The University of Pennsylvania Libraries, in partnership with the Princeton Geniza Project, the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University Library share Cairo Geniza fragments with the Zooniverse community for the first time! The purpose of phase I of Scribes of the Cairo Geniza is to sort Cairo Geniza fragments in order to prepare them for transcription in phase II (launching Spring 2018). In this phase, you will sort fragments into different categories based on their script types: whether they are written in Hebrew or Arabic scripts and formal or informal scripts, and whether they contain specific visual characteristics.
This information offers clues to the type of text a fragment contains. Having this information for the entire corpus will allow us to sort the fragments into workflows for the transcription tasks in phase II.
The results from Scribes of the Cairo Geniza have the potential to rewrite the history of the premodern Middle East, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean trade, and the Jewish diaspora. Until now, most of the information has remained locked away in undeciphered manuscript fragments; less than one-third of the 350,000 items have been catalogued in the 120 years that the cache has been known to exist. Virtually all scholars who have studied these texts have come away with a transformed sense of the history of the region and the long ties of intimacy among its people. Students and the general public will have the opportunity to benefit from encountering these fragments online and from learning how to sort and eventually transcribe them as members of this citizen scientist community. We see this project as a way for people with shared interests and different skill levels from around the world to meet in a common endeavor and unlock this storage chamber of ancient fragments.
The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers—hundreds of thousands of people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Our goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise. Zooniverse research results in new discoveries, datasets useful to the wider research community, and many publications.
You don’t need any specialised background, training, or expertise to participate in any Zooniverse projects. We make it easy for anyone to contribute to real academic research, on their own computer, at their own convenience. You’ll be able to study authentic objects of interest gathered by researchers, like images of faraway galaxies, historical records and diaries, or videos of animals in their natural habitats. By answering simple questions about them, you’ll help contribute to our understanding of our world, our history, our Universe, and more.