Warwickshire Bytes – A Local Project with Global Reach

A typical bundle of depositions
Courtesy of Warwickshire County Record Office
Some of the more local volunteers when they attended a Bytes coffee morning. They got to meet each other and share hints and tips for working on their bundles.
Courtesy of Warwickshire County Record Office

People around the world have been helping to index a huge collection of county Quarter Sessions Depositions as part of the Warwickshire Bytes project, with the enterprise proving so successful that Warwickshire County Record Office is now working to incorporate these remote volunteers into their core service.

More than 80 people signed up to the project during 2019, using digitised images and documents shared via the Cloud to transcribe information from the depositions which will form the basis of a searchable database of names, occupations and crimes for use by family, local and social historians.

The team of volunteers, managed by two staff, a part-time archivist and a full-time apprentice, have already worked their way through a fifth of the collection, harvesting 21,000 names from over 5,000 individual depositions.  People can work from home or any computer with an internet connection, and so the project has attracted volunteers from across the UK, Canada, Australia and Italy as well as throughout the West Midlands.

‘Virtual Volunteers’

Funded by Warwickshire County Council (WCC), the Record Office have created a bespoke system for working with ‘virtual volunteers’, using Google Drive’s free-to-access software and a series of automated processes which minimises staff input.  Information from the depositions is input into to a pre-formatted spreadsheet and each volunteer checks the work of two others to maintain the highest possible level of accuracy.

The Deposition Indexing Project takes place entirely online and fits naturally with WCC’s strategic focus on increased digital activity.  Long term it is hoped that the project can also contribute to the well-being agenda by enabling housebound or socially-isolated individuals to participate in a group activity and feel part of an online community.

As the Warwickshire Bytes project comes to an end, the Deposition Indexers will become the Warwickshire Online Volunteer Network (WOVeN), and further digital ventures can be added to the portfolio to create local projects with global reach.

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