Using crowdsourcing to make wine label history searchable and accessible
Label This was a project designed to use crowdsourcing to add value to one of the library’s more interesting local collections: a set of wine labels collected by Maynard Amerine during his time at the university. The Label This project helped inform the library on the technical and social requirements for enhancing the information from our collections.
Who was Maynard Amerine?
Maynard Amerine, a professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis for nearly four decades, is widely considered to be the driving force behind the post-Prohibition wine industry in California. The over 5,000 labels he collected tell a story of the global wine industry from the 1800s through the 1950s.
A Window into the History of Wine
These labels tell the story of the growing wine industry during a pivotal time. Spanning nearly 100 years, from the late 1800s to the 1950s, the majority of the labels are from the 1930s and ’40s. In an era before computers, Amerine pasted the labels into black spiral-bound notebooks, organized by region (usually country), divided into red or white, and in some cases further divided into sub-regions or ‘appellations.’
Some were annotated, with Amerine often giving the wine a letter grade, or specifying when, where and with whom the bottle might have been drunk. His handwritten notations appear alongside many of the labels on this site.
The goal of Label This was to make these labels, and this history, searchable and accessible to wine lovers everywhere.
By providing crowdsourcing software over our digital collection of wine labels, library users provided hundreds of thousands of annotations to the wine label collection. These annotations provide valuable information regarding each label, and also provide the capability of text-based searching on the labels within the library’s Amerine Label Collection. Scholars are able to search by vintage, varietal, region, or even the type of image on a label.
The wine labels collected by famed UC Davis Professor Maynard Amerine shine a light on how his travels and exhaustive pursuit of the craft of winemaking influenced generations of winemakers around the world.
How Did the Project Work?
Label This was primarily developed with the open software Scribe API. Administration of the transcriptions was managed in an internal database.
Mark Area Labels
Before contributors could transcribe the labels, we needed to know which sections needed transcription. Our users marked up the labels by drawing boxes around each area of interest on the label, and identified the regions as images or text. Tasks were performed multiple times by different individuals to improve the accuracy of the results.
Once all the areas of interest on a label were marked, users used a separate tool to transcribe the text on the label. For artfully executed label text, humans are often superior to machines in this task.
Alternatively, users could describe any image that appeared on the labels. Again, humans can understand the context of an image on a label in ways that machines cannot.
Experience the Outcome
Though the crowdsourcing project has concluded, you can experience its results by exploring the Amerine Wine Label collection on the UC Davis Digital Collections website. The transcriptions derived from this project help drive the current site’s capabilities to search these labels.