Mellon Foundation grants follow-up project!

The MEDEA activities flow into a new international initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation in its electronic edition scheme (https://mellon.org/resources/news/articles/digital-publicaton-grant-winners/):

Digital Edition Publishing Cooperative for Historical Accounts

The Digital Edition Publishing Cooperative for Historical Accounts will offer publication and access services to a wide range of editors and users interested in the information contained in historical accounting records. This hub will allow editors to upload their transcriptions from multiple formats—including Excel, Drupal, XML/TEI—without the need for encoding expertise. As outputs, the hub will offer visualizations of current interest to editors—price timelines, commodity pie charts and network diagrams that can be exported to editors’ own websites. In addition, the hosted data will be converted to Resource Definition Framework (RDF), which will make it discoverable for data mining for historians who seek to take advantage of the semantic web and for researchers in fields other than history.

This publishing cooperative will leverage relationships developed under Modeling semantically Enhanced Digital Edition of Accounts (MEDEA), a primarily European-based project funded through a 2015 Bilateral Digital Humanities award from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the German Research Foundation. The cooperative will share technical expertise and establish a platform for publication of digital editions that include textual and numerical representations; visualizations of accounting information; and data representation referencing a shared MEDEA bookkeeping ontology. The proposed platform will replicate a system developed at the Centre for Information Modeling (Zentrum für Informationsmodellierung—ZIM), Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities, at the University of Graz: the Humanities Asset Management System (Geisteswissenschaftliches Asset Management System—GAMS), a FEDORA Commons-based infrastructure for data enrichment, publication, and long-term preservation of digital humanities data.

Our team of experts shares a scholarly affinity for creating digital editions of accounts, with historian Kathryn Tomasek of Wheaton College serving as Principal Investigator. Georg Vogeler and Christopher Pollin join the team from Graz. MEDEA participants lead several U.S. projects focused on creating digital editions of accounts: Jennifer Stertzer and Worthy Martin at the University of Virginia, Anna Agbe-Davies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Jodi Eastberg at Alverno College. Additional participants work in libraries that hold a substantial number of account books in their collections: Molly Hardy of the American Antiquarian Society and Gregory Colati of the University of Connecticut. Ben Brumfield and Sara Brumfield, of Brumfield Labs, LLC, will serve as technical consultants in the United States. Kate Boylan, Director of Archives and Digital Initiatives, contributes a leadership perspective from Library Services at Wheaton College, the proposed host institution. The project team will hold two in-person meetings and will meet via video conference 10 times, producing a plan for a digital edition publishing cooperative built on the GAMS technical model and the associated workflows. In-person meetings will coincide with the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) since most participants already attend the conference and can cover their own costs for travel and lodging. In two parallel meetings, groups of team members will focus on (1) technical concerns—evaluating needs of user communities and establishing programs and workflows for conversion of data and creating outputs, and (2) administrative matters—collecting and evaluating cost models and assessing hosting requirements, including feasibility of sharing technical data across editions and institutional agreements necessary for federation of editions. Together, the editors and technical experts will produce test files for demonstration purposes. The greatest portion of the budget will pay for technical experts, with a smaller portion budgeted for travel. The broad perspectives of the project team will ensure outcomes that benefit the existing documentary editing community (Stertzer), the edition cluster (Stertzer, Agbe-Davies, and Tomasek), and future editions (Martin, Eastberg, Hardy, and Colati). The team represents stakeholders interested in digital edition of accounts, including members of the highly esteemed documentary edition of the Papers of George Washington, staff from libraries and archives with large holdings of account books (Hardy and Colati), and scholars from outside the well-established documentary community whose scholarly research focuses on the information contained in historical account books and who seek to produce reusable data from them (Tomasek, Agbe-Davies, Martin, Eastberg).

The Digital Edition Publishing Cooperative for Historical Accounts also will advance the digital editions initiative by employing MEDEA’s connection to the international community of digital humanities scholars focused on Linked Open Data and on creating ontologies for sharing humanities data on the semantic web. The cooperative will further the transfer of knowledge piloted under MEDEA, sharing technical expertise developed at ZIM with editors in the United States, and thereby incorporating American scholars more fully into international communities of practices that involve sharing and harmonizing information resources that accommodate local variations and the distinctive features of particular projects. As a hub for publishing digital editions of accounts, the cooperative will offer an opportunity to bridge existing gaps between the world of traditional documentary editing and that of digital history/digital humanities. Through continuing exchanges among ZIM in Austria, the cooperative in the United States, and new editions, the cooperative will advance the state of the art in digital scholarship grounded in emerging technologies of the semantic web. Our cooperative will contribute one avenue of transnational transfer of knowledge and foster global collaborations for other cooperatives supported by this initiative.

Narrative (PDF)


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