The Challenge
Historic documents often contain handwriting, old fonts, or other text formats that OCR software can't handle. We need humans--from volunteers to paid staff--to read the document images and transcribe what they see into databases which can be searched, analyzed, crawled, and used by researchers. Until now those efforts have required organizations either to outsource indexing to external partners or to cobble together their own off-line or on-site systems.

Our goal is to build a tool that can be used by libraries, archives, museums, historical sites, genealogy and heritage societies to run their own indexing projects, under their own control.

The Invitation
We'd like to invite libraries, archives, and museums; historical, genealogy, and heritage societies to participate in the project. Right now we need advice and examples of indexing projects that real organizations would like to run. This would allow us to work with an eye on real data outside the UK parish registers and English census records which have been driving our development up to the present.

What we need from you

Project definitions including:
    Sample image files (around 5 per project in the format you'd use for access copies),
    A maximal spec for the data you'd like to collect,
    A minimal set of required fields you need, and
    A description of the material and goals of the project.

In addition to example indexing project definitions, we need:
 *   Funding to continue development. Our top priority is building a tool for our funders' indexing projects at FreeREG and FreeCEN. Building features outside of the needs common to those projects will require more funds. 
  *  Code contributions and help with design and programming.
  *  Publicity and endorsement to spread the word about Open Source Indexing.

The Tool
We're basing our online indexing tool on Scribe, a tool developed by the Citizen Science Alliance from their Old Weather project and deployed by the Bodleian Library for What's the score at the Bodleian. More recently, Scribe has been customized by New York Public Library Labs for their Ensemble database of the performing arts.

We're augmenting the Scribe transcription system by adding a database that allows users to search and view records created by the indexing tool. We're also adding support for and offline/legacy transcripts imported via CSV files. Improvements to the data-entry UI and a system for reporting on indexing activity and managing volunteers will round out the effort. (See the data flow diagram.)

The entire system will be released under an Apache license. (In fact, the source code under development already is.)

Ben Brumfield