Editors’ Choice: Readers Save Legacy Library Content by Crowdsourcing Metadata Games

How Games Can Help With the Burden of Digitizing Archived Material

The British Library warned: by 2020, legacy content will remain undigitized and in danger of becoming inaccessible to future generations.

Universities, libraries, museums and archives own large amounts of undigitized material in the form of photographs, audio recordings and films that are at serious risk of being lost because of the wear time has put on them. Some are well-documented and just need to be digitized and tagged accordingly, but the problem is that a lot of the materials have little to no description in them. The job of tagging them requires collective input by multiple people  to guarantee that the tags are as comprehensive and impartial as they possibly can. It a costly and time consuming task, and it cannot be accurately done by recognition software.

The task of proper tagging is of utmost importance for future access, so is there a way we can motivate people to contribute to the preservation of legacy content while we still have time? Well, games of course!


What resulted from the British Library’s call was a tool called Metadata Games by academic Mary Flanagan and archivist Peter Carini. It was designed specifically to work as a facilitator between the soon-to-be digitized materials and the people that want to help.

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This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Amanda Morton based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Adriana Bastarrachea, Amanda Asmus, Maria Ortiz, Stacey Sewell, Lisa Munro, and Josh Herron