In recent years, a growing number of archives, databases, and collections that organize and make sense of records of enslavement have become freely and readily accessible for scholarly and public consumption. This proliferation of projects and databases presents a number of challenges:
- Disambiguating and merging individuals across multiple datasets is nearly impossible given their current, siloed nature;
- Searching, browsing, and quantitative analysis across projects is extremely difficult;
- It is often difficult to find projects and databases;
- There are no best practices for digital data creation;
- Many projects and datasets are in danger of going offline and disappearing.
In response to these challenges, Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University (MSU), in partnership with the MSU Department of History and scholars at multiple institutions, has developed Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade. Enslaved.org’s primary focus is people—individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in slave trading.
The project has identified the following five objectives:
- People: Build an interconnected system of services and tools that would (1) Allow individuals involved in the slave trade to be identified and recognized across all participating project databases; (2) Allow those identified and recognized individuals to be searched, explored and visualized in the Enslaved Hub; (3) Connect those individuals to particular events and places with a Disambiguation Tool and Authoritative Name Service in Enslaved; and (4) Create at least 25 interactive biographies of people of the slave trade as exemplary models.
- Linked Open Data (LOD): To accomplish the focus on people, we are using Linked Open Data (LOD) to interconnect individual projects and databases. A LOD-based approach facilitates federated searching and browsing across all linked project data on the Hub. It also creates a network and community framework that supports the preservation of current and future slave data projects.
- Best practices and workflow: For online database projects, which are proliferating at a rapid pace, scholars have not agreed on best practices. The Hub would be the space for disseminating best practices for data collection, metadata standards, ontologies, and workflows. It would also provide guidance for participating in the Hub.
- Scholarly recognition: The project will institute an editorial board to review datasets and projects to be included in the Hub. Having an editorial board will ensure the quality of the data, and emphasize that the database or project has been published and is worthy of consideration for scholarly credit in review processes.
- Preservation and sustainability: The Hub will provide a space for preservation of datasets and help identify projects in danger of going offline. All facets will be open source and contribute to developing a wide community to support the sustainability of the project.
For questions or comments please message our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enslaved.org is located at:
Matrix the Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences
Michigan State University
Natural Science Building
288 Farm Lane
East Lansing, MI 48823
Seila Gonzalez Estrecha
Alicia M. Sheill
Enslaved Advisory Board
The Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade Advisory Board is made up of the original scholars of slavery who contributed to the development of Enslaved. Board members will recruit news contributors to submit datasets relevant to Enslaved. Members of the Enslaved Advisory Board include:
Dean Rehberger (Michigan State University), Board Chairperson
David Eltis (Emory University)
Henry Louis Gates (Harvard University)
Gwendolyn Midlo Hall (Rutgers University)
Walter Hawthorne (Michigan State University)
Paul LaChance (University of Ottawa)
Henry Lovejoy (University of Colorado)
Paul Lovejoy (York University)
Jane Landers (Vanderbilt University)
Sharon Leon (Michigan State University)
Steven J. Niven (Harvard University)
Keith McClelland (University College London)
Ethan Watrall (Michigan State University)
Daryle Williams (University of Maryland)