In this newsletter, we introduce In the Spotlight, share some of our successes and celebrate the contributions of a popular georeferencer. Read on to find out more!

You're invited to step In the Spotlight

We've hinted at it, and now it's here - In the Spotlight is our new crowdsourcing project. Our goal is to bring past performances from the British Library’s historic playbills collection to life. You can transcribe titles, dates and genres for individual playbills while exploring this fascinating collection.

The original playbills were handed out or posted outside theatres, and like modern nightclub flyers, they weren't designed to last. They're so delicate they can't be handled, so providing better access to digitised versions will help academic, local and family history researchers.

Playbill from the Theatre Royal, Bristol.

Individual playbills in the historical collection are currently hard to find, as the Library's catalogue contains only brief information about the place and dates for each volume of playbills. By marking up and transcribing titles, dates, genres, participant volunteers will make each playbill - and individual performances - findable online. Right now we're featuring volumes of playbills from Nottingham and Theatres Royal in Dublin and Bristol.

Take a step Into the Spotlight at and discover how people entertained themselves before Netflix!

Help put history In the Spotlight

In the Spotlight in centre stage

Since we launched, we've had some great feedback, questions and comments on our forum and on social media. Twitter users like @e_stanf shared fantastic images they'd discovered, and we even made The Stage and the Russian media!

Sylvia Morris @sylvmorris1 has written two blog posts, International Migrants Day: Ira Aldridge and theatre and British Library project enlists public to transcribe historical playbills. A question about plays being 'for the benefit of' led to the Wikipedia entry for 'benefit performances' being updated with one of our images.

Questions from our participants include a request from a PhD student for participants to collect references to plays set at fairs. Share your curiosities and questions on our forum or twitter - we love hearing from you!

Since the project launched in early November, we've had over 20,000 contributions to complete 21 sets of tasks on individual volumes, and over 2,000 visitors to the site from 61 countries.

Blog posts about In the Spotlight from the project team (Mia Ridge, Alex Mendes, Christian Algar)

Look out for more updates and blog posts from project participants in the new year.

Updates from the Convert-a-Card project

We haven't forgotten about Convert-a-Card in the excitement of launching In the Spotlight. This project to digitise information from card catalogues has had over 33,000 contributions since it was launched. Early in the new year, we'll be adding a thousand new records to the Library's catalogue - our thanks to everyone who has made a contribution.

Celebrating our contributors

In this issue, the British Library's Dr. Philip Hatfield interviews Maurice Nicholson about his work with the Georeferencer project.

What drew you to the Georeferencer project?

I was initially drawn into the georeferencer project almost by accident. Someone I knew at my local museum, who I follow on twitter, always used to retweet links to various projects (in particular any involving digital media, both contributing input and accessing). Having always been interested in maps and mapping, getting alerted to georeferencer at the BL immediately grabbed my interest, and within a week all the first batch of maps had been successfully placed and I was the leading contributor leading to a visit to the BL with other top georeferencers.

Of all the contributions the Georeferencer makes to British Library collections which is the most exciting for you?

The contribution that Georeferencer makes to the BL collections that most excites me is when entire collections (like the original OS manuscript maps) which are not easily available elsewhere are made accessible to the public in a way that can be related to today's landscape. The latest batch of maps also produces some real 'gems' which would otherwise be hard to access, being in books that are relatively unavailable for the general public to discover.

Which members of the wider public do you think the Georeferenced maps are most useful to?

Having given a number of talks on the subject to local history groups, the type of people I have personally found that find the georeferenced maps of most use have been those who could use them in studies of the history of their locality. However, the maps now cover such a range, both geographically and historically, that people with all sorts of interests like city development or battlefields etc could find maps that interest and be of use to them.

What would you say to someone who was interested in contributing to the project?

I would always encourage anyone who was interested to have a go at georeferencing maps and contribute to the BL project, although I would give them the link to the synoptic index so that they can choose their own maps. There is still no easy way to do this through the BL georeferencer website and I think far too many people will be put off if the first maps selected at random for them prove to be too difficult to place successfully.

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 and we'll get back to you.

However you celebrate it, we hope you have a lovely holiday and wish you all the best in 2018.

Best regards,




Dr. Mia Ridge

Digital Curator, British Library

Copyright © 2017 LibCrowds, All rights reserved.

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