Part of a monthly series of posts highlighting uncovered items of note, and the archival process brought to bear on these items, as we preserve, arrange, and describe the Roland Park Company Archives.
In the blog post, “EAC Part 1: The Social Network… of History,” I gave a quick outline of what archivists the world over are aiming to do with Encoded Archival Context for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families, or EAC for short. Did you read it? You totally should, because this blog entry will take a look at what is happening with EAC at Johns Hopkins.
It is my pleasure to tell you that the Special Collections Research Center is thrilled to be collaborating with The Friends School of Baltimore and some of their awesome high school students for the research required for our EAC records about the Roland Park Company Papers! They are an awesome bunch, and here we all are when they visited the collection in October:
A lot of EAC data deals with biographical information (or history when you’re talking about corporate bodies) and while I will be responsible for all of that for the Roland Park Company, what about all the other interesting people and corporate bodies that are included in the collection? As you recall from “EAC Part 1,” there’s often a lot more than one person, place, or thing to know about in the context of a collection.
So the Friends students’ high school history project for this semester will be to do the requisite research (using books and everything) on biographical and company history for some of the other significant names in the Roland Park Company Papers. They will give me all they found, and I will make EAC records for every person and company they researched. In the end, we hope to have our own social network surrounding the Roland Park Company Papers!
The Friends School is documenting this project themselves! Please check out their awesome blog!
So that’s pretty cool, and so far their research has been top-notch. However, I would like to return to the larger world of EAC, because in Part 1 I mentioned pre-existing data. I said that data visualization tools (pretty graphs) are good at mining pre-existing data that is already available, like on social media or Wikipedia. There is certainly a lot of pre-existing data about historic people, corporate bodies, and families, right? I bet there’s already a lot about the people the Friends School students are researching. But what to do with it? You need tools for mining! What are the pickaxes available to archivists?
I know of two projects that take existing biographical and archival collection information and automatically smush them into EAC records. One is a test project called the Social Networks and Archival Context Project (sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities) and the other is the recent RAMP (Remixing Archival Metadata Project) editor from the University of Miami Libraries that can harvest data from (and plug it back into) Wikipedia. I would also like to acknowledge the brilliant work of Ethan Gruber of the American Numismatic Society and his xEAC Editor, which helps harvest data from other sources.
So what does this all mean, really? Really really? It means that one day soon archival research into people and corporate bodies is going to be almost as easy as clicking from link to link on Wikipedia. Easier for you, more fun for us!