Public invited to transcribe love letters from world war one

Nicola Sullivan, 14.02..2017
Stories of love and loss revealed by crowdsourcing project
People across Europe have been invited to transcribe love letters sent during the first world war as part of an online crowdsourcing campaign. 

The Love Transcribathon, launched by Europeana – a digital platform for cultural heritage – features more than 40 love stories depicted in handwritten letters and documents that have been donated by the public. 

The documents, which are written in English, French, German, Dutch, Croatian, Slovenian and Greek, have been digitised and put online. They uncover stories of romance, betrayal and heartbreak, and can be transcribed at   

Among the collection are letters sent between Louise Jayne, who was working in a weapons factory in southern France, and Auguste Longinotti, who was fighting on the front line. The correspondence lasted from 4 February 1915 to 8 March 1918 – a few months before Longinotti died.

Participants choose a story in their language, and can also transcribe any of the related documents. Their transcript is then added to the story so others can use it for research purposes. The website also provides tutorials in transcription and asks transcribers to log their location.
Ad Pollé, the collections manager at Europeana, said: “We want to be sure that the citizens of Europe feel themselves connected and assured that they are part of history. History is not just in the museums it is with the people.”
Love Transcribathon is part of Transcribe Europeana 1914-1918 – a wider online crowdsourcing campaign designed to transcribe a wide range of handwritten documents relating to the conflict. The project came about after the University of Oxford organised a series of collection days, which saw members of the public bring in items from the first world war for digitisation. This project was then rolled out all over Europe, and a decision was taken to transcribe the documents after it emerged that many people couldn’t read them.
“People brought in a lot of manuscripts, including personal diaries from soldiers and people who remained on the home front," says Pollé.

"There were thousands of letters in many languages. The manuscripts were such a great source of information because they were not in museums or archives, they were only with the people. To have these items on the internet really is a great adventure.”
Transcribe Europeana 1914-1918 has worked with more than 3,000 cultural and heritage institutions, which have organised collection days and shared their expertise on the conflict.