SourceLab (An Idea)

More about the Means: How Might it Work?

So what might a department-based program for the critical edition of historical sources look like?  In 2014-2015, a Working Group composed of students, staff, and faculty met to begin to figure out how to build out our SourceLab.

While the conversations continue–with the goal of formally establishing the program by the end of this coming academic year, 2015-2016–here is some of what we've planned so far.

Perhaps the easiest way to approach the question of how to build this new program is to approach it from the point of view of the participants.  What sort of room, what sort of resources would students need, to produce good, critical editions of online materials?

When approached in this manner, it can be seen that the 'lab' in question is not rooted in a particular physical space, but rather in finding a place within the student experience for learning how to edit historical documents, and then in creating editorial structures that would allow students to develop their projects into formal publications.

First, you need courses or workshops at the entry level (100 or 200 level) that could introduce them to the specific craft of documentary editing, as developed and practiced by long-term professionals and societies such as the Association for Documentary Editing and the Dixit Project

Second, you need a standing Editorial Board that could solicit project ideas for the proposed series (via an annual Call For Proposals), create common templates and standards for the editions, organize teams of students to complete them, and then oversee the review and publication of approved projects as part of a running, SourceLab series.

Third, you'd need a credit-bearing practicum or 'internship' program, which would allow students or teams of students to earn course credits by completing said editions for publication in the series, under the supervision of the Editorial Board.  Likely structured as an independent study, such a program would encourage students to remain involved in the program after their initial training in the introductory course.

Fourth, a technological platform for both authoring and archiving the editions
, as well as agreed-upon conventions governing their life and use following Editorial Board approval and publication.

While we don't have a ratified master plan for exactly how we'll assemble these elements–and of course there are other parts to our 'lab' we'll no doubt learn that we need–we have made some progress in prototyping this program in the past year.  The SourceLab Working Group has mapped out the organizational and curricular aspects of the program, and is working on the development of a formal SourceLab charter this coming year. 

Meanwhile, a special student seminar met to develop prototype editions of web-based resources, which we hope to present to the public this Fall.  Our prototype editions have been built in Scalar–the blog-like publishing tool used to create this brochure–under a Creative Commons License.  Currently, like the other scholarship authored in Scalar, they are hosted at the University of Southern California,  thanks to the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture.

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