researching. One of the outstanding results of this project was the creation of a
names identity database—a prosopography—that helps scholars sort out the
identities of the formal and personal names that appear throughout the letters
and other documents in the archives. After a decade of use, the data-entry
system now needs to be upgraded, and MAP is using the occasion also to
reconceive its fellowship programs. It will continue to have a small number of
residential fellows, but is now planning for them to be of shorter duration so
that it can also establish long-distance fellowships for individuals as well as a
program for distance learning. For both of these new initiatives, MAP would
digitize relevant files for the research or course topic but then still require the
fellows and the students under the supervision of the course instructor to
catalog at a distance these files as part of the interaction.
Another example is the work of Greg Crane, the classicist at Tufts, who
established the Perseus database and has lately been hugely imaginative and
productive in thinking about “What to do with a Million Books.” He and his
research team have selected a corpus of books from the classical canon, worked
with the University of Toronto and other libraries to ensure that these works find
their way into the work flow of the mass digitization projects. His team then
obtained library assistance and created a fully faceted, master bibliography of
these selected works.25
This initiative
demonstrates that one solution to the metadata
problems that are rampant in Google books might
be to distribute the effort to self-organizing
scholarly teams that care about specific parts of
the corpus and will invest the necessary effort to
correct and make it usable for scholarly purposes.
Crane and his team are also working with
information specialists to engage other scholars and their students in developing
and implementing the methods for applying linguistic markup to the corpus to
facilitate machine analysis. Crane’s efforts seem to me to provide a model that
could easily be emulated by other scholarly teams in other fields.
Connecting Collections
This brings me to the third area of development I would ask you to consider:
Can we develop new and reliable methods to link related special collections
across institutions? We have been exploring this area at the Mellon Foundation
RLI 267
38
The Changing Role of Special Collections in Scholarly Communications
(
C O N T I N U E D
)
DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
…one solution to the metadata problems that are
rampant in Google books might be to distribute
the effort to self-organizing scholarly teams that
care about specific parts of the corpus and will
invest the necessary effort to correct and make it
usable for scholarly purposes.
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