Online Archival Research Methods

A NAVSA Data Caucus Roundtable and Workshop

16 October, 1pm EST

Register by 14 October:

Leading participants:

Alison Hedley (McGill University,

Anne Helmreich (Getty Research Institute,

Meredith Martin (Princeton University,

Adrian Wisnicki (University of Nebraska-Lincoln,

Moderator: Megan Ward (Oregon State University,

Session proposal:

In response to NAVSA member interest in online archival research methods, the Data Caucus proposes a workshop on the topic of online research methods. The availability of nineteenth-century materials online has increased significantly in the last two decades. Taking archives online has not removed all barriers to archives; many, indeed most, materials remain undigitized, and what is online may be housed behind a paywall or made less accessible by inconsistent infrastructure. Nonetheless, digitization has transformed the possibilities for research in our field, enabling readier access and new methods of exploration and analysis at multiple scales. Remote access is especially valuable at the present time, as the effects of the COVID pandemic continues to limit the mobility of many researchers.

Our session will be organized into the following format:

Part One (25 minutes) will be a roundtable in which leading participants summarize methods and tools in which they have expertise:

Alison Hedley will discuss the use of computer vision for processing visual archival materials (i.e. digital scans of print pages). Supervised and semi-supervised machine learning can be used to process image files on a large scale, but are currently limited in the range of image types that they can sort from one another. This method can be paired with a manual approach to image sorting that applies a more complex classification system to processing image files on a small scale.

Anne Helmreich will give a brief overview of data management, focusing on data reconciliation (using the Getty Vocabularies OpenRefine reconciliation service) and  linked open data. Their applicability to research projects in art history/museum collections will be briefly discussed.

Meredith Martin will briefly discuss how to use the HathiTrust Digital Library for user-created collections and toolsets. She’ll give a guided tour through the Princeton Prosody Archive to show the possibilities for HathiTrust collaboration. 

Adrian S. Wisnicki will discuss the general objectives of minimal computing methodologies and digital recycling (aka digital repurposing) with the goal of considering how scholars – in an era of limited institutions resources and diminishing external funding that nonetheless is becoming increasingly digital – might produce digital and digitally-based scholarship with the potential to reach wide audiences.

Part Two (25 minutes)will facilitate collaborative knowledge exchange on digital archival methods. Attendees will divide into breakout consultations grouped by interest area. In this less-structured portion of the session, participants can discuss roundtable topics and other methods in detail, particularly in relation to current or future research and teaching projects.

Wrap-up (10 minutes): We will conclude the session by reconvening to review the breakout group proceedings and invite final reflections/take-aways.

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