From Manuscript Transcription to Poetry Performances: Cultural Heritage Crowdsourcing in Practice
Providing free access to cultural heritage in a digital environment and introducing opportunities for participation to preserve, replenish, and create cultural heritage collections is mostly regarded as a mutually beneficial opportunity. In simplified terms, cultural heritage and research institutions stand to benefit from collective intelligence and creativity, as well as to obtain help in processing digitised collections while the general public benefits from being introduced to the richness of diverse cultural heritage, opportunity to share their knowledge and acquire a new one, and participate in heritage volunteering.
In 2014, the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art of the University of Latvia (ILFA, a holder of Latvia’s largest folklore collection) started its first crowdsourcing action dealing with folklore manuscript transcription. Since then volunteers have spent more than 730 days or 17,520 hours in the digital platform (lv100.garamantas.lv) to transcribe more than 100,000 manuscript pages thus providing a prominent help to make folklore collections searchable through digital archive garamantas.lv.
In 2017, a new project was started with an aim to develop crowdsourcing tools for several other kinds of interaction, carry out targeted actions to involve public stakeholders into joint knowledge production and study volunteering experiences, including motivation and practices. By the end of the project in August 2019, six crowdsourcing initiatives were launched dealing with ethnographic surveying (Archive Asks) and personal calendar, poetry reading (Read Aloud #1, #2, #3), and archive sounds (Sing with the Archives). These platforms along with other participatory tools offered by ILFA are represented in the website iesaisties.lv.
The paper will critically examine ILFA’s five years-long experience in crowdsourcing practice by comparing the methodology and results of different crowdsourcing actions, analyzing success factors and revealing challenges and fails. Particular attention will be given to the ethnographic and statistical analysis of engagement and participation, as well as to the use of tools developed within projects in the education (and their potential for further re-use).