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Published November 4th 2013
Want immortality? Edit your way into the history books
I'm transcribing the obituaries from the Thursday 18 September 1919 edition of Ipswich daily newspaper The Queensland Times and find myself wondering about the life of Theodore Unmack. A German immigrant who came to Australia in the mid 1850s, Unmack became a successful businessman, then politician, who championed the campaign against Federation - unsuccessfully as it turned out.
Illustrated front cover of The Queenslander 4 December 1915. Image courtesy: State Library of Queensland.
With the click of a mouse, it's Saturday 5 March 1803 and I'm transported to the front page concerns of The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser detailing new regulations designed to stamp out the 'vexatious conduct' of Boatmen on whom settlers of the Hawkesbury rely to ship grain to Sydney.
Another click of the mouse sees me open a copy of the long-running Australian Women's Weekly from 2 July 1969, which features Veruschka, one of the world's leading models at that time, in a skin tight leopard skin top. And - are you sitting down for this? - the magazine sells for the grand old sum of 15 cents and features provocative topics such as 'Can children wreck a marriage?' alongside 'Great recipes for winter pies'.
You can sign up from anywhere in Queensland or indeed the world to tag historic photographs, text-correct old newspaper articles, transcribe significant historical documents or tell your own Queensland story. In doing so, you gain the satisfaction of knowing that your efforts are making it easy for people everywhere to discover Queensland history now and in the future.
Text-correcting is described by the State Library of Queensland as 'more addictive than Tetris'. I don't know about that (Tetris is pretty addictive) but I can vouch for the fact that there's something absorbing about reading old newspaper articles and fixing up the electronically generated transcriptions at the same time. Digitised newspapers are transcribed electronically, but the process isn't completely accurate due to the quality of original newspapers, or small text size.
Beginners are invited to join a text correcting project by choosing one of the 1915 issues of The Queenslander newspaper, perhaps 'starting with the issues written on your birthday'.
Transcribing personal stories from diaries, letters and books can be another fascinating way to spend a few hours (though you can volunteer as little as a few minutes if you so desire).
Maurice George Delpratt Correspondence 1915-1920. Image courtesy: State Library of Queensland.
One ongoing transcription assignment in Wikisource involves deciphering the letters and postcards of Maurice George Delpratt, written while he was held as a prisoner of war in Turkey during World War One.
Tagging photos in Flickr Commons is also a popular task for the visually orientated. Images of Queensland bands, fashion of the 1920s and 1930s and Australian South Sea Islanders all need to be tagged, for while more than 60,000 photos of Queensland people and places are available online, many are missing information about who, what, when and where.
Another way you can contribute is by sharing your own Queensland story - perhaps about your experiences of the Ekka, or Expo '88. 'If you were there, we want to know about it' is the mantra of the Pitch In! program.
Pitching in a little time here and there all helps to digitise the past. Image: State Library of Queensland.