Vega Awards Silver Winner

2023

Freedmen's Bureau Search Portal

Entrant Company

Forum One

Category

Website & Mobile Sites - Cultural

Client's Name

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Country / Region

United States

The U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was created by Congress in 1865 to help formerly enslaved people make the transition from slavery to freedom and citizenship, and to assist in the political and social reconstruction of post-war Southern states. Since then, the Freedmen's Bureau has generated millions of records, which were not centrally or easily accessible online.

As part of our long-term digital and strategic partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Forum One worked with the museum and their development partner, Quotient, to design and build the front-end of an innovative online portal that makes it possible to search and explore multiple sets of Freedmen’s Bureau data online. The new Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal expands opportunities for historians and scholars to research nuanced topics related to slavery and Reconstruction, and for family historians and genealogists to search for their ancestors, including formerly enslaved people and Southern white refugees.

The portal provides unprecedented combined access to Freedmen’s Bureau data, allowing users to search indexed data for specific names, places, and dates; and data transcribed from image files by topic, subject, institution, and other keywords. At its initial launch in 2022, the portal allowed full-text searches of more than 400,000 Bureau records – a collection that will grow to over 1.7 million records as transcribing efforts continue.

This project is a culmination of the largest crowd-sourcing initiative ever sponsored by the Smithsonian, with work from multiple organizations and thousands of volunteers who transcribed archival documents. Forum One is proud to have been a part of this historic and meaningful effort.

2023
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