Volunteering for the Hawaiian-Language Newspaper Project

Ike Kuokoa

When I heard the call for volunteers on the radio, I knew I wanted to be a part of the Ike Kuokoa initiative.

I signed up that very morning to help with the effort to transcribe tens of thousands of Hawaiian-language newspaper pages dating back to the mid-19th century. The project doesn't involve translation, but it's proving to be much more challenging — and rewarding — than I had expected.

Ike Kuokoa means "liberating knowledge" in Hawaiian. The project launched Nov. 28 with the goal of transcribing 60,000 digital scans of Hawaiian-language newspaper pages into searchable typescript by this summer.

Hawaiian language scholar Puakea Nogelmeier — he's also an award-winning songwriter, kumu hula and University of Hawaii associate professor of Hawaiian language — serves as director for the project. His call for volunteers on Hawaii Public Radio got me to join.

According to the project's website:

"More than 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed in more than 100 newspapers between 1834 and 1948. They equal 1 million or more typescript pages of text — apparently the largest native-language cache in the western world."

"The newspapers became an intentional repository of knowledge, opinion and historical progress as Hawaii moved through kingdom, constitutional monarchy, republic and territory, yet only 2 percent of that repository has been integrated into our English-speaking world today. ...

"Our goal is to make the whole available collection word-searchable, and to do it by July 31, 2012. It will open up hundreds of thousands of pages worth of data on history, culture, politics, sciences, world view, and more."

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