One of the biggest crowdsourcing projects undertaken in New Zealand will create a valuable war history resource for generations to come.
The Measuring the ANZACs project will hopefully see thousands of people involved in transcribing and indexing scanned documents from World War I and the South African War.
These digitised images of historical documents – which are held by Archives New Zealand - have become a key resource for historians in universities, museums and the community yet much of the information on the documents is hard to access without further transcription and indexing.
The project will see volunteers from around the world reading the documents and identifying things such as names, next of kin, jobs, birthplaces, health at enlistment, key events in the soldiers' service, and dates of death.
Economics Professor Les Oxley from the University of Waikato says the project will eventually provide a comprehensive database which will be searchable and available to all New Zealanders.
Over the next few years citizen scientists will classify document types within personnel files, and transcribe key information about the ANZAC soldiers.
Each piece of information is collected four times to increase accuracy and the project will be hosted on the world's largest citizen science web portal, Zooniverse.org.
Assistant Professor Evan Roberts from the University of Minnesota – who along with Professor Oxley and Professor Kris Inwood from Canada's University of Guelph – have been working on the ANZAC project for eight years and says the documents include 140,000 sets of personnel records.
"These represent a slightly smaller number of actual individual people, as some men tried to enlist multiple times, and their files were not merged," he says.
"There are more than 4 million scanned images of the pages in these files. "
Professor Oxley says the project will create a database in a spreadsheet-like format and people will be able to extract a range of relevant information.
"We have done 22,000 of about 140,000 files which were used for the ANZAC weight, height project, which was funded through Marsden and Health Research Council grants."
He expects the project to prove popular with New Zealanders, particularly given the interest in the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli this year.
The project is expected to be launched in mid-August at Zooniverse.org.