In recent years cultural heritage institutions have hosted projects that generate textual data and metadata to further support use of library, museum, and archival resources, specifically via collaborative knowledge production and crowdsourcing workflows. Examples include large scale text transcription projects, image identification, and improving representation of collections in Wikimedia projects, and emerging cross-institutional collaboration that extends collections as data approaches. Public participants relate to these projects as empowering and seek to understand the goals of researchers who would use the data. In the process, these projects cultivate critical reflection and action upon gaps in data and representation. These projects have generated questions from participants about why particular collections are accessioned and how they are described. These projects also teach participants about the types of data they are helping to create and then demonstrate improved access to collections materials to extend understanding of how data feeds into systems that serve collections. As such, they may serve as public humanities efforts, as well as educational programming.
The cultural heritage + knowledge repository projects described above rarely begin oriented around a specific research question. This framing contrasts with researcher-led crowdsourcing and data transformation approaches. Yet the data outcomes for these projects may be quite similar: informed by the physical arrangement cultural heritage collections; the systems in which their metadata are stored; the interfaces through which they are accessed; and the resulting constraints researchers and general audiences may encounter in using them. Further work remains to articulate connections between the needs of those who steward data, those who augment and expand data, and those who might use these forms of data.
During this roundtable session, speakers will provide reflect on the design, outcomes, and positioning of projects including the Library of Congress’ By the People, the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, and other participatory projects. Key to the discussion: comparison of resulting data formats, the ways people describe their participation, and current uses of resulting data.
For this roundtable, we wish to welcome participants from many levels of skill, expertise, and resources, including newcomers, alt-ac, junior and senior scholars, and public participants. Together, we may discuss practices that may support continued use and access to metadata, collections, and research goals, as well as their connection to the motivations of public participants in these projects. A core goal of the session will be to engage with researchers and practitioners to surface possibilities, practical needs, and examples of barriers to using these data.
Key objectives for the session are to (1) make these projects and their data more intelligible to those who may wish to engage with them; and (2) create a space in which session participants can apply interdisciplinary considerations, so that these projects may include the needs of all users in their evolving design(s). Attendees who participate in this roundtable will develop shared understandings ways to improve access to and use of a range of data, while identifying opportunities to seed more user-centered futures and potential for collaboration.