Catalog Contributions: Celebrating the “Wisdom of the Crowd”

In 2011, we introduced the tagging feature in the National Archives Catalog as a way to invite citizens to contribute their knowledge and expertise to archival descriptions: the “Wisdom of the Crowd.” Within the first month, we celebrated more than 1,000 user-contributed tags; each added with the goal of enhancing records and helping to improve search results. 

Thanks to the continued work of more than 29,000 contributors in our citizen archivist community, now, just over 10 years later, we have more than 8 million enhancements on 2.48 million pages of records in the Catalog. Those enhancements include more than 6 million tags and 2 million transcriptions. All of these contributions help improve search results for our records and make handwritten or difficult-to-read text accessible for a wider audience. 

Citizen contributed transcription of Ratified Indian Treaty 5: Extracts from the Treaty at Albany with the Six Nations (Manuscript Copy), 1754. National Archives Identifier 77166047

Contributions to the records in our Catalog have been used for a variety of research tools and search strategies, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs Finding Aid and the Native American Treaties Explorer, as well as projects organized by NARA staff to help improve access to records, like the Searchable Stock Shots project from the Motion Picture Preservation Lab and the African American History research portals.

Footage of soap box derby, with descriptive keyword tags added in the Catalog. Still from 306-LS-1669, National Archives Identifier 58263.
 Citizen Archivists tagged photographs with topical subject tags to help contribute to the Topics page of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Photograph Finding Aid

The National Archives Catalog contains nearly 28 million descriptions of archival records and more than 165 million digital objects. Millions of digital objects are added to the Catalog every year. With the size of NARA’s publicly available holdings in the Catalog growing each week, facilitating access and discovery to the material in the Catalog is paramount to achieving NARA’s Strategic Goals

As we work to make more of our holdings available online, it is also important to see how our researchers and customers interact with those records, invite them to contribute their unique knowledge and expertise, and ultimately make the records more searchable and accessible.

Read more about the Citizen Archivist program, including how to register to start tagging and transcribing records, and explore the ongoing citizen archivist missions and more resources for our virtual volunteers.

Many thanks to the more than 29,000 contributors who have helped unlock history. Here are our top 10 contributors:


  1. Smithal
  2. Gypsi
  3. Trumanvol
  4. Lcahalan
  5. Cmcutrona
  6. Ddoerner
  7. Garywysocki
  8. Mtarabulski
  9. RCrawford
  10. RonnaB


  1. Tmccolle
  2. Jammon49
  4. Aapiaom
  6. Scludwig
  7. Cassone
  8. Irakirshenbaum
  9. Lcahalan
  10. Smithal