BYU students use technology to transcribe Wilford Woodruff documents

A workforce of 4 Brigham Young College learners is working on a special undertaking for the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation.

“We’re functioning on some thing that, to my expertise, has not been finished right before,” claimed Bryce Lunceford, 1 of the learners.

The workforce — Lunceford, Amber Oldroyd, Paul Smith and Nathan Christiansen, all part of BYU’s utilized and computational math software — are making use of computer systems to enable guide these transcribing the writings of early Latter-day Saint chief Wilford Woodruff.

What is the Wilford Woodruff Papers challenge?

Wilford Woodruff was 1 of the earliest and most effective missionaries of the restored Latter-working day Saint religion. He served 7 missions that spanned additional than 10 yrs just before turning into the fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-working day Saints.

Setting up in 1828, Woodruff’s meticulous data document his substantial ministry and missionary services, the teachings of Joseph Smith and other leaders, daily happenings, his witness of the church’s Restoration and other substantial situations until eventually his death in 1898.

The Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation is operating in cooperation with the Wilford Woodruff Family Association and with the Church Heritage Office to identify and digitize all of the early church leader’s surviving documents. 

The foundation has situated, digitized and arranged extra than 114,000 web pages of President Woodruff’s writings since the undertaking was launched on March 1, 2020, with 1000’s of paperwork even now to go.

How computers are transcribing Woodruff paperwork

To accurately transcribe and verify Woodruff’s tens of hundreds of files would just take 1000’s of several hours and need tens of millions of pounds. The students hope to support use pcs to entire the process inside of 10 yrs, according to a Wilford Woodruff Papers Basis information release.

“Wilford Woodruff recorded his eyewitness account of the Restoration of the gospel in his journal and other documents using not only English published in longhand, but also two types of shorthand, the Deseret Alphabet, sporadic Latin and Greek and a lot more than 3,000 distinctive symbols,” the news launch claimed. “The competencies expected to figure out whether a curve and dot on a webpage is a cursive letter, a shorthand mark or a symbol is mind-boggling.”

The existing transcription system necessitates a person individual to manually sort every word as read in the handwritten variation, then two individuals assessment it.

The workforce of four BYU learners is operating to produce an algorithm for the computer to differentiate and read through the marks in Woodruff’s paperwork. The staff is also using optical character recognition, a commonly used procedure of changing typed or handwritten paperwork into textual content.

As soon as transcribed, the staff testimonials the computer’s general performance and will make adjustments to make improvements to efficiency.

“We view the network as it is training and some thing termed the misplaced operate generally tells us how fantastic the pc is at what we informed it to do,” Lunceford claimed. “As we see the loss go down, that suggests the computer is having better.”

Transcribing technological innovation in the foreseeable future

It is an arduous course of action with some trial and error, but the staff is optimistic that it will preserve time and means in the extended operate. The technologies could also be used to other historical papers assignments.

“It usually takes a lot of time to teach volunteers the skills that are desired to transcribe and if the laptop or computer can do the issues that are presently remaining accomplished by volunteers, then the transcription can be done a lot a lot quicker,” Christiansen explained.

The project has not only additional to the students’ skilled expertise but it has strengthened their faith.

Oldroyd has been impressed by Woodruff’s journals and is maintaining one for her long term posterity.

Master much more about the Wilford Woodruff Papers project by visiting