Transcribing Our Voices

We are looking for support to transcribe some fascinating Oral Histories, given by miners past and engineers of today, via our project, Our Voices. Can you help? Or do you know someone who is looking for something new?

Our Voices – some background

The founders of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers made hugely significant progress, discoveries and inventions that contributed to more effective and profitable ways of extracting coal across the Great Northern Coalfield.

Whilst their voices are not around for us to recall, many advances have taken place since the Institute’s foundation in 1852. It is these changes and the role that engineers play, that we wish to capture in the Our Voices project.

We are exploring how we can challenge the gender stereotypes of engineering, by interviewing female engineers and young apprentices, to ensure their voices are more widely heard. The Common Room is currently working with industry across the region, to capture and celebrate the stories of engineering and innovation, past and present, which will be added to our internationally recognised archive.

Photo of collections volunteer at a computer

These oral histories will also be used in our interpretation and education work going forwards and will be part of a permanent exhibition for building visitors upon re-opening in Winter 2020. Transcribing the oral histories makes them word-searchable for researchers as well as making them accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing users.

No special technology is required: just a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word, and a program to play audio files, such as Windows Media Player. This is a volunteering opportunity which you can work on from home, with completely flexible hours.

Metadata tagging

To make all our fantastic scans searchable and accessible to the public through our new website we need to untangle our metadata.  This data identifies the unique reference numbers, page numbers, dates and the scope of each document within the collection. Currently, we only have this data in PDF format for many of our collections, which isn’t structured enough to import directly into the new archives system.
image of the instructions for metadata and screenshot of the Excel file

The computer wizards have moved it into Excel, but artificial intelligence can only take it so far and it now needs a human eye to mark up which lines are, for example, creation dates.
It sounds more complicated than it is! It isn’t a difficult job at all, but it is an immense task overall so we are breaking down into chunks for each volunteer to work through. All you need is a spreadsheet program, like Excel, where we are inserting rows to tell the system which records belong together and coding up the types of information. We have step by step instructions and no specialist Excel skills are needed – just lots of patience and time.

Exhibition and Engagement Volunteers at The Sill

From the start of May to the end of August, our Graft and Glory Exhibition will be at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland. We are looking for heritage and engineering enthusiasts, who love talking with people, to join our “On The Road” volunteer team.

As a volunteer, you will be the face of the exhibition, engaging with visitors and encouraging them to explore the industrial heritage of our region and The Common Room project.

Volunteer at Celebrate Science engineering cranes

We will be running a series of events and activities alongside the exhibition, such as engineering challenges, guided walks and creative family activities. Volunteers will be needed to deliver these activities to families, either alongside a member of The Common Room team or an experienced volunteer, or independently when confident.

Volunteering with us

All of The Common Room volunteers are provided with an induction pack and any training opportunities relevant to their role, to ensure that they feel fully supported.
The metadata and transcription tasks can both be done from home, making them really flexible for people who would love to volunteer but who don’t have time during the working day, or perhaps can’t get to us.
We also recognise that people’s availability and time constraints will vary week to week and may change at short notice due to other commitments; there is no weekly required minimum and we completely understand if you need to step back from a role part way through.
In return for your time in any of these roles we can offer written references (for example, if you are job seeking) acknowledging your contribution to the project and an invitation to our regular volunteer celebration events.  We also reimburse travel expenses for volunteering.