Help GB1900 transcribe all British place-names

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22 May 2017
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1900-72421.png GB1900 project website
GB1900, a crowd-sourcing project to transcribe all the place names of Great Britain, from a single set of historical maps, has issued a call for transcription volunteers.

GB1900, a crowd-sourcing project to transcribe all the place names of Great Britain, from a single set of historical maps, has issued a call for transcription volunteers, writes Paula Aucott of the University of Portsmouth.

Launched in September 2016, the project incorporates the data collected during an earlier project called Cymru1900Wales, focused solely on Wales. The overall aim of GB1900 project is to create the largest ever historical gazetteer of British place-names.

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Volunteers are asked to transcribe not just place-names, but all the text visible on the maps, with the exception of height, distance and area information (i.e. numbers). This will create a much more detailed list of historical place names than has ever existed before, and it will be made available under a Creative Commons licence for everyone to use.

How to get involved in GB1900

New volunteers are always welcome. Participation just requires a computer with an internet connection, so transcription can be done as and when and where it suits the volunteer. To join up, just go to the Login page on the project website via the top menu bar, click the “Sign up” button on the right beneath the map window and create a login profile with your email address.

Once you are logged in click “Transcribe” in the top menu bar and you can start straight away. There is a brief tutorial on the site itself available in both English and Welsh to help you get started. A support site is also provided with a more detailed English version of the tutorial plus answers to lots of frequently asked questions.

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The site uses Ordnance Survey six-inch to one mile maps published around 1900 and has an additional OpenStreetMap layer to help with orientation. Once you find a name or other piece of text on the map which has not already been marked by a “pin”, click at the bottom of the first letter of the text. A form will then pop-up above the text, into which you should type in the text exactly as you see it on the map. You can also add information from personal knowledge: alternative names, memories or comments associated with that particular place. Once you click on “Done”, a new brown pin will be created on the map.

To ensure accuracy, we need volunteers to confirm existing pins. You cannot confirm pins you created, but unconfirmed pins created by other volunteers will show up as green. Click on any green pin and the same pop-up box appears, into which you again transcribe the text from the map. Each pin needs two exactly matching transcriptions to confirm it and when it gets them it will turn purple. If the confirmation does not match, the pin will still appear green to everyone else, but will turn brown for you as each volunteer can only edit a pin once. If a third person enters a transcription where two already exist and it matches either of the first two transcriptions, the pin will be confirmed.

New call for volunteers

As the project has been running for eight months we are now reaching a point when most areas have most of their initial transcriptions. However, there are many gaps, the largest being in the north of Scotland, and we still need many more confirmations, especially in Wales. Those gaps in Wales and northern Scotland contain many Welsh and Gaelic names, and special buttons are provided in the pop-up box for the accented characters sometimes used in both those languages. For more detailed information on where work is still needed, monthly snapshots provide a more complete picture of pin coverage visible at a smaller scale than we can show on GB1900 itself.

This project is a collaboration between the Great Britain Historical GIS project based at the University of Portsmouth, The National Library of Scotland, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, the National Library of Wales and the People's Collection Wales.