Archives as Data An Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities for Archivists and Historian
Digital history and archiving are thriving, but the increasing volume of digitized and “born digital” materials for historical research also presents new challenges for archivists and historians. Typically, the only way to explore these resources has been through keyword searching. More direct access to the data creates tremendous new research opportunities, but the barriers to entry can seem daunting.
This NEH-funded program will offer practical training for historians and archivists in processing and analyzing textual data. Participants in the Archiving Digital Records workshop, designed for archivists, will learn how to use new technology to improve the description and arrangement of digital or digitized records, especially PDFs, and provide users with new ways to access them. Participants in the Text-as-Data workshop, designed for historians, will learn how to organize and analyze large document collections and use new methods to formulate original arguments. All participants will come together in seminar-style discussions on the novel challenges posed by doing archival research in the age of “big data,” including issues related to community representation, protecting private information in online archives, and the professional and scholarly pitfalls in navigating this new terrain.
The Institute will be led by Matthew Connelly and Courtney Chartier, with co-teachers Ray Hicks and Ben Lis, who have extensive experience processing and analyzing textual data. It will also feature presentations from archivists, historians, and data scientists (see list below). The Text as Data workshop will run for two weeks, while the Archiving Digital Records workshop will be in-person for classes only the first week. In the second week, participants in the Archiving workshop will participate in the lunchtime talks and discussions remotely. Attendance is free, and funding is available for those who need to travel to participate.
The Institute is a joint project of Columbia's History Lab and Columbia Libraries, and is funded by the NEH Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities. Hands-on training will use textual data from the Freedom of Information Archive, a project that has aggregated the largest database of declassified government documents in the world. Here are the draft syllabi for the workshops.
When: June 10-21, 2024. Sessions will be from 9am – 3pm each weekday. Workshop participants will be invited to submit proposals to a conference that will take place at Columbia at the same time the American Historical Association holds its annual meeting in NYC in January 2025.
Where: Columbia University Campus in New York City.
Eligibility: This workshop is open rank. Masters students through established scholars are encouraged to apply. Priority in the Text-as-Data workshop will be given to historians, while priority in the Archiving Digital Records workshop will be given to archivists. Others will be eligible to participate on a space-available basis.
Financial Support: We are happy to offer financial support for those workshop participants who need it for travel and accommodations. In your application, we will ask you to describe your budget and prospects for obtaining other funding. We will use the limited funds we have to ensure broad participation, including from under-resourced institutions.