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Welcome

In this newsletter, Digital Curator Dr Mia Ridge and Research Software Engineer Alex Mendes provide an update on the Library's latest crowdsourcing project, In the Spotlight. Read on to find out more about how volunteers are making historic playbills more findable, and get a sense of what they've shared along the way...

Shine a light on past entertainments with In the Spotlight

People who've already explored In the Spotlight might have noticed a line of text just above the 'Save and Continue' button: 'Seen something interesting? Add a note'. Those comments end up in our inbox, and provide a lovely glimpse of our volunteers at work.

Insights from your comments

Since the project began, we've received over 1900 comments. Some of them simply tell us that an image is blank or upside-down, but many others share interesting findings. We love hearing from you, and we've been highlighting individual comments on Twitter (@LibCrowds) and on our project forum.

Comments have pointed out spectacles including 'a Terrific Eruption of Mount Vesuvius, accompanied by TORRENTS OF BURNING LAVA' and a 'Serpent vomiting Fire'. New amenities mentioned include lighting ('600 wax lights and a new set of gold chandeliers' or new gas lighting) and the addition of backs to seats. Famous actors spotted include Sarah Siddons, Jenny Lind and Ira Aldridge, while Mr Kean has caused all kinds of trouble.

Image of a windmill from a playbillLots of comments are about performances that aren't plays, from hornpipes to tableaux to ballets, songs, speeches, fireworks, scientific demonstrations, performing animals, panoramas, conjuring and juggling tricks, lists of scenery, gun tricks, pantomimes, acrobatics, excerpts from plays, and even the 'reenactment of the Coronation'! We're thinking hard about the best way to deal with them (and with playbills that don't include a year), and will post to the forum and twitter to ask for your ideas soon.
 

General updates

Since we first posted the link, there have been over 4,700 visitors from 91 countries. About 80% are primarily English-speakers, with Russian, German and French the next most popular languages.

We've had over 42,000 contributions from over 630 participants (with 1499 participants registered on the platform overall). Together, they've helped complete 34 projects by undertaking countless marking and transcription tasks to make genres, dates and play titles searchable.

Each project is based on a specific volume of playbills from a regional theatre or theatres. The fastest projects were 'Theatre Royal, Bristol 1819-1823 (Vol. 2)', completed in 8 days, 31 minutes, with 'Miscellaneous Plymouth theatres 1796-1882 (Vol. 1)' a close second at 8 days, 5 hours, 30 mins. We currently have playbills from theatres in Hull, Nottingham - Oswestry or Plymouth - which will be completed first?

Recent blog posts include a fascinating story from PhD student and In the Spotlight participant Edward Mills tracing an ancient custom through the Library's digitised collections in The Flitch of Bacon: An Unexpected Journey Through the Collections of the British Library, and Christian Algar on the 'rich pageant' of historical playbills.

You might have noticed some small changes to the navigation and data pages as we updated the software this week. Most of the changes were behind the scenes, providing additional admin and analysis functions to ensure that data sent off to the catalogue is as accurate as possible.

Maps of 91 countries
 

 

New volumes available

Our wonderful volunteers were busy over Easter so we've added new volumes to keep up with demand. Look out for theatres in Huddersfield-Ledbury 1783-1864 plus new tasks for Dublin, Bath and more.

Thank you!

We're grateful to everyone who's made a large or small contribution, but particular thanks to Barbara G, David Y, Dina S, Ervins S, Jo B, John L, Katharine S, Kathryn P-S, Lisa G, Maria Antonia V-S, Martin B, mistrec, Olga K, Raphael H, Rosie C, Sharon E, sylvmorris1, Tabitha M, thtrisdead, Tif D, Vijay V and various anonymous posters for your comments. Your comments are also helping us work out how to tweak some of the interfaces so people can let us know about a problem with a task by clicking a button, so expect more improvements in the future!

Help put history In the Spotlight

Step into the Spotlight

It's easy to try out In the Spotlight - you don't need to register, so you can start marking out the titles of plays or transcribing the titles, dates or genres of plays straight away. Give it a go and let us know what you find!

Get in touch.

We'd love to hear from you with any questions or comments on this newsletter or crowdsourcing projects at the British Library. Just email digitalresearch@bl.uk and we'll get back to you.

Copyright © 2018 LibCrowds, All rights reserved.


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