Transcription Center: James Baldwin Collection

Transcribe Letters, Documents, and More from the Museum's Collection

The Smithsonian’s Transcription Center Project is a way for the public to engage with the Museum by volunteering to digitally transcribe objects from the Museum’s James Baldwin collection such as letters, postcards, documents, and other materials. Visit the Transcription Center online to create an account and learn more.

A handwritten letter from James Baldwin to his sister, Paula




Working. Have moved into a quite marvelous house, & I intend to bring Mama back with me. I think she’ll like it. - But I’ll probably need the family’s help to get her on the plane. Don’t mention it to Mama yet.


Enclosed: Engin’s wife, & me. The Turkish press felt compelled to announce to the world that Mr. Baldwin was a year older. (But they didn’t tell my age.) They photographed Engin’s wife just because they like her. They never mention [[underline x3]]her [[/underline]] birthdays.


Let me hear from you.



Transcription Center Highlights

A collection of personal objects and letters belonging to James Baldwin that document his life as an expatriate, writer, and activist is one of the first collections the Museum has featured on the Transcription Center. The collection includes personal letters written to members of the Baldwin family, records documenting Baldwin’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement, and even a playbill for Baldwin’s Broadway play Blues for Mister Charlie. After volunpeers completed the collection, we hosted a live Google Hangout interview session with museum specialist Tulani Salahu-Din, who spoke about collecting the Baldwin materials, Baldwin himself, and answered questions sent by volunpeers.

Tulani Salahu-Din discusses the Museum’s James Baldwin collection on September 8, 2015.
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About the Transcription Center

The Smithsonian Transcription Center is a pan-Smithsonian website that allows digital volunteers, or “volunpeers,” from around the world to transcribe documents, photograph captions, field books, and other materials online. To participate, volunpeers can create an account or work anonymously. Volunpeers can begin by transcribing a new document or continuing the work that another volunpeer has started. Once a volunpeer decides he or she has “finished” a document and the document is ready for review, a different volunpeer (who must have an account on the site) can review the transcription and either send it back for edits or mark it complete. Once reviewed, the transcriptions are downloadable and become fully searchable in the Transcription Center, the Smithsonian’s Collections Search Center, and through other search engines.