Volunteer transcription project celebrated
The University of Portsmouth’s GB1900 project transcribed more than 2.5 million items
A major project mapping place names celebrated its completion and announced its plans for the future at an event held in London on 9 July.
The crowdsourcing project GB1900 ( gb1900.org) was coordinated by a team based at the University of Portsmouth, and asked volunteers to transcribe place names and other elements marked on historic six-inch Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain, originally digitised by the National Library of Scotland.
GB1900 launched in September 2016 and closed to new transcriptions in January this year after more than 2.5 million items had been transcribed, creating arguably the largest historical gazetteer of Britain ever. It also located 300,000 pumps and wells, 300,000 historical footpaths and just about every windmill.
The data collected is already enabling users of maps on the National Library of Scotland’s website to search using place names including farms and even streets ( maps.nls.uk/geo/find). It was announced at the event that the data is now available for anyone to download under a Creative Commons licence from Portsmouth’s website A Vision of Britain Through Time ( visionofbritain.org.uk), and it is hoped that this will encourage new uses in the future.
Paula Aucott, senior research associate on the project, said: “We are providing a tool for other researchers, and it will be interesting to see what comes out of it.
“You will [soon] be able to search by place name on Vision of Britain, and it will tell you the historic county, registration district and parish of the place,” she added.
GB1900 grew out of the crowdsourcing project Cymru1900Wales, which launched in October 2013 using technology from Zooniverse ( cymru1900wales.
org). It closed in September 2016 but the material was incorporated into GB1900, established by partners including the University of Portsmouth, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, and People’s Collection Wales.
At the event, volunteers who worked on GB1900 were thanked. Five in particular were singled out. Dave Leach, Terry and Pam Aucott, Adrian Cable and Harm Bouwman contributed hundreds of hours, together chalking up hundreds of thousands of transcriptions.
Humphrey Southall, professor of historical geography at the University of Portsmouth, said: “The volunteers have been amazing. Some of them worked 15–20 hours a week on the project.” Leach, a keen family and local historian, told Who
Do You Think You Are? Magazine that he had initially concentrated on areas that his family came from: “I’m from Wigan, and my extended family spreads throughout Lancashire. I started with where my grandfather was brought up around Darwen.”
More than 1,000 people signed up to help GB1900, many of them readers of this magazine, which highlighted the project in its Transcription Tuesday event in 2017. Among them was Deborah Gorman, who said: “My great grandparents were from rural Suffolk, and they moved down to Kent and helped build many of the naval buildings at Chatham. My mum used to tell me about it, but it was wonderful being able to transcribe that area.”
We are providing a tool for other researchers, and it will be interesting to see what comes out of it
Left to right: volunteers Adrian Cable, Terry and Pam Aucott, Harm Bouwman and Dave Leach