juli windsor

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♔ Royal July 2017 Photo Challenge ♕

[26/31] - Favourite Royal Family Moments.

♔ Royal July 2017 Photo Challenge ♕

[29/31] - Favourite Royal Family Photo (as a group photo).

↳ This official photograph, released by Buckingham Palace to mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, shows Queen Elizabeth II with her two youngest grandchildren and her five great-grandchildren in the Green Drawing Room, part of Windsor Castle’s semi-State apartments. The children are: James, Viscount Severn (left), Lady Louise (second left), Mia Tindall (holding The Queen’s handbag), Savannah Phillips (third right), Isla Phillips (right), Prince George (second right), and in The Queen’s arms and in the tradition of Royal portraiture, the youngest great-grandchild, Princess Charlotte.

Virtual Volunteering, Retirement Project 2.0

Lord Lothian to Franklin D. Roosevelt, 7/9/1940(Transcription tool view)

Our earlier posts about the National Archives Catalog Citizen Archivist Transcription Tool generated a lot of interest and even more questions, so we figured there’s no better way to learn about it than from hearing from one of the more active Citizen Archivists:

(This interview comes from Suzanne Isaacs of the Digital Public Access Branch in the Office of Innovation, and member of the Today’s Document team.)


Recently I met Alex Smith through an email he sent to catalog@nara.gov. Through our correspondence I learned that he began transcribing our records as a retirement project. I was really interested in transcription through the eyes of a Citizen Archivist and Mr. Smith was kind enough to answer my questions.

Tell us a little about yourself – What did you do before retirement?

I was a college administrator before retirement. For 30 years I was the registrar at Susquehanna University (so on a small scale I am used to dealing with records), and prior to that I was the director of continuing education. I received a B.A. in English at Bowdoin College and an M. A. in English at the University of Chicago. I have always loved history, but I have never done much work involving primary documents before.

How did you find out about transcription in the National Archives’ Catalog?

Late last year I read a brief newspaper article about the transcription project (I think that it was in the New York Times arts and entertainment section), and it immediately got my attention. Like many people on the verge of retirement, I was increasingly concerned about how I was going to handle the void created by no longer having to go to the office, and this project seemed fascinating to me. It really appeared to be an ideal option – I could do it from home or from the library at whatever pace I chose, I had the opportunity to pursue topics that interested me (a common question I get from friends is “Do they send you documents to transcribe?” and I explain that the transcriber is in complete control of finding whatever material which he or she would like to do, whether it’s Al Capone, Harry Truman’s diary, or First Ladies’ recipes. The same flexibility pertains to the length of the document. If I have a quarter of an hour of free time with no particular way to fill it, I can log on and transcribe a telegram or a couple of menus or one of the index cards for the Office of Indian Affairs and have a sense of productivity rather than of having just wasted time), if I needed to take time off for a vacation or for family matters I would not inconvenience anyone, and the project allowed me to go on learning (and in an entertaining manner at that). When I logged in for the first time this June I found that the reality was even better than my expectations had been.

How many have you transcribed?

According to the My Account feature which your website has, I have entered 576 documents during the month of June, which is the first month I have worked on this project.

How do you select your records for transcription? Do you have a favorite subject area?

When I started I thought that I was going to select records by favorite topics (e.g. I have a long-standing interest in the Titanic, so I entered that as one of my first topics). However, I have found that one of the major pleasures of this process to me is coming upon the unknown. I began by entering the topic “telegram,” since I thought that most telegrams would be relatively short and in printed form, so they would be a good choice for easing my way into transcription. 

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