In our current digital age, more and more people stop picking up the newspaper and instead browse the web. With ads popping up just about everywhere, the last place you consciously look for ads may be in traditional print publications.

However, newspapers make the most of their revenue from selling ad space. Looking at advertisements of the past can provide cultural history and snapshots of what brands were popular in the daily lives of people in the past.

A new project from the New York Times research and development lab is attempting to bring the past back to life in a crowdsourcing project that asks the public to view archives of old paper ads and document the text.

"Help us digitize our historic ads by answering simple questions," the site says. "You'll be creating a unique resource for historians, advertisers and the public -- and leaving your mark on history."

The goal of the Times crowdsourcing project is to identify which specific section of the paper includes ads and whom it is advertising for. The public can "help preserve history with just one click" by viewing archives of old papers and transcribing the text using the data software Hive.

After getting started, the user is shown an image and text from an archived paper clipping and asked if it is exactly one ad, part of an ad, multiple ads or not an ad. There is also the option to skip.

The more ads the user identities, the higher they get on a ranking system that includes titles "reader" and "finder."

The project currently features ads starting from the 1960s, but will extend to bring other periods of the past in the near future.

The Times crowdsourcing project mirrors the transcription project from the Smithsonian Institution. After a year in beta, which included 1,000 volunteers transcribing over 13,000 pages of material, the Smithsonian officially launched its own crowdsourcing project on its website in August.

"We are thrilled to invite the public to be our partners in the creation of knowledge to help open our resources for professional and casual researchers to make new discoveries," said Smithsonian secretary Wayne Clough. "For years, the vast resources of the Smithsonian were powered by the pen; they can now be powered by the pixel."

Using the power of the public, the Transcription Center website includes thousands of digital documents that range in topics from art, history, culture and science.

Crowdsourcing gives the public the opportunity to play a role in preserving the past by digitally transcribing documents, a project that would be impossible to complete with just staff.

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