This week Australia is celebrating National Volunteer Week. According to Volunteering Australia, every day over six million Aussies give up some of their time. There are all sorts of ways that volunteers contribute to our community. Dedicated members of the Trove community help make our history searchable by editing the electronically translated text in Trove’s digitised newspapers. As you’ll see, our text correctors are inspired by the newspapers and motivated by a desire to help.
Thousands of volunteers have helped correct hundreds of millions of lines of text in Trove - this equates to hundreds of additional staff members working full-time hours to improve Trove's search!
Wanting to find out what keeps them motivated, I sent some questions to a small group of high profile text correctors.
How did you first discover Trove?
Word of mouth brought many of them to Trove for the first time. Others found it through searching. NeilHamilton heard of Trove thanks to an ABC television program.
What attracted you to correcting text?
annmanley believes in a bit of karma. If she corrects something in Trove that might be of use to someone, then someone somewhere else might have corrected something of use to her. noelwoodhouse likes to ensure names are correct so they can be found in searches, while NeilHamilton says it’s great contributing to a national resource (and it’s also addictive!). As Catessa puts it, 'It is no use having the information online if it cannot be found'.
JohnWarren says he only really does births, deaths and marriages (BDM), and lately more specifically wedding and obituary articles. As Trove’s current number one text corrector with over 2.5 million lines of text corrections under his belt, JohnWarren has contributed a great deal. In the early days he’d select a paper at random and then correct all the relevant articles, such as over 5000 funeral notices for the Barrier Miner. These days he’s concentrating on the newspapers of central western NSW as he is 'an old Orange boy'.
Catessa started out correcting things for work, and then for some family history. But when the Süd Australische Zeitung was digitised, her focus shifted to that: 'As I appear to be the only person in Australia both able and willing to interpret the Fraktur type [of the newspaper] and the 19th century spelling of German, I stick mostly with this. Either I do it, or it does not get done.'
The husband and wife team of maurielyn have corrected across a wide range of subjects, as well as lots of serialised novels and short stories by Australian, English and American authors.
How do you choose what to correct?
NeilHamilton chose to focus on the Canberra Times in 2011 as the centenary celebrations were looming. He says it was 'an ideal time to research the early history of the city and at the same time edit the articles I was reading'.
noelwoodhouse concentrates on the Rockhampton Bulletin as he has lived in Rockhampton all his life. He is working chronologically through the papers of his lifetime and corrects mostly family notices, social notes, and music examination, Eisteddfod and school examination results, as well as any article containing names of local people. Other types of articles that interest him include those relating to the history of Rockhampton and the lead up of World War II. He also likes to learn about what went on when he was a boy and too young to remember events.
PenrithLibraryVolunteers is a Trove account for volunteers of Penrith City Library who correct text from the Nepean Times to make it accessible to local family historians. Volunteers from the library had been working on indexing the Nepean Times before the digitised version appeared on Trove, so one of the librarians trained the volunteers to undertake text correction. One volunteer has been focusing on the war years and spent all of 2013 working on papers from 1914. They’re now up to 1915. Another volunteer is working on the obituaries and family notices, while another is working on Council meetings for the years where they don’t have the original minutes.
annmanley often searches for family notices which have been included in the advertising part of Trove’s newspapers, and tags them so they are easier to find. Other things of interest include shipwrecks and shark attacks.
Why have you kept correcting?
NeilHamilton finds text correcting very informative as well as enjoyable, and hopes that his editing is helping other people’s research or to find their Canberra family history. Likewise, noelwoodhouse continues to text correct because he thoroughly enjoys it and hopes that it will keep him occupied for many years to come. Catessa jokes, 'Maybe I am an obsessive neurotic. That would help'.
JohnWarren keeps editing to help others find births, deaths and marriages. Lately he has been adding links to Trove articles from Ancestry records, and garnering favourable feedback. annmanley keeps correcting because there’s always more to find, particularly when regional papers of interest are digitised and added to Trove.
As mentioned before, maurielyn focus on novels and short stories. They keep correcting because a lot of these stories are out of print and the stories and authors are mostly unknown to current readers. Once they have corrected a story, they download the corrected text, set it up in a suitable format and send it to Project Gutenberg Australia where they are available to download for free. To date they have sent over 250 novels and stories to Project Gutenberg.
What's your favourite Trove item?
PenrithLibraryVolunteers don’t have a favourite article, however they love the social aspect of the Nepean Times; the concerts, reminiscences of the early days, marriages, births, disease and death, businesses and of course the weather! noelwoodhouse doesn’t have a favourite Trove article either, but is very grateful that Trove was created and wishes it went further than 1954. This is a common wish of Trove users, however copyright restrictions make it difficult to go beyond 1954 without special permission.
Catessa also doesn’t have a favourite article, but likes reading about what people thought was happening at the time, and the trivia of everyday life which often doesn’t make its way into history. JohnWarren’s favourite article is a Goulburn obituary for Monty the police tracker.
Want to join in?
If you would like to join in on the text correction fun, go right ahead. You can sign up to create an account with Trove, which means you can keep track of your corrections, or you can correct anonymously without an account. Not sure where to start? Read our text correcting guidelines for suggestions on how to choose articles and begin correcting.
This blog was first published on the National Library's Trove blog site in May 2014.