AIC Research Fellows, Phillip Nicholas and Alexis Hill gave a presentation at the SAA Research Forum entitled “Establishing a Research Agenda for Computational Archival Science through Interdisciplinary Collaborations between Archivists and Technologists”. This was part of ARCHIVES * 2020 – the Virtual Joint Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the Council State of State Archivists (COSA).

This session emerged when four University of Maryland iSchool graduate students (MLIS and Doctoral) with diverse backgrounds in IT, information policy, information management, history, and archives, worked in small interdisciplinary teams in the fall of 2019, collaborating for 8 weeks on exploring data-driven scholarship and investigating new archival science methodologies in order to contextualize datafied records from the Legacy of Slavery Project at the Maryland State Archives. The project is called “CT-LoS: Computational Treatments to
re-member the Legacy of Slavery — ‘Reasserting Erased Memory’ “.

They were joined by two colleagues and AIC Research Fellows and the AIC Founder – Lori Perine, Managing Principal at InterpreTech, Rajesh Kumar Gnanasekaran, IT Senior Engineer at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Division of Information Technology, and Dr. Richard Marciano, AIC Founder.

This presentation documents the resulting conceptual and methodological challenges explored with a focus on the ethical implications that digital brings to our understanding of the record and the archival context and suggests new ways for archives to become more accountable, collaborative and transparent.

Session Agenda:

The session began with Phillip Nicholas(Archives Fellow at the USDA National Agricultural Library, MLIS Student at the University of Maryland, College Park iSchool, and recipient of the Computational Archival Science (CAS) Award from the Michael J. Kurtz Foundation for my work and collaboration on the Legacy of Slavery Project)setting the narrative and providing context for the experiment. He discussed how computational archival science through interdisciplinary collaborations between archivists and technologists could lead to further research, discovery, and access. He briefly summed up the general workflow we utilized, discussed the computational exploration procedure, and provided a few examples of technical limitations. See: https://youtu.be/rtdbFtXTIBk (discussion ends at 5:35)

Alexis Hill(Archives Technician at the U. S. National Archives and Records Administration and MLIS Student at the University of Maryland, College Park iSchool) continued the presentation by addressing other challenges and discoveries. She briefly explains how we used a visualization data tool, Tableau, to characterize the datasets and unearth discoveries. She concluded the presentation by describing how collaboration with this cultural dataset allowed us to explore the use of computational tools to better understand the archival record, thus expanding possibilities for research, discovery, and new knowledge. See: https://youtu.be/rtdbFtXTIBk (discussion begins at 5:38)

Lori Perine (Managing Principle at InterpreTech, Lecturer and Doctoral Student at the University of Maryland, College Park in the College of Information Studies iSchool) led the Q&A session and explained our future interests in developing slave ontologies. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHg-emApWpk

Rajesh Kumar Gnanasekaran (IT Senior Engineer at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Division of Information Technology and Doctoral Student at the University of Maryland, College Park) in addition, led the Q&A session and explained the process of using data cleaning, visualization, and graph database tools. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHg-emApWpk

Authored by Phillip Nicholas

Leave a Reply