Dozens of volunteers are helping to unlock local history by transcribing historical handwritten Council minutes dating back to the very first meeting in 1862. City of Parramatta Council is the first local government organisation in the world to use DigiVol, an online crowdsourcing platform to help volunteers digitise archives and data.
“Thanks to our dedicated volunteers working at their home computers around the country, the Parra DigiVol project will make all of that remarkable Parramatta history accessible online to the general public,” Lord Mayor Cr Andrew Wilson said.“In the City’s archives there are nearly 13,000 pages of handwritten notes which detail Council meetings over 83 years up to and including the Second World War.”
“These minutes, some written over 150 years ago, provide a fascinating insight into the issues of the time and the lives of Parramatta residents at key moments in local, national and global modern history.” Of the 12,848 pages of Council meeting minutes spanning 1862 to 1945 – stored in books and carefully preserved at the City of Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre – more than 2,000 pages have already been transcribed by more than 70 volunteers.
The minutes reveal the contentious election of Parramatta’s first mayor in 1862, resolutions to plant Council gardens with vegetables to feed the needy during World War II, and applications to build air raid shelters in local stores.
Using the DigiVol portal, approved volunteers anywhere in the world can read the handwritten minutes and type them before the transcriptions go through a verification process.
The DigiVol portal was developed in 2011 by the Australian Museum in collaboration with the Atlas of Living Australia and is used by institutions around the world, including Harvard University, the Natural History Museum in London, the Smithsonian, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.