Transcription Project

Archives and Special Collections has a crowdsourcing transcription project with FromThePage to make handwritten material from the university’s archives more accessible and to engage with the archives community, on and off campus.

Transcribed texts help people using screen-readers read the contents of a manuscript, help decipher handwritten, cursive writing, and assist in finding information on individuals or topics. It’s also a fun way for enthusiasts to learn more about the history of Western University, London, Ontario, and the surrounding area!

Join us Wednesday, May 12 at 2pm for the first transcribe-a-thon Zoom event.

Learn about the new transcription site, current collections available for transcription, and tips and tricks for transcribing and tagging archival material.


Join our Transcription Team

Interested in transcribing with us? You need to create a free account with FromThePage. Not ready to create an account? You can transcribe up to 3 pages as a guest.

Once you have set up an account you can browse our projects open for transcription. You can do an original transcription, review other transcriptions, or help create index terms.

Transcription Tips

Transcription is not an exact science

However, the more you transcribe, the better you become! It’s important to recognize the individual and specific ways in which the writers wrote: look for their particularities in forming certain letters and then you can apply that knowledge elsewhere in the document.

Rely on context to decipher words

Look for similar words or letters in the document that may help you decode the handwriting; think about what is actually being talked about in the document. Check letters against other known examples within the same document. If you see a personal or place name, or if you don’t know the meaning of a word, doing a web search can help provide context. When in doubt, Google it!

Use original spelling if possible

If you want to fix a spelling mistake or spell out an acronym or shortened form of a word, feel free to add it in using square brackets after you have transcribed what is actually on the page, e.g. The UWO Senate met on November 1 [University of Western Ontario].


Do not add punctuation like commas and apostrophes if they do not appear in the original text.

Line breaks are part of transcribing

Hit return once after each line ends (rather than each sentence). Two returns indicate a new paragraph, which is usually identified as a left indentation in the original. (See example in image below.)

Image of handwritten letter, showing left indentation to indicate a new paragraph.

Doodles, drawings or illustrations

Doodles, drawings or illustrations on the page should be described within square brackets, if you can decipher what the drawing is, e.g. [image-woman skating].

Image of letter with drawing of woman skating, accompanied by handwriting.

Don't preserve hyphenation due to a line break

Simply write the complete word on the next line. This enables more effective word searches later.

Square brackets are a helpful transcription tool

Use them to show your formatting, decision-making actions. Formatting such as underlining, italics, bold can be described in this way: [bold] [/bold], [underline] [/underline], etc.

Illegible readings are part of the transcription process

Indicate the passage’s illegibility in square brackets with a question mark: [About this time?].

Columns are a common challenge

Material should be transcribed the way in which it is read, with markups indicating position on the page, i.e. [left column] or [right column].