On Scribes of the Cairo Geniza, thousands of people around the world come together on the Zooniverse platform to assist professional researchers through the remarkable potential of crowdsourcing. Last week, project team members at Columbia University Libraries brought members of the crowd together in a special presentation led by Emily Esten and Michelle Chesner.
When the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from hosting in-person events, we combined our efforts for a global Geniza transcribe-a-thon via Zoom. Columbia University Libraries hosted a Scribes of the Cairo Geniza transcribe-a-thon on Tuesday, April 7. You can watch a recording of the event on our YouTube channel.
Just before noon, participants joined the chat to say hello from all over the world. Penn Libraries’s Judaica DH Coordinator, Emily Esten, started with a project introduction, walking participants through the history of the Cairo Geniza, the project’s goals, and what’s next for the site. Michelle Chesner, Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University Libraries, discussed the history of Columbia’s Jewish collection, and the Cairo and European geniza fragments included in the project. that are from Columbia’s Judaica collection. Chesner and Esten then took Q&A from participants, answering questions about the history of Geniza collections, other #DHJewish projects, significance of project questions and so much more .
Around the one-hour mark, Esten provided a walkthrough of the transcription interface, demonstrating various toolbars, keyboards, and text modifiers for use. Chesner later shared her screen to transcribe a line, and also demoed the sorting workflow. We had over sixty participants join us throughout the conversation, from all over the world!
Though this event came to an end, the hard work of the project continues on the web. Volunteers can always participate on their own time at scribesofthecairogeniza.org, and we hope to have more events like this in the future! Thank you to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Digital Scholarship Unit at Columbia University Libraries; the Digital Scholarship unit and Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at Penn Libraries for hosting this event. And special thanks to Michelle Chesner, Emily Runde, Nicky Agate, Peter Magierski, and Mitch Fraas for their assistance.
Resources mentioned during the event:
- Hebrew and Judaica manuscripts from Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library on Internet Archive
- Ketubah fragment from present-day Iraq
- Information on Johannes of Oppido, a Catholic monk who converted to Judaism in 1102 CE.
- A Columbia manuscript with a manicule (not geniza). You can also check out our blog post on Geniza manicules
- A spreadsheet of all fragments with art-related tags, curated by Zooniverse user angelamarie
- Resources for learning more about the Cairo Geniza
- A video for how to transcribe on Scribes of the Cairo Geniza
- The repository for Scribes of the Cairo Geniza-related materials, including datasets
- An example of a conversation on the Talk Boards (you can read that discussion in a blog post, too!)
Please consider joining us on Scribes of the Cairo Geniza to participate in unlocking the secrets of one of the greatest archives of the middle ages! Interested in hosting your own transcribe-a-thon? Check out our organizing guide and resources or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exported from Medium on April 14, 2020.