• Faculty-archives collaboration in digital humanities

    I was thinking of proposing a camp discussion topic on faculty-archives collaboration in digital humanities to support interdisciplinary scholarship, enhance metadata (DC, EAD, TEI, etc) collaboratively.   Archives are a source of knowledge that can be used and re-used for scholarly research and/or administrative decision-making purposes,  but rigid (and often obsolete) description standards may render valuable collections hidden to potential users.

    • Can archives work with researchers to update the terminologies (controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, ontologies) periodically to facilitate the retrieval of old records?
    • Can archives support interdisciplinary research in digital humanities through collaborative metadata enhancement?
    • What improvements can archives make to promote research in specific fields (such as disability history/disability studies)? Will updated controlled vocabularies or techniques such as taxonomy mapping (between older and newer collections) work here?

    These are just questions.  I don’t expect all to be answered but will look forward to THAT camp for good ideas and discussions.

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6 Comments


  1. micalee says:

    This sounds like a great topic for THATCamp. I’m interested in this topic myself and have begun to use Omeka to create a digital archive of my own research. I’ve also had a few conversations with archivists concerning copyright issues and am actually meeting with someone today to discuss using DC for Omeka. I’m looking forward to discussing this more with you.

  2. Thanks, Micalee. I use DC for our digital library in OhioLINK (http://drc.library.utoledo.edu/handle/2374.UTOL/1) and I use a customized new media system for Toledo’s Attic (www.toledosattic.org), but it does not accommodate DC. We are in fact looking into Joomla, which does support DC. I have a test instance in the online version of Omeka, so I’d be very interested in what you have done with it. I’ll look forward to more discussion soon 🙂 — Arjun

  3. scoutcalvert says:

    I don’t know what kinds of controlled vocabularies archivists work, but I would be interested in discussing the creation of specialized thesauri, for example for disability studies. Particularly, I think it would be excellent to create a thesaurus wiki that would allow interested and knowledgeable people and community members to create subject access terms that were more up to date and reflective of diverse communities. Archivists and librarians could also create a database of alternative cataloging for materials that are inappropriately represented. Such a database would allow librarians and activists a resource for fully and correctly cataloging marginal materials.

    • Thanks. Specialized thesauri wiki is an excellent idea for collaborative projects. The beauty (and challenge) of archival work is that each collection gets representation through a unique set of domain terms while using some standard LC terms may help researchers to identify some related material in the general library collections. I’ll look forward to a discussion.

  4. Rebecca says:

    This sounds very interesting. In addition to the (what I consider to be) often square-peg-in-round-hole of using standardized vocabularies for archival description, will you also be looking at some of the challenges (as well as the beauty/triumphs) of collection level description?

  5. Thanks, Rebecca.

    The beauty of archives is that the description fits the knowledge domain preserved in the collections. In addition to the local descriptions, I see no harm in coming as close as possible to the topic with LC subjects.

    Collection-level description is often where we stop when we have little staff resource to enhance the description. While this appears easy, I found that collections can be heterogenous and even interdisciplinary as to belong to multiple subject headings. So, we end up placing a collection in two or sometimes even three subject areas. This is where and why I thought that collection descriptions sometimes need to be updated, so that new audiences using new keywords would also be able to retrieve older collections. Mapping old classification terms to new ones may be a method. I will look forward to any eye-opening discussions, and hope to learn from your suggestions as well.

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