News

August 2015

Social Networks and Archival Context Cooperative Program Launches

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the University of Virginia, and the California Digital Library are pleased to announce the launching of the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Cooperative Program. The two-year pilot phase of the Cooperative is generously funded by a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the University of Virginia.

NARA will serve as the secretariat of the Cooperative, and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, in collaboration with the California Digital Library, will host the technical platform.

Inaugural Members

While the Cooperative is ultimately intended to be international, the inaugural pilot members are drawn from a cross-section of U.S. archives, libraries, and museums.

American Institute of Physics

American Museum of Natural History

George Washington University

Getty Research Institute

Harvard University

Library of Congress

National Archives and Records Administration

New York Public Library

Princeton University

Smithsonian Institution

Tufts University

University of California, Irvine

University of Miami

Yale University

Objectives

The pilot phase of the Cooperative will have both social and technological objectives. The social objectives include developing the secretariat administrative structure, and developing a community-based governance structure. The primary technological objective will be transforming the SNAC R&D platform into a platform that will support ongoing cooperative maintenance of the SNAC description and access data. Inaugural members will be key partners in developing the governance structure, and both the maintenance and public facets of the technological platform. While new members will not be added during the two-year pilot implementation, the Cooperative will welcome expressions of interest in future membership.

About SNAC

SNAC began as an R&D project in 2010 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project has demonstrated the feasibility of separating the description of persons, families, and organizations—including their socio-historical contexts—from the description of the historical resources that are the primary evidence of their lives and work. SNAC has also demonstrated that the biographical-historical data extracted and assembled can be used to provide researchers with convenient, integrated access to historical collections held by archives and libraries, large and small, around the world.

Initial work made it clear that the potential power of the assembled data to transform research and improve the economy and effectiveness of archival descriptive practices required more than digital tools. With funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the SNAC team performed detailed planning on how best to transform the R&D into a sustainable international cooperative that would enable archivists, librarians, and scholars to maintain the descriptive data and to extend the scope of the people and records included. The SNAC Cooperative aspires to improve the economy and quality of archival processing and description, and at the same time, to address the longstanding research challenge of discovering, locating, and using distributed historical records.

SNAC is the recipient of the 2015 Society of American Archivists C.F.W. Coker Award. One supporter wrote that SNAC “will fundamentally begin to change the landscape of archival description: the program will be a substantive contribution to the national, and indeed, international platform, making the description of archives more efficient and effective, and significantly ameliorating the challenge of discovering, locating, and understanding the resources that document our shared history.”

Collaborators

The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, the California Digital Library, and the School for Information Science at the University of California, Berkeley collaborated on the SNAC R&D (2010-2015). The same organizations and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration collaborated on planning the SNAC Cooperative (2012-2015). During the planning process, archivists, librarians, researchers, scholars, and funders were consulted and provided invaluable assistance.

August 2014

Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) is pleased to announce two major developments: the release of a redesigned web site and Prototype Historical Research Tool and a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Redesigned Website and Prototype Historical Research Tool

SNAC has substantially revised and improved the SNAC web site and the Prototype History Research Tool. The prototype is an aggregate of biographical information about people, both individuals and groups, who created or are documented in historical resources. Users can explore the lives of individual people, organizations, and families; browse featured descriptions; and discover and locate connected historical resources that document these lives.

This release of the prototype draws on more than 2.6 million (soon to grow to more than 3.5 million) descriptions of persons, organizations, and families. These descriptions were derived from 2.2 million WorldCat archival descriptions and nearly 300,000 British Library authority records. Forthcoming releases will include descriptions derived from nearly 190,000 detailed descriptions of historical collections provided by a wide range of government and academic archives and libraries.

The persons, organizations, and families represented include the familiar (Thomas Jefferson and Guy Fawkes), the inspiring (Elizabeth Blackwell, Florence Kelley, and Eddie Mabo), and the perhaps less known (the 11th Bombardment Group Association and the Ohio Covered Bridge Committee).

Cooperative Program Planning

The SNAC team is also delighted to receive additional funding from the Mellon Foundation to support the final planning for an international archive description and access cooperative, to be hosted by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The Cooperative will enable archivists, librarians, and scholars to maintain the descriptive data and to extend the scope of the people and records included. It will improve the economy and quality of archival processing and description, and will address the longstanding research challenge of discovering, locating, and using distributed historical records. The current work will establish the legal, administrative, and technical structure of the Cooperative, in preparation for a pilot implementation in 2015.