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Source Lab (An Idea):
Improving the Web for History by Building Digital Publishing into Undergraduate Education130 plain 2019-10-15T13:09:29-07:00
Has this Ever Happened to You?So there's this film someone posted on YouTube in 2010.
By the summer of 2015, it had been watched over 71,000 times. The video appears to be haunting, archival footage–a documentary? a newsreel?–of work in a Parisian studio, circa 1918. But this is no ordinary studio. Instead of making busts of famous poets or rich patrons, the artists are sculpting new faces for soldiers gruesomely mutilated by World War I.
Art, medicine, war, movies: this is the sort of source that makes connections, that shows the lived past in all its power and complexity. It's the kind of thing anyone who wants to explore real history would find meaningful: from classroom teachers to specialist researchers to the public at large. But there's a catch.
Like millions of other digitized historical artifacts now available on the Internet, we don't know enough about this film to really use it in scholarship, teaching, or public history. Who made this document, when, why–and for what audience? Is this digital copy authentic, has it been edited? Where is the original now, who owns it–how can we use it or cite it? Will it be there tomorrow? Brilliantly successful at providing access to new sources, the Web all too often serves them up stripped bare of the kinds of information people need to think about the past.
In the Fall of 2014, students, faculty, and staff in the Department of History at the University of Illinois began to imagine a new, student-centered model of publishing, that would help higher education address this basic flaw in how historical artifacts are often presented online.
We're calling this concept SourceLab. The idea is to build the traditional practice of documentary editing–along with newer, digital publishing techniques–back into history education, with benefits for both our students and society at large. Our hope is to train students to create reliable, critical, free editions of previously digitized material, so that they can prepare the Internet's new historical records for use by anyone who wants to explore the past.
We're planning to publish these student-created editions in a new, department-based series, under the supervision of both specialist experts and a rigorous, independent editorial board. The goal is for students to earn two kinds of credit for their work: course credit they can apply to their degrees, and author credits they can add to their resumés, to demonstrate their accomplishments after they graduate.
This online brochure describes these and other ideas behind SourceLab in more detail, as they exist today. But the first thing you need to know is that we're still getting going. We'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions for how this might work. Follow the path below to learn more.
- 1 2015-07-14T15:06:03-07:00 More about the Niche: How Does this Differ from Other Digital Publishing Initiatives? 38 text 2015-07-28T16:25:54-07:00 Digital publishing has been developing for decades, reaching incredible scale with such mass digitization projects as Hathi Trust, Google Books, and Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Thanks to long-term initiatives such as the Internet History Sourcebooks Project and Digital History, online versions of historical sources are now integrated throughout US history teaching, in high schools, colleges, and universities. For-profit media companies such as Pearson respond to teacher demand by integrating such digital material into the textbooks they sell; the Open Educational Resource movement features them in its freely-distributed curricula. All the same, it seems that an initiative such as SourceLab could occupy a distinctive niche within this rapidly evolving publishing world. First, we aren't a mass digitization initiative (though we're very grateful to them). We aren't trying to place large amounts of new material up on the Web. Instead, we hope to make exciting new materials already digitized by others–such as "Red Cross Work on Mutilés (1918)," as our film is formally known–ready for historical work. Using new digital platforms such as Scalar (on which this brochure was made), we'll build our editions as 'frames' around resources that already exist online, making sure students and researchers have what they need to use them. Second, our editions will be built with their use as historical sources specifically in mind. Since our goal isn't just to 'get it out there,' but to get things ready for history, making our sources available in just any old form isn't enough. We'll provide readers with basic information and scholarly commentary about each artifact, clarifying its origins, evolution, meaning over time and current location. We'll establish each source's copyright status, and include guidance as to how it should be cited in both teaching and research. We'll also provide our editions in multiple formats, to cater to different uses and preferences. Want a paper copy of the edition to print off, or prefer to view it as a download on an e-reader or tablet? We'll get you covered. Think an audio-text recording of the original poem would help your students understand its artistry? We're learning how to make audio-files, as well, using platforms such as LibriVox. In short, we want our editions to help people to think historically, in addition to providing them the raw source material to think with. Finally, and most importantly, SourceLab is distinguished by its ambition to draw students into the process of preparing Internet resources for teaching and research. Unlike most digitization projects, we're not seeking to build a collection or a catalog. Rather we're trying to create a new kind of educational practice within college departments, one that will allow them to respond to the new opportunities Web-based resources offer for teaching, research, and public history, as they arise.