The Cairo Genizah is a vast storehouse of 300,000 fragments of manuscripts and documents from the Medieval Jewish Community of Fustat. During the last decade, this treasure has been digitized and the fragments, which are scattered in dozens of libraries and private collections throughout the world, are now all available on a scholarly oriented website.
In addition to the digitized images, the website contains a platform for available and future scholarly knowledge about the texts (i.e. descriptions, transcriptions, translations, bibliography etc.). See http://www.jewishmanuscripts.org/
So far about only 10% of the fragments have been transcribed. This means that the vast majority are not accessible by the available search engines. The Centre, in collaboration with Dept. of Information Systems in Haifa University, is working on the development of tools to enable crowd sourcing enrichment of the data base. The first step is the creation of a user friendly, interactive platform that will allow the genral public to participate in transcribing selected fragments.
The contribution of the project is two-fold:
First, it aims at harnessing the idea of crowd sourcing to the process of transcribing the Genizah thus speeding up the arduous process of transcription and increasing the accessibility of the Genizah materials to scholars and the general public.
Second, in the course of transcribing the Genizah, a corpus of characters will be created in order which can then be utilitzed to train text classifiers thus providing a crtitcal step towards the development of OCR tools capable of deciphering Genizah manuscripts.
In addition, general participation will increase public awareness of the Genizah and its educational potential. For example: School classes can transcribe documents relevant to subjects that they are currently studying.
We are presently working on a prototype and pilot study of the basic platform. This is being done in cooperation with the Haifa Library and will use the University's own collection of fragments.