The Clements Library website includes events, exhibits, subject guides, newsletter issues, library staff, and more.

Home » Give » Transcription Project

Transcription Project

The Clements Library welcomes volunteers to assist with transcribing historical documents. As part of the library’s digitization program, we have started to make selected archival collections available online. The next step to make these materials fully available for research is to create transcriptions for each page.

Once a collection is completely transcribed, the transcripts will be reviewed by staff and then added to the existing digital collection. By providing full-text transcriptions of these handwritten documents, we will be able to greatly improve research access to these collections.

Many thanks to the Digital Content & Collections team at the U-M Library, who host all of our digital collections and integrate the transcriptions into the collections when they are completed.

Completed Projects

The Jonathan Chase papers contain letters and documents relating to the services of Colonel Jonathan Chase, of the 13th and 15th New Hampshire Militia regiments, during the Revolutionary War. These record Chase’s involvement with recruiting soldiers and providing supplies for the army during the war.

The Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society papers consist of materials collected by the society, including correspondence to and from various members about slavery, fugitive slaves, the conditions of freemen, and other progressive issues; printed annual reports; and other items.

How to Join

Are you interested in volunteering with the Clements Library transcription project? Please follow the steps below to sign up for our project.

  1. Go to
  2. Click the Sign Up link at the top of the page.
  3. Enter a user name, email address, and password to register.
  4. Once you have created your account, fill out this form to be added to the Clements Library project. Clements staff will set up your access within 2 business days.

Contact us at if you have any questions.

Getting Started

Once you sign up as a volunteer and have been added to our projects, you can access the Clements Library FromThePage projects

  1. On the collection page, select an item to transcribe by clicking the “Pages That Need Transcription” button.
  2. In the item view, click the About tab to see a brief description of the item. This information may help with identifying subject matter and proper names.
  3. In the Read tab, click an image title link to start working on an individual page. This opens the transcription window.
  4. Select viewing options from the buttons at the top of the window. Toggle “fullscreen” on or off, and choose whether the image will be to the left, right, top or bottom of the text box. Use the page controls to zoom in and out or rotate the image.
  5. Begin transcribing the page by entering text in the text box next to the image.  
  6. Transcribe as much as you can on a page, but feel free to move on if a particular page is too challenging. Someone else can take over where you left off.
  7. Click the Save Changes button when you are done.
  8. Keep the “Needs Review” box checked so that another transcriber can check your work.
  9. Any user can build upon another’s work by adding to or editing a transcription. To do so, use the “Pages That Need Review” button to find transcriptions ready for review. Read the original closely and compare it to the transcription. Make any needed corrections and save changes.
  10. Use the comments feature at the bottom of the page to leave notes or questions for library staff. You can also contact us at with any questions. 

Guidelines for Transcribing

The goal of transcription is to reproduce the text as close as possible to the way it appears on the original letter or document.

  • Spelling: Use original spelling if possible.
  • Capitalization: Do not modernize for readability.
  • Punctuation: Reproduce punctuation as it appears in the original manuscript. Often, writers will use a dash to represent a pause; please reproduce these as ” – “. Do not add punctuation that does not appear in the original manuscript.
  • Line Breaks: Hit return/enter once at the end of each line. Two returns indicate a new paragraph, which is usually indented in the original.
  • Underlines, strikethroughs, and other text styles: Use standard html text styles. Examples:
    • <u>Underline</u> = Underline
    • <strike>Strikethrough</strike> = Strikethrough
    • <i>Italic</i> = Italic
  • Special characters: Special characters and letters with diacritics can be inserted using your computer’s character map (Windows) or character viewer (MacOS).
  • Editorial comments: Place editorial comments regarding marginalia, crosshatching, etc. in curly brackets { }. Examples:
    • {The following text is crosshatched over the previous text}
    • {The following text is written perpendicularly in the margin of this page.}
  • Illegible text: Indicate illegible readings in single square brackets. If you have an educated guess, please place it in brackets with a question mark. Examples: [ ], [?], [possibility?].
  • Tables: Some documents and letters may contain tabular data that needs additional markup to display correctly. Please see Encoding Tables for an explanation of encoding for tables.