HONOLULU - A volunteer effort to type thousands of pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers has ended, but organizers hope the project can move forward in preserving the language and culture.
Ike Kuokoa is an initiative to make Hawaiian-language newspapers searchable online using thousands of volunteer typists to transcribe 60,000 digitally scanned pages in eight months.
The project aimed to have 3,000 volunteers to complete transcribing by last Tuesday's deadline, which coincided with Hawaiian Restoration Day, commemorating the end of the Hawaiian Kingdom's brief occupation by Great Britain. November's launch event took place during Hawaiian Independence Day, which marks the day Great Britain and France recognized Hawaii's independence.
By the deadline, there were 15,000 pages complete, falling short of the goal, but exceeding expectations for the amount of volunteers with more than 6,500, organizers said.
Using human hands was necessary after funding for a Bishop Museum project ran out and because no computer software is precise enough to handle the Hawaiian language, with its eight consonants and five vowels, where one letter or glottal stop can make the difference between two very different words.
But organizers also wanted the effort to have a personal touch - giving people a tangible connection to a language that's considered endangered despite efforts at revitalization. They also wanted to give people a hand in helping preserve the language and create online resources for future generations, said Puakea Nogelmeier, director of Awaiaulu, the Hawaiian language educational organization overseeing the project.
"It's not just about the language," he said. "It's about the knowledge."
The remaining pages, he said, will have to be transcribed by computers and checked by humans for accuracy.
Nogelmeier said it was clear that 60,000 was a lofty goal for such a short time span, but organizers were surprised by the volunteers who participated from not only across the Hawaiian Islands but from across the globe, including Japan, Germany and France. Typists included a Mississippi sister of a Hawaii resident and women incarcerated in a Kailua prison.
For Patrick Makuakane, a hula teacher in San Francisco, it was a way to give back to a culture his students draw from while dancing. The 240-member halau, or hula group, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Weiku, typed about 1,200 pages. "The implications for our history and culture, how could we not take a part in this?" he asked. "We take from the culture all the time."