You Can Help the National Archives Keep a Photographic Record of World War I


If you’re a student of history, you’ve probably scoped out the vast resources of the National Archives, which was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 as a government repository of information, documents, and photos that chronicle our past. Today, the organization estimates it maintains a permanent account of 2 to 5 percent of all federal records.

Curating all of that information is an outsized task, which is why the NA often calls upon the general public to assist in organizing information as part of their Citizen Archivist Missions program.

One of their latest needs: Preserving photo captions from World War I.

The NA has a trove of more than 5000 photographs from the war that have been digitized and are accompanied by text. In order to make them searchable online, the files need to have their captions tagged using keywords and transcribed by a human. The photos are comprised of equipment, personnel, training locations, and more.

If World War I isn’t quite your niche, the NA has a number of other projects in need of attention. There are service cards documenting the activity of nurses between 1861 and 1865, military service award records from 1942 to 1963, and even a court case involving Muhammad Ali’s status as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, among others.

The work is unpaid, but the rewards—preserving events of significant historical importance—are bountiful. You can register as a Citizen Archivist on the National Archives site, where you can also find tutorials on how to complete projects.

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