Crowd-sourced Curation and Publication of Special Collections Materials

This is the last in a series of posts about the teams who will be attending the Institute in November, and their projects. This was submitted by Josh Sosin.

Image of papyrus fragmentLet’s a imagine a student has been working on his Coptic, getting good, looking for a short research project. He discovers that the Rubinstein Library at Duke owns a fragment of I Kingdoms in Sahidic, sits down with the original in the reading room, takes careful notes on its physical and palaeographic features, transcribes the text and collates it against the textual tradition, and leaves at closing time. Later, he discovers that the fragment is our earliest witness to Sahidic I Kingdoms, pre-dating the next oldest witness by half a millennium! What’s more, it shows remarkably little difference from the later text, suggesting a very stable tradition and transmission, entirely out of keeping with scholarly consensus. He writes it up: A. Butts, “P.Duk.inv. 797 (U) – I Kingdoms 14:24-50 in Sahidic,” Le Muséon 118 (2005) 7-20. The discovery is modest, but important. The discipline re-factors what it thinks it knows about I Kingdoms in the light of the new find. Scholars re-group.

But, as typically happens, the patron took notes offline, transcribed and collated the text offline, dated the text on the basis of palaeographic comparanda offline, and published his findings offline. The scholarly workflow that generated the data, produced the findings, and communicated both to the wider community does not touch the library until it receives the journal in which the findings are published; even then, the enhanced information may not effect local intellectual control of the object. This is a missed opportunity, and also the historical pattern: patrons have entered special collections libraries, transcribed, translated, contextualized, and annotated materials, and then walked away knowing in some cases more about the materials than the libraries themselves do. But thanks to a wide variety of crowd-sourcing tools and practices, Libraries are now in a position to support more of that scholarly workflow, bringing more of the results back into the curatorial fold and sharing them with a wider audience than most specialized scholarly publications tend to target.

This SCI group brings together a diverse team of librarians, digital humanisits, faculty, and programmers, to ask what it would take to:

  • pilot an instance of FromThePage, a free, open-source, lightweight transcription, translation, and annotation tool
  • develop undergraduate and graduate classes that focus on scholarly ‘publication’ of special collections materials—including development of workflows to support adding surrogates of original documents digitized in the field (by students and scholars), for scholarly curation by students, scholars, and other partons
  • publish textual content of same in an open, online, free, Duke University Libraries branded venue
  • integrate content with Duke University Libraries digital exhibits workflows, with a view to creating educational mechanisms and vehicles for translating complicated disciplinary materials to a mass audience
  • erect workflows that allows libraries to pull crowd-generated knowledge back into local repositories, catalog records, finding aids etc.

In other words, we mean to ask what it will take to allow future patrons to transcribe, translate, annotate, and ‘pre-publish’ special collections materials in real time, on a Duke-hosted platform; to open results to peer-review; to feed enhancements back into local library controls; to allow others in turn to annotate, emend, and improve these findings; to feed the cumulative results into a sustainable repository of Duke University Libraries digital exhibit materials; and to grow and sustain this entire scholarly eco-system via locally hosted environment that helps transform the owning institution from data host (here are some materials) to knowledge cultivator (here is a place in which our ever-growing, ever-changing knowledge about these materials is made), to become the technical and intellectual hub for scholarly communication around its precious sources.

Screen shot of Brumfield diary in FTP system


The members of the group are:

  • Ryan Baumann, Duke Collaboratory for Classical Computing; has been prototyping FromThePage amateur transcription tooling for use cases like the one proposed here; longtime developer of, which is a multi-author transcription and editing tool for ancient papyrological texts.
  • Meg Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Librarian, Duke University Libraries; the exhibitions program, physical spaces often with a virtual counterpart, includes library created content, but increasingly more faculty and student curated exhibitions that showcase library materials AND/OR University scholarship. The exhibits program educates students and faculty about how to tell their scholarly story to a mass audience.
  • Hugh Cayless, Duke Collaboratory for Classical Computing; has been prototyping FromThePage amateur transcription tooling for use cases like the one proposed here; longtime developer of, which is a multi-author transcription and editing tool for ancient papyrological texts.
  • Noah Huffman, Archivist for Metadata and Encoding, Rubenstein Library; one of the more complicated design considerations will be crowd-sourcing of metadata generation and feeding such, which are inherently more prone to conflict than transcription data are, back into local materials.
  • Liz Milewicz, Head, Digital Scholarship Services, Duke University Libraries.
  • Josh Sosin, Duke Collaboratory for Classical Computing; Associate Professor of Classical Studies and History, Co-Director of the DDbDP, Associate editor of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies; an epigraphist and papyrologist interested in the intersection of ancient law, religion, and the economy.

Publishing Makerspace

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the teams who will be attending the Institute in November, and their projects. This was submitted by Sylvia Miller.

The Publishing Makerspace group is a cross-functional working group of 6 people who bring a range of skills and experiences to a creative discussion about what publishing is and what it can become.  We were inspired by the makerspaces that engineering departments, and increasingly libraries, are hosting in which participants use existing products, tools, and skills in creative new ways.  As they dismantle electronics and bend circuits, or use 3D printers to create an object from a drawing, we are interested in how we might bend our various sets of skills and improve existing tools to redefine publishing in a more comprehensive and less segmented way than it is often defined today by many publishers, librarians, and scholars.  In this way we hope to respond to new forms of scholarship and perhaps devise useful and exciting new forms of publishing.

Makerspace visualization

Chicago Public Library makerspace – visualization

To move from the metaphorical to the practical plane, we are starting out by discussing the following ideas:

1.  Multimodal scholarship would benefit from being produced in a more integrated way, so that publishers, libraries, humanities centers, and IT services don’t have to expend so much costly time and effort in the tedious translation of incompatible coding.  We are interested in seeing books and articles included in a broad definition of multimodal scholarship.  In beginning to envision an integrated process, we note the gaps in existing tools and very quickly wade into the weeds of authoring tools and publishing platforms.  However, our goal is to do just that, rather than invent yet another tool or platform.

2.  The makerspace that we envision is not only the liminal space where our small group will wrangle with publishing processes; it is also a potential online space where scholars can collaborate and share on an ongoing basis.  We imagine that this makerspace will knit together a number of existing tools in a new way.  A few of our group members are already working on such a makerspace intended to serve the partners in an inter-institutional scholarly collaboration funded by the Mellon Foundation.

We are delighted that our group was chosen by the Scholarly Communications Institute for a workshop next November.  In fact, we are so enthusiastic that we have already started a listserv, a Twitter hashtag (#PublishingMakers), a GoogleDocs area, and a GitHub repository, although we have not had a chance to do much with them yet!  We also plan to start a shared zotero bibliography.  Our first official meeting was a GitHub tutorial given by group member John Martin.  We will report on that in a separate post.

The members of the group are:

  • Courtney Berger, Senior Editor & Editorial Department Manager, Duke University Press
  • Marjorie Fowler, Digital Asset Coordinator, UNC Press
  • John D. Martin III, Doctoral Fellow, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Sylvia K. Miller, Senior Program Manager, Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes
  • David Phillips, Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities, Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE), and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Wake Forest University
  • Chelcie Rowell, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University
CPL Maker Lab

CPL Maker Lab

[ Images from Makerspace Workshop ALA Chicago Public Library by Katie Day ]

Presenting Positive Information about Sikhism Beyond the Textbook

This is the third in a series of posts about the teams who will be attending the Institute in November, and their projects. This was submitted by Sean Colbert-Lewis.

What are the goals of your project and how do they fit for this year’s Institute?

Sikhism  Beyond the Textbook illustration This project will investigate ways in which to use new technological tools such as the camera, smart phones, tablets, and Facebook to enable scholarly endeavors regarding the presentation of the religion of Sikhism. Historically and currently, most practicing Sikhs are Indian in ethnicity, and they have been a part of American history since the first Sikh immigrants arrived in this nation in 1899 around the Pacific Northwest.  Sikhs contribute to this nation and around the world as politicians, medical doctors, college professors, military personnel, etc.  Facebook, for instance, serves as a multimodal means to communicate this through pictures and URL links. Our project team has the goal of providing examples of various instructional technologies that serve as a conduit to conduct original research.

Who is on your team, and what are you hoping they will contribute to the project?

Sean C.D. Colbert-Lewis, Sr., Ph.D., NBCT
North Carolina Central University
Assistant Professor of History and Social Studies Education
Director of Teacher Education Program
Department of History

Professor Colbert-Lewis will introduce the topic and the importance of knowing the correct information about Sikhism.  Moreover, he will discuss in separate workshops the importance of educators (especially pre-collegiate educators) possessing accurate knowledge regarding diverse religious groups.

Danielle M. Colbert-Lewis, MLIS, MA.Ed.
North Carolina Central University
Reference Librarian
James E. Shepard Memorial Library

Librarian Colbert-Lewis serves as a reference librarian for the Reference Services Department at the James E. Shepard Memorial Library at North Carolina Central University.  Mrs. Colbert-Lewis will provide insight to the collaborative role that college educators and administrators, residence program directors, and librarians have in fostering safe learning environments. Moreover, Mrs. Colbert-Lewis has experience in using various technologies such as smart phones and cameras to conduct research and present research findings, and she will serve as a major conduit to discuss the proper approaches to using these technologies for research and the potential positive and negative legal ramifications of using these instructional technologies.

Karen E. Grimwood, MLS
North Carolina Central University
Education Librarian
H. M. Michaux School of Education

Librarian Grimwood, a school media specialist librarian, will share how librarians and teachers may collaborate to 1) educate students on diverse cultures, 2) introduce the multitude of electronic resources that exist that allow both teachers and students to conduct research beyond the confines of a textbook, and 3) creating safe learning spaces for patrons who are members of underrepresented groups.

Hafsa Murad, MLS, MS
North Carolina Central University
Information Literacy Librarian
James E. Shepard Memorial Library

Librarian Murad will serve this program by taking a lead in discussing the roles that academic librarians have in guiding patrons (including faculty, college students, and the public) and also introducing some examples of the latest technologies that exist for patron use in searching and conducting research on little-to-unknown topics.  Moreover, as a devout Muslim, she will provide valuable insight into the importance of knowing the resources that help inform, educate, and eradicate stereotypes regarding Indians and the various global religions (Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc.) that are practiced by them.

Jamillah Scott-Branch, MLS
North Carolina Central University
Head Librarian of Reference Services
James E. Shepard Memorial Library

Librarian Scott-Branch will serve this program by discussing the role that reference librarians have in conducting research and providing electronic and print resources for patrons to use in conducting research. Mrs. Scott-Branch will present how these resources lead to pertinent information on the members of underrepresented groups in society, such as the Sikhs, that patrons may use to conduct research.

Matthew A. Cook, Ph.D.
North Carolina Central University
Professor of English, Modern Languages and, South East Asian History
Department of English and Modern Languages

Professor Cook will contribute to the scholarly institute by highlighting examples of the use of instructional technology such as multimedia presentations, Voice Thread, and digitally-enhanced podcasts in the teaching of English and history courses as a means to help guide students in conducting and presenting groundbreaking research.

Sikhism  Beyond the Textbook illustration

What do you look forward the most from SCI, and what do you hope to accomplish through the Institute?

The team looks forward to work together on this project to address this urgent need to introduce the importance of knowing about the global Sikh community and the Sikh religion for social justice purposes.  We look forward to meeting other scholars and advocates of social justice through the Institute.

Do you have plans for next steps after the Institute?

Ideally, the all group members would like to share, through presentations, the results of this research in annual statewide and national academic conferences.  The conferences that come in mind for our team include the American Library Association, Association of College Research Libraries, the North Carolina Council for the Social Studies, and the National Council for the Social Studies.  We consider our research pertinent to the worlds of academic librarianship, liberal studies, and teacher education since these disciplines contain volumes of scholarship devoted to the incorporation of instructional technologies to promote new forms of research and pedagogy.  Moreover, at the local level we would like to conduct workshops in teacher education programs across the Research Triangle and Piedmont Triad metropolitan areas on how the use of these technologies may lead to the encouraging of multicultural/diversity dialogue between groups representing a majority and those who are among the underrepresented.