Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University has just announced Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade, a “constellation of software and services built to address the challenges of connecting archives, databases, and collections that record the histories of slavery and enslaved peoples.” Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project’s objectives are to:
- Build an interconnected system of services and tools that would (1) Allow individuals involved in the slave trade to be identified and recognized across all participating project databases; (2) Allow those identified and recognized individuals to be searched, explored and visualized in the Enslaved Hub; (3) Connect those individuals to particular events and places with a Disambiguation Tool and Authoritative Name Service in the Enslaved Hub; and (4) Create at least 25 interactive biographies of people of the slave trade as exemplary models.
- To accomplish the focus on people, we are using Linked Open Data (LOD) to interconnect individual projects and databases. A LOD-based approach facilitates federated searching and browsing across all linked project data on the Hub. It also creates a network and community framework that supports the preservation of current and future slave data projects.
- For online database projects, which are proliferating at a rapid pace, scholars have not agreed on best practices. The Hub would be the space for disseminating best practices for data collection, metadata standards, ontologies, and workflows. It would also provide guidance for participating in the Hub.
- The project will institute an editorial board to review datasets and projects to be included in the Hub. Having an editorial board will ensure the quality of the data, and emphasize that the database or project has been published and is worthy of consideration for scholarly credit in review processes.
- The Hub will provide a space for preservation of datasets and help identify projects in danger of going offline. All facets will be open source and contribute to developing a wide community to support the sustainability of the project.
The project includes a number of partners who have worked on large-scale histories of enslavement.