Plutarch: Portal for Learning and UndersTanding ARCHival sources
Scholar #1 Info:
- Field of Study/Creative Endeavor:
Collector Info (can be the same as "Scholar" above):
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Task: Managing and integrating digital images of archival / special collections materials with secondary sources and data analysis tools to support the interpretation process
- AUDIENCE: Historians, any other scholars who work with primary texts (e.g., English, Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, Languages, American Culture, etc.)
- WHAT: Research using primary sources entails research visits or remotely contacting multiple repositories and special collections to collect materials about a person, activity, or subject. Now, many archives and special collections scan photographs or documents and deliver these to researchers electronically. However, researchers have no good means of managing these images or ones they have downloaded from existing online projects, such as American Memory. In particular, there is no software available to help integrate the primary sources with secondary sources, personal or research group notes, transcriptions, or other applications, such as GIS etc. to facilitate the interpretation process.
- HOW: For example, if I am interested in a specific Civil War battle, I may collect hundreds of diary entries, documents, and letters about the event from participants, their family members, and government archives. I need to manage these scanned images on my server and integrate this with secondary sources (citations and perhaps even the full books out of copyright that are freely available). I also want to map the materials using GIS software, where was the soldier on the battlefield, where was he from (community/city/state) and can I integrate census data about the socio-economic status of the locality, many of the diary entries are difficult to read so my research groups has transcribed portions and I want to view these side by side with the original. All this data manipulation is really needed before I can really begin any interpretation. In short, I need to establish a context for my subject and that involves triangulating information from multiple places in order to gain new insights and generate new knowledge. The big X here is amassing, organizing, and preparing these data; the Y would be the actual analysis.
- HELPS: There are currently no standard applications out there so different scholars use personalized and idiosyncratic solutions that are not sharable - and this complicates subsequent re-use or sharing (and definitely collaboration).
There are currently discrete applications that enable some types of management: Zotero, Treepad, Transana, Google maps, A.nnotate; but they only do pieces of this puzzle. The multiple application approach also means that one must do multiple searches to get information and there is no interoperability for data exchange. Lots of duplicative data entry to maintain consistency across these data.
- NEED: The technology I have in mind would not only be able to integrate information in different formats from different sources (with metadata) but also be able to search across the different types of information and help make new connections.
- PLAYERS: Creating and maintaining this resource would require a variety of institutional players. Librarians, archivists, and curators would be data providers, so they would have to provide interoperable data in digital formats. There is a large programming role here for computer scientists to integrate existing tools (e.g., Zotero, A.nnotate), and academic technologists would have to support this program.