Crowdsourcing at the British Library

A screenshot from the Zooniverse platform, showing a part of a newspaper article in a crowdsourcing task interface.

For the British Library, crowdsourcing is an engaging form of online volunteering supported by tools that manage tasks such as transcription, classification and geolocation that make our collections more discoverable.

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Crowdsourcing at the British Library

The British Library has several popular crowdsourcing projects including the Georeferencer, for geolocating historical maps, and In the Spotlight, for transcribing important information about historical playbills. 

Current Projects

  • Agents of Enslavement uses 18th/19th century newspapers to research slavery in Barbados and create a database of enslaved people.

  • Living with Machines, which is mostly based on research questions around nineteenth century newspapers

Past Projects

  • In the Spotlight (2017-2021) was a crowdsourcing project from the British Library that aimed to make digitised historical playbills more discoverable, while also encouraging people to closely engage with this otherwise less accessible collection of ephemera.

  • Canadian wildlife: notes from the field (2021), a project where volunteers transcribed handwritten field notes that accompany recordings of a wildlife collection within the sound archive.

  • Convert a Card (2015) was a series of crowdsourcing projects aimed to convert scanned catalogue cards in Asian and African languages into electronic records. The project template can be found and used on GitHub.

  • Georeferencer (2012) enabled volunteers to create geospatial data from digitised versions of print maps by adding control points to the old and modern maps.

  • Pin-a-Tale (2012) asked people to map literary texts to British places.

  • UK Sound Map (2010-2011) asked people to record the sounds around them.

Our crowdsourcing projects are designed to produce data that can be used in discovery systems (such as online catalogues and our item viewer) through enjoyable tasks that give volunteers an opportunity to explore digitised collections.

Each project involves teams across the Library to supply digitised images for crowdsourcing and ensuring that the results are processed and ingested into various systems. 

You can follow our progress on twitter @LibCrowds and via our newsletter.

Crowdsourcing Projects

Collective Wisdom

The Collective Wisdom project captures the collective wisdom of researchers and practitioners in crowdsourcing, citizen history, citizen science and public / community participation in research with cultural heritage collections.

Living with Machines

Major inter-disciplinary research project using data science and artificial intelligence to analyse the human impact of the industrial revolution


Help us make our maps fully searchable and viewable using online geotechnologies.

All projects


Digital Scholarship

Undertake innovative research with our digital collections and data


The British Library collection of maps, plans and views is one of the largest in the world, numbering some 4.5 million

News media

You’ll find British and overseas newspapers dating back to the 1600s and we have growing collections of radio, television and web news

More subjects

Follow our progress on Twitter @LibCrowds