How Archival Transcription Can Help Your Archives

History can fade—anyone working in a library can tell you as much. Efforts to preserve original documents with historical significance can only ever work for so long, and these precious pieces of history need to be handled to be studied, further exacerbating matters. Important audio recordings can also suffer from degradation of their chosen medium. So, what’s the solution? Accurate, high-quality transcription for Archives. 

In this article, you’ll learn how: 

  • Archival transcription helps digitize historical materials, safeguarding them from deterioration and making them accessible to a wider audience, including those with disabilities.
  • Transcribed documents can be easily searched by keywords, facilitating research and enabling new insights through digital tools like text analysis software.
  • Transcripts support diverse research disciplines, foster educational engagement, and preserve endangered languages and cultural artifacts.

What’s An Archive?

An archive is a collection of materials that have historical, cultural, educational, or evidential value. Like museums and other places of historical preservation, archives can contain a wide range of recorded material and are important in preserving historical records and primary sources (in the case of academic research.) 

Many archives exist all around the world, like: 

Official ArchiveDescription
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)Preserves U.S. federal government records, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, presidential papers, and military records.
The National Archives (United Kingdom)Holds UK government records dating back over 1,000 years, including documents, manuscripts, maps, and photographs.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC)Collects and preserves Canada’s documentary heritage, including government records, private archives, and publications.
Archives Nationales (France)Repository of French government records dating from the Middle Ages, including royal decrees and administrative documents.
Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI)Preserves documents related to Russia’s contemporary history, including records of the Soviet government and political parties.

Of course, there are other archives aside from these major ones. Private archives and libraries can host special collections, like letters from the nineteenth century, diaries of war survivors, religious catalogs, paleography collections, and more. 

What Is Archival Transcription?

Archival transcription refers to converting text or audio/video records into digital text formats for easy access and retrieval. Since archives handle many different types of records, archival transcription may include: 

Audio Or Video Transcription

Historical or personal archives can contain recordings from different ages, up to the very first attempts in the late 18th century, when audio recording was first developed. These may include vinyl records of conferences, magnetic tapes with personal recollections, or analog recordings of oral history of personal, cultural, or historical importance. 

Document-to-Document Conversion

Before the invention of sophisticated writing and recording devices, much of recorded history was written down manually with parchment and quill. Diary entries, land ownership titles, scholarly tomes, controversial treatises—all susceptible to the ravages of time and decay.  

Benefits Of Archival Transcription

Archives from all over the world can enjoy the advantages of archival transcription, of which the most notable ones are: 

Preservation of Documents

The issue with keeping important documents from the mid-19th century in a famous person’s own handwriting is that they are increasingly susceptible to damage through continuous handling and time. Although there are ways to keep them in pristine condition, they often include not making contact with the records, essentially keeping them from being studied for scholastic purposes. An extreme example would be the Vatican Apostolic Archive, which only a few people can visit.

Thankfully, many documents, audio, and handwritten records in archives can be transcribed into digital text. These digital representations can then be studied instead of the original record. 

Furthermore, once the document deteriorates past usability or legibility—which will happen eventually, regardless of time and effort poured into its preservation—these transcripts and document-to-document conversions can serve as a preserved copy that can be duplicated as many times as necessary, ensuring that that particular part of history is not lost to time. 

Increased Accessibility

Transcribing archival documents makes them accessible to a wider audience in many ways. 

First, transcription allows people with visual impairments who use screen readers to listen to handwritten text. As for video or audio recordings, transcripts provide access to people with hearing disabilities. 

Furthermore, digital text can be easily shared online, allowing researchers and the public to access historical documents anywhere.

Ease Of Access And Searchability

Archivists no longer have to prowl among musty rows of shelves to get what they need. Once transcribed, documents and recordings can be searched by keywords, names, dates, and other relevant criteria.

This dramatically reduces the time and effort needed to locate specific information within large collections, enhancing research efficiency and discovery.  Certain archiving systems can also add a tag to transcripts, making them even more searchable. 

Better Interpretation and Analysis

It can take a lot of time to comb through archives and collections for the necessary information you’re looking for. It is also quite difficult to do so manually. 

For example, spellings and abbreviations from handwritten documents dating back to the 15th century can be markedly different from modern styles. Or perhaps the context of the document may not be as straightforward as it seems, especially when compared with similar documents from the same period. 

Researchers reading through piles of text may miss the connection, as they are only human and can get tired. The digitization of these archival documents means that they can be fed directly into AI models for faster pattern identification. 

(It should be noted that while AI is great for parsing and grouping information, it can’t hold a candle to a human transcriber regarding quality and accuracy.) 

Enhanced Preservation of Language and Culture

Transcribed archives provide valuable resources for educators at all levels. They can be used to create engaging learning materials that bring history to life for students, allowing direct interaction with primary sources.

Additionally, for documents written in now-rare or extinct languages and scripts, transcription can help preserve cultural heritage, allowing for the documentation and study of languages that might otherwise be lost.

Transcribed documents from audio or physical documents can be an excellent utility for research. They provide easier access to invaluable records like wills, land deeds, and court documents. Genealogists and legal researchers can greatly benefit from transcripts, making their studies faster and easier. 

Facilitation of Interdisciplinary Research

Last but not least, digital transcripts or converted documents are easily shared, thereby making it easier to bring different disciplines like history, linguistics, literature, and humanities together.

With this improved collaboration comes improved data collection and analyses, giving a clearer glimpse of fragments from our past. 

Choose Ditto To Transcribe Your Archives

While it is a common practice to have archivists, assistants, or even volunteer transcriptionists digitize documents and recordings, some require the precise attention and meticulous hands of professionals and experts. The good thing is that you don’t need to look far because professional transcription is right here. 

Ditto offers the highest quality transcription and document-to-document digitization done by professionals with years of experience in the field. Signing up for our services allows you access to such perks as:

Accurate transcription

Our standards are higher than most transcription companies out there, as we offer 99% accuracy on all transcription projects, guaranteed. This level of quality control ensures that your transcripts are perfect and accurate representations of your treasured historical documents. 

Accurate translation

Do you have a historical document in Spanish or Arabic? You don’t need to look for other providers, as we offer translation services for many languages, including French, Italian, and Old High German. 

Transcription and document-to-document typing services

While we’re better known for our audio and video transcription services, we also offer document-to-document conversion or typing services with the same level of quality and affordability. We’re a one-stop shop for archives all over the world. 

Fast turnaround times

Just because you primarily work with records doesn’t mean you have time to sit around and wait for transcripts for weeks on end. Sign up with us and receive your transcripts in as fast as 24 hours—sometimes even less—so you can go back to organizing and preserving your archives with little to no fuss. 

Affordable services

Public archives and private collectors understand that expertise doesn’t come cheap. However, settling for providers offering low rates with commensurately low-quality results is not an option. Meanwhile, Ditto offers the best of both worlds: accurate, industry-leading, high-quality transcription at affordable rates. 

Our standard rates are $1.75 per audio minute for transcription and $1.50 per page for document-to-document typing services. We also have different tiers of service that can fit any budget and turnaround times. 

Security and confidentiality

One of the best things about us is our commitment to privacy. Every audio recording and document that goes through our meticulous process is kept safe from prying eyes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a diary entry or a highly sensitive family history—what matters is that your privacy is kept intact. 

No contracts or long-term commitments

Our clients return due to high-quality and accurate archival transcription, not because they have no choice. We won’t require you to sign multi-year contracts to get our services; simply come in with your transcription job whenever needed.

Types Of Historic Documents That Can Benefit From Archival Transcription

Here’s a list of the most common types of documents that can be digitized through transcription services. 

  • Documents: Paper records such as letters, reports, and manuscripts.
  • Audio Recordings: Sound recordings on various formats like tapes and CDs, typically requiring verbatim transcription.
  • Video Recordings: Visual recordings of historical events on formats such as DVDs and VHS tapes.
  • Newspapers and Periodicals: Publications spanning various topics and periods.
  • Digital Records: Electronic files, including emails, databases, and websites.
  • Oral History: Recorded interviews or testimonies from individuals.
  • Government Records: Official documents produced by governmental organizations.
  • Personal Papers: Records of individuals or families, including diaries and letters.

Give Your Archivist A Break And Let Us Help You Out

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for our services, or try our industry-leading transcription with our free trial. 

Ditto Transcripts is a HIPAA, FINRA, and CJIS-compliant Denver, Colorado-based transcription services company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcripts for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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