by someone else that violates our Citizen Contribution Policy please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In general, we encourage Citizen Archivists to transcribe exactly what you see in the document, including abbreviations, names, dates, and even misspelled words. If the misspelled word is a well known name, place, or event, we encourage you to add the correct spelling as a tag or a comment. You could even include the correct spelling in [brackets] within the transcription. This ensures that the document will still come up in a search result for that name, place, or event.
If you find a typo in the title of the record, or in the record's description in the Catalog, please contact the staff listed in the Contact(s) section of the record.
Once you click save, your work is done! Your transcription has been added to our catalog and shortly all the words you typed will be searched every time someone conducts a search at catalog.archives.gov. We suggest saving your work at regular intervals when transcribing.
The comment field is a free text box where we invite you to share your knowledge about the records, tell other users about related records, or share what you might expect to find in a particular item, file unit, or series.
While we review contributions and regularly respond to comments and questions, you will not receive a notification of a reply to your comment. If you would like to receive a response or have a question about the Catalog, please email us at email@example.com
We do not make assignments or have deadlines. You simply sign in to your account in the catalog and tag, transcribe or make comments on the records. Do as little or as much as you want. Everything helps us.
Every transcription program is run a little differently. Our program was developed around our Catalog that already had millions of digitized records. We use more of a Wikipedia model for contributions and editing. Anyone who is logged in can transcribe and edit another transcriber's work. The National Archives does not review these citizen contributed transcriptions or consider them closed to further editing. We think it is a bonus when additional eyes review a transcription. They may add small details, figure out illegible words or and sometimes fix the format, please do not be concerned about these edits - the most important piece is transcribing the words found in the document.
However, we prefer you do not edit another person’s transcriptions for formatting changes only. The purpose of transcription is to increase word searchability within the Catalog; altering the format will not help searchability. Instead we encourage you to transcribe a new page and help us unlock history.
If you encounter anything that violates our Citizen Contribution Policy please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We do not track the number of hours a Citizen Archivist participates and we can not create a report to document volunteer hours. We cannot sign off on your hours or act as a supervisor for a volunteer project. However, registered users can view a list of records they tagged or transcribed in the My Accounts page.
This is our policy because every record in the Catalog varies in length and complexity and our system doesn't keep track of the time you are on the site. There isn’t a formula to calculate pages transcribed to a number of hours; index cards could take one minute to transcribe, while 18th Century handwritten records could take an hour or more to transcribe. If you would like to negotiate your work with your school, we suggest you share the following:
1. Explain that we are unable to certify your work in any way.
2. Your work is tracked in your account. You could provide a screenshot of this.
3. We suggest keeping a running list of the URL of every page that you transcribe. Copy and paste the URL of each page as you transcribe on the transcription contribution page.
4. You could keep track of your own hours and include the URLs of each record you worked on during this time.
National Archives Catalog user accounts are now managed through the government system, Login.gov. Login.gov uses two-factor authentication, and stronger passwords, that meet new National Institute of Standards of Technology requirements for secure validation and verification as part of the Catalog account login process. By using login.gov, you’ll get an extra layer of security to help protect your National Archives Catalog account against password compromises. Learn more at our Login.gov help center.
If you established a Catalog account before we launched the new Catalog in November 2022, your existing account still does and will exist. We will migrate your existing National Archives Catalog account for you, and all of your existing contributions (tags, transcriptions, and comments) will remain associated or linked with it. In order to do this, sign up for a login.gov account using the email address you used to establish your Catalog account. If you are unsure of the email address, please contact email@example.com
Once you set up a login.gov account, we’ll link it back to your Catalog account. The only difference is you’ll use your login.gov email address, password and a one-time security code to sign into the Catalog.
I transcribed a document yesterday, but it's not showing up in the mission today. What happened to it?
We remove completed records from the missions so that other users don't have to click too far to find a record that they can work on. It is still available in the Catalog, it is just removed from the mission because it is completed. If you want to continue to work on this record, go to your contributions page to find the record again.
Yes! A transcription or tagging event can work really well in a classroom, as a library program, a community volunteer event and more. Please contact the Community Managers at firstname.lastname@example.org and they can provide you with instructions and handouts for your event.
For best performance, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Safari web browsers are recommended to access the Catalog and contribute as a Citizen Archivist.
Have a question that isn't answered here? Contact us at email@example.com