Transcribing ancient handwritten documents from historical figures is considered an extremely arduous and time consuming job. Fortunately, scholars working for The Jeremy Bentham Project boast that they have discovered a more productive and cheaper alternative through crowdsourcing.
An English philosopher and political activist who died in 1832, Jeremy Bentham made it clear in his will to preserve his skeleton with his favorite clothes on. To date, he sits calmly on a hall of at University College London where he is considered as “present but not voting”.
The Bentham Project, which aims to transcribe the “Enlightenment manuscripts” of Jeremy Bentham, was initiated last September 2010. Taking advantage of the benefits of crowdsourcing, hundreds of volunteers have offered their help to transcribe over 40,000 unpublished Bentham manuscripts which were uploaded on-line.
The University College London has already published 27 volumes of his manuscripts, with more expected to follow thanks to the use of crowdsourcing. Moreover, project editors are working overtime in seeking help in transcribing parts that have been scanned and available online. After almost four months of the experiment, 350 registered volunteers, and counting, have already deciphered 435 transcripts.
“The project is a service to the scholarly community. I’m no Bentham scholar, but I am interested in history, so it’s interesting to look at the addenda and deletions in the manuscripts and generally follow the thought processes of a man living in 18th-century England,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I usually take about 15 to 20 minutes of my lunch hour if the weather is bad or if I don’t feel like going out to do it.”Karen Mason, Librarian Medgar Evers College Brooklyn and project volunteer