The Library of Congress Needs Help Transcribing Lincoln's Letters and Other Historic Documents

Jerod Slay, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Jerod Slay, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Jerod Slay, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you love history? Do you want to help make historic documents accessible to other history buffs around the world? The Library of Congress has just the task for you. They're currently looking for volunteers to transcribe Abraham Lincoln’s letters and papers, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton’s diaries, memoirs of Civil War veterans, and many other important artifacts that have been digitized and uploaded as photos.

The goal is to digitize these documents, many of which are hard for computers to read, so that they become keyword-searchable. Some of the letters are faded and written in heavily slanted cursive, so volunteers may need to have a good eye to decipher the handwriting. More than 40,000 documents and letters were written by or to Abraham Lincoln alone, and the library is hoping to have 10,000 images transcribed by the end of this year. New material will continually be added to site, including documents associated with Rosa Parks, the woman’s suffrage movement, American poets, and the history of psychiatry.

All you need is a computer and internet access to help out. Just log on to, the library’s crowdsourcing site, and create an account on the registration page. Then click the “Let's go!” button on the homepage and start exploring the historic artifacts in need of transcription. When you’re done typing out the content of the document into the blank text field, you can submit it to be reviewed and approved by another registered volunteer.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden says it’s a great way to learn about history while serving the public good. “The pages awaiting transcription at represent some of the diversity of the Library’s treasure, 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,” Hayden said in a statement.

For more detailed instructions on how to help, visit the library’s guide here.