The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded a $500,000 grant to Indiana University (IU) to support the HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC).
The grant will allow HTRC to develop reusable worksets and research models, curated by experts, for analyzing texts from the 17-million-volume HathiTrust Digital Library. The project—Scholar-Curated Worksets for Analysis, Reuse & Dissemination (SCWAReD, pronounced “squared”)—aims to develop new methods for creating and analyzing digital collections, with an emphasis on content related to historically under-resourced and marginalized textual communities.
This is an unusual, but much needed partnership that can be replicated across the digital landscape: we both bring something to the table, we both care about research, and we both care about what a rigorous investigation into a more diverse knowledge network can tell us.
Dr. Maryemma Graham, founder, University of Kansas Project on the History of Black Writing
The HTRC’s general mission is to provide tools and services to support computational research on the HathiTrust corpus, an ever-growing collection of digital texts. SCWAReD pairs human expertise with advanced technologies in the service of identifying, recovering, and curating texts by writers that are hidden among vast digital library collections. The project will explore processes for curating and digitally preserving a variety of research artifacts (methods, collections, derived data, and research reports) that can serve as reusable models for the entire digital research lifecycle.
Dr. John A. Walsh, director of the HTRC and associate professor at IU’s Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, affirms the project’s commitment to expanding public knowledge.
“Our focus on historically under-resourced and marginalized texts and communities will allow us to highlight the diversity of the collection and identify gaps where that diversity may be lacking. We expect that the reusable worksets and research models will facilitate outreach and extend the use of HTRC tools and services into new research communities and in the classroom,” said Walsh.
Dr. J. Stephen Downie, co-director of the HTRC and associate dean for research in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will lead the Illinois team, which is responsible for research support and tool development, and will contribute to collaborations in the workset-curation grants to be administered under the SCWAReD project.
Downie oversees the development of new HTRC tools and data products, and will lead efforts to incorporate newly derived data and worksets into the HTRC’s existing infrastructure.
Our focus on historically under-resourced and marginalized texts and communities will allow us to highlight the diversity of the collection and identify gaps where that diversity may be lacking.
Dr. John A. Walsh, director, HTRC
“Because the SCWAReD project encourages scholars to preserve and document their most significant research artifacts—from their worksets and the principles that went into creating and curating them, to the algorithms that are used to interrogate them, as well as the data that is derived or produced during analysis—reviewers and other researchers will be in a much better position to replicate, refute, or build on their findings,” explained Downie. “The work produced as part of SCWAReD will have a clear and transparent provenance and rigor that are rare in contemporary digital textual scholarship.”
For its flagship and initial curated collection and research model, SCWAReD will partner with the University of Kansas’s Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW), founded by Dr. Maryemma Graham in 1983. After compiling the first dedicated archive of Black Fiction, HBW created the Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP) as a way to increase the visibility of and research on Black-authored materials. The University of Kansas BBIP team will work closely with HTRC to develop a workset on the HBW corpus, and to perform the associated analysis, generation of derived data, documentation, and project white paper. Graham will likewise have a principal role in the selection of three other competitively chosen scholar-curated collections to be funded under SCWAReD.
“Through HTRC’s collaboration with Professor Graham and other scholars who will be invited to participate in the SCWAReD project, HTRC will demonstrate the possibilities of digital research using HTRC tools and services and the HathiTrust’s massive digital library,” Walsh said.
“This partnership allows us to realize the original intent of what many call the ‘digital turn:’ an ability to share knowledge more broadly and to advance scholarship through collaborative opportunities enhanced by technology,” Graham says. “Unfortunately, the legacy of racialized practices has followed us and made too much of our knowledge invisible. While it might not be possible to start on a level playing field, we can work together to develop a model for building more inclusive databases and content specific worksets that derive from them. This is an unusual, but much needed partnership that can be replicated across the digital landscape: we both bring something to the table, we both care about research, and we both care about what a rigorous investigation into a more diverse knowledge network can tell us.”
The work produced as part of SCWAReD will have a clear and transparent provenance and rigor that are rare in contemporary digital textual scholarship.
Dr. J. Stephen Downie, co-director, HTRC
About the HathiTrust Research Center
The HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC), an IU PTI-affiliated center, enables computational analysis of the HathiTrust corpus. It is a collaborative research center launched jointly by Indiana University and the University of Illinois, along with HathiTrust, to help meet the technical challenges researchers face when dealing with massive amounts of digital text. It develops cutting-edge software tools and cyberinfrastructure to enable advanced computational access to the growing digital record of human knowledge.
About the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering
The Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering is home to more than 3,000 students from the United States and around the world. The forward-looking school’s faculty are world-renowned experts in their respective fields and lead the way in critical areas such as artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, high-performance computing, programming languages, security, health care, human-computer interaction, computer engineering, complex systems, bioengineering and AI-driven-engineering.