SourceLab (An Idea)

More about the Niche: How Does this Differ from Other Digital Publishing Initiatives?

Digital publishing has been developing for decades, reaching incredible scale with such mass digitization projects as Hathi Trust, Google Books, and Eighteenth Century Collections OnlineThanks 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. 

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