Category Archives: Session Proposals

Proposals for unconference sessions from THATCamp participants.

Fieldwork and the Digital Archive

Archives and Special Collections are becoming increasingly available to researchers everywhere as university libraries, museums, and enthusiasts digitize their holdings. As a result, a good amount of archival research now takes place on laptops rather than at the source of the material. For many undergraduates, research only takes place online, as in, it often doesn’t even occur to them to search their library’s catalog for actual books, let alone consider non-traditional sources such as images, oral tradition, and cultural artifacts as texts. Being out of touch with the tangible does lessen somewhat the thrill that hands-on research can bring, just as a good book just isn’t as enjoyable if you’re reading it from a pdf you found online so as to avoid buying the book for class. Looking forward to the next generation of students–who will be even more connected–how can we most effectively teach and use the vastness that is the digital archive while also stressing/remembering the value of immersive learning?

– Lydia Ferguson


Tech in Tajikistan

The challenges and opportunities when working with a group of students in an international library via email, live Skype sessions, and WordPress blogging.

The State Department encourages partnerships with developing nations via their Virtual Student Foreign Service internship program. This past year I had the opportunity to work with the American Corner Library in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, the infrastructure is poor – even in a US State Department-funded library – what other tools could help facilitate more robust discussions of issues of interest such as culture, education, and religion?

– Jennifer Pate


Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools for the DH Practitioner

Scholarship is becoming increasingly digital and online, but inaccessible websites and digital content limit access for users with disabilities. While automated evaluation is not an adequate substitute for usability testing, we can employ web accessibility evaluation tools to help determine if content is accessible to users with accessibility needs.

This teach session would provide an overview of several free, web-based tools researchers, teachers, librarians, curators, archivists, and other content creators can use to evaluate website accessibility against recognized guidelines and create more accessible user experiences. To give you an idea of what to expect, Kim Smalley and I presented a similar session at HighEdWeb Alabama in June:

– Melissa Green

Reining in the Rogue Archives

A local government archives established before local government archives were a “thing,” and long before “Describing Archives: A Content Standard” was conceived. Long-serving archivists with dedication to and knowledge of the community and its history… but no formal archival training. One-of-a-kind propriety software used to describe and catalog holdings. Collections housed in a century-old wooden train depot with no fire protection. If ever an archives has “gone rogue,” the Limestone County Archives, established 1980 in Athens, Alabama, is it.

So how do you rein in a rogue archives? And why should you bother? I propose a roundtable discussion session in which we tackle the ways in which all archives tend go a little bit rogue, and we compare the tools and resources available to us to help us align with ever-evolving professional standards and practices. Specifically, I’d like to discuss:

– Content management systems: ArchivesSpace, Archon, Archivists Toolkit, ContentDM, PastPerfect, Access database… check around and you’ll find that nearly every archives and special collections repository is using something different, or the same thing in a different way. At the Limestone County Archives, we’ve gone from an Access database to software created for us to limited use of PastPerfect to, just in the past week, installation of ArchivesSpace and the steep learning curve involved in getting started with that. What works? Why or why not? How can we help each other through this process?

– Archival training: Many small repositories are staffed by the local history buff and a group of volunteers, not necessarily graduates from the nearest archival studies program. Let’s talk about practical ways to provide basic archival standards and practices training to people who know and love their collections, but need to know how best to care for and provide access to those documents.

– Climate control and protection: A purpose-built repository is not always feasible, particularly in smaller communities where archives may be housed in whatever space is available. Let’s find ways to protect those physical documents, no matter where they are housed.

This whole discussion needs to be in the context of why it matters: It’s ultimately not about the numbers on the box, but about preserving and providing access to our past for future generations.

– Rebekah Davis

Building an Accessible Future for the Humanities

The NEH-funded Building an Accessible Future for the Humanities Project engages humanists, librarians, information scientists, and cultural heritage professionals with technologies, design standards, and accessibility issues associated with the use of digital environments. Participants in the 2-day Accessible Future workshops, repeated 5 times in different geographical regions, learn about digital environments and accessibility through readings, lectures, discussions, group activities, and presentations. Those interested in Accessible Future may learn more on the project website:

I attended an Accessible Future workshop at Emory University in April and am happy to facilitate a session in which I share lessons learned and lead participants in an online resource evaluation and discussion activity similar to one held during the workshop.

– Melissa Green

Querying Access, Power and Taxonomy in the Digital Humanities

I propose a talk session to explore some of the points that Miriam Posner presented in the keynote address to the Keystone Digital Humanities Conference, University of Pennsylvania, July 22, 2015. She is the coordinator of Digital Humanities at UCLA and a frequent author and speaker about the Digital Humanities. Point 1: Mapping platforms, including Google Maps, use a Cartesian model of space that embodies a colonialist project of empire building. While mathematicians may argue with this, the practice of visualizing space as flat with longitudes and latitudes grids the earth for identification and control. Point 2: Visualizing data tends to illustrate what is known when in fact scholars often realize that questions or parts thereof can be unanswered by lack of data or because they do not fit into predetermined categories. New programs and platforms, such as Topotime (visualizes time in nuanced ways with shapes, not chronological markers), are curatives that allow for uncertainty and approximations. Point 3: How accessible are the Digital Humanities? Are emphases on open source technology and freely available information on the Internet—and their formats—accessible in theory and in practice? We in Alabama probably know individuals and families with accessibility issues.

– Cynthia Kristan-Graham

Taking a Digital Walk Through History

Through collaboration with the Department of History and Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning at Auburn University, the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities developed a digital walking tour of Civil War sites in Auburn, Alabama. The digital tour can be accessed through Google Maps or YouTube on a smart phone or tablet. I’d like to discuss the ways in which digital technology can be used to illuminate historic sites by expanding information in static displays, as well as the challenges of creating such projects, the replicability of the projects, and opportunities to carry out similar projects in the future.

– Maiben Beard

Name Authority in Digital Projects

I proposed a session on controlled vocabulary, but thought of a slightly different related topic: authority control of personal names. This could be merged with my other proposal or be a separate discussion? Questions to discuss include: Do you even attempt any sort of name authority control, that is, trying to have only one authorized form of the name of a particular person? Do you leave this up to your content management software? Do you maintain a spreadsheet? Do you rely on the form in your library’s online catalog and formulate other names according to the same rules? Do you use some other recognized system for establishing names? Would having a shared database of authorized names for Alabama persons be a good idea? How would we set it up?

– Dana Caudle

Linked Data Between Encyclopedia of Alabama and Alabama Mosaic

The folks at the Encyclopedia of Alabama work hard to link it out to Alabama Mosaic. I think they do a lot of this linking manually. Can we link out from within the Alabama Mosaic VuFind index to specific parts of the Encyclopedia of Alabama? Could we use linked data or something similar to automatically generate these links both ways? Do we even have software that can do this or would we have to write code?

– Dana Caudle

Best Practices for Alabama Mosaic

This would be along the lines of a “talk/make” session to talk about metadata best practices for Alabama Mosaic. Alabama Mosaic harvests from a wide variety of institutions in the state. It is only as good for discovery as the metadata from each institution which is harvested into the VuFind index. Could we make it better by agreeing on best practices for metadata creation? There are guidelines for creating metadata for digital collections as part of Alabama Mosaic, but are they sufficient to serve as best practices we can all agree on? What would you like to see as best practices for metadata that will be harvested into Alabama Mosaic? Do we even need best practices?

– Dana Caudle