Rejoining the Cairo Genizah fragments by Citizen Science

One of the major obstacles facing the Cairo Genizah research is the fragmentary state of the documents and their scattering. It is very common to locate different pages from the same manuscript, and even several scraps from the same page, located in different libraries which may reside even in different continents.

A significant contribution to overcome this obstacle has been achieved with the launch of the virtual library of the Friedberg Genizah Project, which digitized almost all of the Genizah collections, and holds currently about 450,000 images from them.  These images were then processed by special software which we developed to automatically identify join-candidates (pairs of fragments suspected to derived from the same manuscript) based on the similarity of the handwriting in the fragments. Few months ago we successfully completed a big project in which 12.4 billion pairs of Genizah fragments were compared by this software. A report about this project can be found  in the New York Times.

I wish to present the project in general, and in particular to discuss the possibility of using citizen science for its current stage. That is, to recruit thousands of volunteers to review the enormous lists of suspected joins produced by the software, eliminate the apparent “false-positive” results and help us achieve the final goal: rejoining all the fragments from the Cairo Genizah collections. I will present samples of joins and non-joins so everyone will have the opportunity to experience the requested task. I will then would like to discuss how can we turn this task into a “game” that will attract loads of volunteers.