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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 2015-07-14T11:53:45-07:00 More about the Means: How Might it Work? 23 text 2015-07-28T16:34:03-07:00 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.