I’ve been awarded a CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin for a project called ‘Bridging collections with a participatory Commons: a pilot with World War One archives’. It starts in late September and runs for 12 weeks. I’ve decided to be brave and share my thoughts and actions throughout the process, so I thought I’d start as I mean to go on and post my proposal (1500 words, below). CENDARI is a ‘research infrastructure project aimed at integrating digital archives for the medieval and World War One eras’ which ‘aims to leverage innovative technologies to provide historians with the tools by which to contextualise, customise and share their research’ (source) so this research fellowship very neatly complements my PhD research (which should be complete by then).
My motives in posting my proposal are partly selfish – it’s an ambitious project which requires tackling community building, user experience design, historical materials and programming, and I’ll be drawing on the expertise of many people, starting now! Specific questions I’d love help with are:
- do you have any family or local records relating to World War One that you’d like to share through this project?
- do you know of relevant personal records held by museums, libraries or archives that are either already digitised or could be digitised within my timeframe?
- do you have suggestions for specific software applications or code libraries that would be useful for this project?
- can you offer or help negotiate access to official records?
- on a lighter note, who or what should I see, meet or do while I’m in Dublin?
You can contact me by leaving a comment below, or via my contact page. If you’d like to follow my progress, you can sign up for (very infrequent) updates at MailChimp: http://eepurl.com/VUXEL or keep an eye out for posts tagged ‘CENDARI Fellowship’ on my blog, Open Objects.
Trinity College Dublin Long Room Hub
Bridging collections with a participatory Commons: a pilot with World War One archives
I propose a pilot project to test the potential for a ‘participatory Commons’ based on World War One collections. A participatory Commons aggregates collections from memory institutions – archives, libraries, museums – and ‘shoebox archives’ of diaries, letters, photos, etc from the public, and enhances those records with the help of the public and historians. ‘Crowdsourcing’, or asking the public to help with a larger project such as digitising documents by undertaking ‘micro-tasks’ such as transcribing small sections of text, is an increasingly common method for engaging the public in ‘citizen history’. Historians can also contribute by sharing the content or knowledge around the personal record collections they create while conducting archival research. The coming centenary of WWI will create huge levels of public interest, and participatory projects such as this are ideally situated to convert this interest into action, however small.
My project would create a prototype participatory Commons in which a combination of text mining, named entity recognition and crowdsourcing will be used to link official and unofficial WWI archival collections by matching names, dates, places and events in private diaries, letters, photos and ephemera with those recorded in official records.
Specific technical and historical research questions include:
- What customisation does software for entity recognition require to recognise historic personal and place names?
- What are the best interface and interaction design strategies for encouraging members of the public to transcribe, index and describe historic documents?
- What logistical and intellectual issues arise for researchers using a participatory Commons?
- Would outputs like maps, geospatial search and place name indexes help researchers discover content from unexpected sources and from archives in other languages?
- What are the benefits of combining official accounts with the lived experiences of WWI as represented by personal diaries, photos and letters?