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In this newsletter, we share progress reports for In the Spotlight, Convert-a-card and Georeferencer, and celebrate our wonderful In the Spotlight volunteers.

Celebrating 100,000 contributions on the LibCrowds platform

On the weekend of July 21st, one of our many volunteers made the 100,000th contribution to a crowdsourcing project hosted on the British Library's LibCrowds platform.


This is a significant milestone for the platform, particularly as each 'contribution' is the result of several tasks by multiple participants. Together, over 1600 logged-in volunteers, and countless others who contributed anonymously, helped us reach this goal. We're immensely grateful to everyone who helped us reach this point, whether you contributed one task or many thousands of tasks.

In the Spotlight updates

In the Spotlight is a project to help bring past performances from the British Library’s historic playbills collection to life. Since launching, we've been hard at work making improvements behind the scenes, adding new features, uploading new volumes and collecting articles about the project.


The front page of the project website now highlights your recent contributions and forum posts, and performance titles transcribed through the project have started to appear in the Library's digitised item viewer, making it easier to navigate to specific playbills in a volume.


Volumes currently available for transcription include Huddersfield - Ledbury 1783-1864, Theatre Royal, Bristol 1819-1823, Theatre Royal, Dublin 1830-1839, Birmingham theatres 1774-1800, Chideock to Deptford 1790-1853, Portsmouth 1781-1782, and Derby to Drogheda 1792-1852.

New features

Firstly, you can now let us know that 'Something's wrong' on a sheet or task. The error reporting options - such as a missing date or genre - are based on the issues volunteers reported most often in their comments. Going through nearly-but-not-quite complete volumes to report lurking errors that prevent tasks being completed turns out to be a lot of fun, if you're in the right mood!


Secondly, you can now tag sheets with words that describe them. For example, you might be interested in a particular person, topic or aspect of performances. You can then view those tags and related playbills online.



Articles and posts related to In the Spotlight

James Gregory, Associate Professor of Modern British History at the University of Plymouth, has just published an article in the Electronic British Library Journal, 'Parody Playbills: The Politics of the Playbill in Britain in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries'. The British Library's Christian Algar has posted about 'parody playbills' on the discussion board to provide more context.


Our PhD placement student, Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott, has been busy examining data transcribed via In the Spotlight. She's written blog posts including The Afterlives of Playbills: the journey to 100,000 contributions on In the Spotlight for the British Association for Victorian Studies Postgraduate Pages. For our own Digital Scholarship blog, she's written Crowdsourcing comedy: date and genre results from In the Spotlight and Popular plays: titles and dramatists from In the Spotlight. She's also shared early results and visualisations and posted some intriguing questions on the project forum.


We posted a general update in March (Shine a light on past entertainments with In the Spotlight), including some information on how far the project has reached.

Join the conversation - recent forum posts

Convert-a-card updates

The Library has a new Digital Curator for Asia and Africa Collections, Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert. Adi has previous experience with crowdsourcing projects and is looking forward to working on Convert-a-card.

Georeferencer updates

Gethin Rees, Lead Curator Digital Map Collections, says: 'We now have 41353 maps georeferenced out of a total of 58093. Only 16740 to go in the current release! We welcome further contributions to try to help us finish the release'. You can track progress or help georeference maps.

Celebrating our contributors

For this issue, we asked Dina Scherbakova to tell us about herself and her interest in In the Spotlight. Over to Dina:


I’m a housewife but before my daughter was born I used to be an aviation stress engineer. I joined “In the Spotlight” after I read a post by the British Council. It said that the British Library was looking for volunteers for one of their crowdsourcing projects.


Here, in Russia, we have a crowdsourcing project that is very similar to yours. It is “Open history of Bolshoi” from the Bolshoi theatre ( Both of you help bring past performances from your own historic playbills collections to life.


But “In the Spotlight” has some considerable advantages over “Open history of Bolshoi”. Firstly, I always have choice. “What do I want to do today: mark titles or transcribe dates? Let's transcribe.”


Secondly, I can do one task at a time. “At least one or five playbills a day – I can do it for sure!” Finally, every piece of work is extremely simple in most of cases. Even my 5-year-old daughter helps me with typing in dates sometimes! That is why, I contribute to the “In the Spotlight” project over and over again.


Oh, and I love funny coincidences that happen sometimes while exploring playbills (like a 1837 playbill of Cinderella - the same Cinderella that I have just read out loud to my daughter!).


So, I’d like to thank all members of LibCrowds team for giving me such a great opportunity to be a part of a world volunteer community, for your dedication and enthusiasm.

Dina Scherbakova, a housewife and a mother, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia


We worked hard to make In the Spotlight as simple and as enjoyable as possible, and to offer different tasks for different moods, so we were delighted with Dina's comments!


We love hearing from researchers and contributors. If you'd like to be featured in an upcoming newsletter or send other feedback, get in touch via email (, on the project forum or on twitter @LibCrowds.

Thank you Alex!

Our software developer, Alex Mendes, has moved on to a job in industry. His hard work on the LibCrowds platform has been critical to its success, and we wish him all the best in the future.


Best regards,





Dr. Mia Ridge

Digital Curator, British Library

Copyright © 2018 LibCrowds, All rights reserved.

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