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How you can help the City of Seattle document and decode history

The Seattle Municipal Archives department works to transcribe documents that tell Seattle's story- and now, they're asking for your help.

SEATTLE — Seattle is rich with history- and the archivists at the Seattle Municipal Archives keep it all safe and accounted for. But as dedicated as they are, this time, they need some help.

Part of the job as an archivist is transcribing old documents, both printed and written. Usually, the archivists use transcription software that makes it easy for them to decode handwriting or decipher old printing. However, sometimes the software gets hung-up on handwriting, which can be messy or hard to read. That's where you come in.

The Seattle Municipal Archives is asking for your help in transcribing some of their old documents. It's easy to do- all you have to do is go to FromThePage and make a free login. From there, you'll have access to documents the archivists are struggling with. You can try your hand- er, eye- at transcribing these yourself.

"You know, you don't have to be an expert at handwriting," reference archivist Jeanie Fisher says. "It's fun to just give it a try. They can collaborate, trying to figure it out...and then we do some quality control here before we upload it."

Credit: KING 5
The Seattle Municipal Archives department has hundreds of documents that need transcribing.

Transcribing the documents is a fun way to learn about the history of Seattle, as well. You might find letters complaining about livestock in the streets, or petitions for a new firehouse in Queen Anne. The documents span all the way back to the early 1800s, so there's a lot of ground to cover.

Plus, if you transcribe, you aren't just helping the City of Seattle archivists. You're helping other history buffs as well. These documents will be available for everyone to read and learn from.

"You know, if you're researching a person who lived in Seattle, a family member or a person you're learning about, perhaps they submitted a petition to the city," Fisher says. "And this is the only way to know if that name appears in our records if it's transcribed."

The Seattle Municipal Archives isn't the only place asking for transcribing help- many archives and libraries across the country are turning to eagle-eyed readers to help as well.

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