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Crowdsourcing Ottoman Turkish Archives


The Ottoman Turkish Crowdsourcing Project, OTurC, forms a nexus between digital humanities and archival resources, inviting citizen scientists to contribute to the creation of digital texts in Ottoman Turkish. We aim to nurture a participatory community to produce reusable, shareable, and open knowledge, marking a transformative shift in a field traditionally rooted in individual archival work.


In its inaugural phase, the OTurC project will be working with sections of Muallim Cevdet's papers and his printed articles, specifically those that delve into the question of Ottoman Turkish alphabet reform (tadil-i huruf). This choice of materials was guided by two factors:
First, as an open scholarship project, we prioritize using resources that are publicly accessible. Muallim Cevdet’s published articles are available online at the Hakkı Tarık Us Digital Library, while his personal papers are housed at Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Atatürk Library.
Secondly, we selected these documents for their interdisciplinary appeal to scholars of Ottoman/Turkish history and literature.

The proposed alphabet reform for Ottoman Turkish that Muallim Cevdet discusses in his papers is of interest to both historians of late Ottoman era intellectual trends and scholars of Turkish language and literature. The broader research question that will be addressed by the data produced in this project is the question of cultural and intellectual continuity between the late Ottoman and early Republican periods, which conventional Republican historiography tends to identify as a sharp divide.
For our crowdsourcing infrastructure, we are utilizing Zooniverse, a versatile, user-friendly platform that enables researchers to design and execute custom crowdsourcing projects. This ensures our commitment to open, collaborative scholarship remains at the heart of our work as we delve deeper into the world of Ottoman studies.

Our project invites participation from academic and non-academic individuals alike. The aim is twofold: to improve the accessibility of Ottoman Turkish historical collections and to contribute to the development of a robust digital research infrastructure for the field.
Beyond accessibility, our project takes on an educational role. OTurC provides a platform for students of Ottoman history and literature, along with any interested members of the public, to hone their paleography skills while exploring primary documents and historical texts in a digital environment.
Another key aspect of our endeavor is the production of sharable and reusable computable text. To this end, all volunteer-transcribed text in OTurC will be made publicly available on GitHub for researchers and the general public, promoting a collaborative and transparent approach to research.

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