Tuesday, February 05, 2008

text-mining project for historical scholarship

Many congratulations to the Center for History and New Media for receiving NEH funding for a two-year study of the potential of text-mining tools for historical scholarship, entitled “Scholarship in the Age of Abundance: Enhancing Historical Research With Text-Mining and Analysis Tools.”

I have been in a couple of conversation recently about related topics: What are the differences in practice between literary and historical etext analysis projects? I understand that there's a diverse group having some interesting discussions about that topic to identify needs with an aim to seek funding to support a prototype service project.

What do libraries need to provide in terms of collections and services for scholars working with etext resources for their research? I'm hearing that our service model should be more about helping them learn to create their own resources and tools instead of providing all content and tools for them. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't digitize our rare collections and make them available for use and analysis, but that we need to finally do away with our old service model where we did all the work for the scholars. The "teach them to fish ..." metaphor. Of course it's sensible, but it's a real switch in terms of staff activities, requires some different skills, and requires faculty and folks on their project teams to take on work that they used to rely on us to do. For some in the Library and on the projects that's like shifting course for an oil tanker -- it takes some time and it's not precision steering. Luckily, the overwhelming majority are embracing this.

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