Collections as Data Series

A black screen shows lines of code in yellow, green, and orange.

The Center for Digital Humanities and Princeton University Library are delighted to present the 2020–21 “Collections as Data” series. Now in its third year, the series is dedicated to exploring how library, archive, and museum collections can be leveraged to support data-driven scholarship and discovery. Our focus this year is community. We understand the concept of “community” in a broad sense. Questions we will explore include: What new communities are forming around data-focused projects? How can research activities like data collection, curation, or analysis involve the broader community? What are the unique benefits and challenges of community-engaged work with collections as data? How is data from library, archive, and museum collections helping shape broader community experience? How can libraries, archives, and museums expand their capacity to care for community-generated and vulnerable data?

Our first event, “Collections as Data: (Re)Discovering Black Histories, Spaces, and Cultures,” was on Wednesday, December 2, 3–4:20 pm. The panel featured Synatra Smith (Philadelphia Museum of Art) discussing her project “Black Philly Multiverse,” Amanda Henley (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) presenting On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance, with a discussion moderated by Jennifer Garcon (University of Pennsylvania).

Our second event, “Mukurtu, the Spalding-Allen Collection, and the Plateau Peoples Web Portal,” took place on Friday, March 26. The event featured Trevor James Bond (Washington State University Libraries), who described the process of adding the Spalding-Allen Collection to the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal. The Plateau Peoples’ Web portal uses the Mukurtu (MOOK-oo-too), an open source platform built with Indigenous communities to manage and share digital cultural heritage.

We closed out the series April 14–16 with “Crowdsourcing and the Humanities: Roundtable Discussions Celebrating Scribes of the Cairo Geniza.” Scribes of the Cairo Geniza is a multilingual crowdsourcing project launched in 2017 to classify and transcribe manuscript fragments from a medieval Egyptian synagogue. The series explored methods for project development and management, data curation and use, and crowdsourcing experiences in conversation with historians, developers, librarians, philologists, curators, DH practitioners, Geniza specialists, and community members around the world. The event was in partnership with University of Pennsylvania Libraries, the Princeton Geniza Lab, and the Zooniverse. Recordings of the panels are available on the Princeton Geniza Lab website.