Crowd's Anglo-Saxon valuables

Project Woruldhord organiser taps public for help in building 'online hoard'. Hanna Rowland writes

July 29, 2010

An academic is hoping to harness the power of crowd sourcing to compile an "online hoard" of material on the teaching and research of Old English and Anglo-Saxon history.

The University of Oxford's Project Woruldhord is the latest example of scholars tapping into resources offered by the public, and follows the success of Oxford's Great War Archive, which collected more than 6,500 contributed items based on personal experiences and memories of the First World War.

The latest project, led by Stuart Lee, director of Oxford's computing services and a member of the Faculty of English, will run until 14 October, and everyone - from teachers and librarians to enthusiastic amateurs - is being invited to participate.

As well as artefacts, Dr Lee is also asking for more simple contributions such as poems and songs inspired by the era or photographs of Anglo-Saxon buildings and sites, because, he said, "an effective teaching resource can be as simple as a photo".

Until now, Dr Lee said, teachers have been reluctant to contribute to teaching-resource websites, but he hoped that Project Woruldhord would encourage them to do so.

The project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee, has held a series of workshops to teach schools and libraries how to use the technology on a smaller scale.

He added that the general public's "wealth of experience and untapped enthusiasm" could play an increasingly important role within the academy through similar schemes.

The project is the latest in a long line of academic ventures based on crowd sourcing, dating back as far as early editions of the Oxford English Dictionary, when volunteers were asked to send in suggested definitions on a piece of paper.

"The internet provides a great way of collecting information and developing networks," Dr Lee said. However, he acknowledged that the project would succeed only if non-experts shared resources and academics accepted the idea and made use of them.

In a bid to win over doubters, Dr Lee said that he had already shared many of his own teaching resources online, and as a result received enthusiastic correspondence from students around the world.

Although the Project Woruldhord archive is expected to be of most use to teachers, once the information has been collated, the data will be available free of charge to all.

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