Practical Humanities Data Curation: Creating a Guide for Documenting Data and Methods

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 2:30 PM
Plaza Ballroom D (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Brandon Locke, Michigan State University
While a growing number of historians are developing skills in data collection and computational analysis, many lack knowledge of best practices for data cleaning, storage, and documentation. At present, there are few published resources for historians interested in data curation, as the field of data curation is generally positioned toward the sciences, where data is often conceptualized and used much differently. Historians are either forced to try to adapt standards from outside their fields or spend time and effort digging into the literature and trying to determine the best fit for their work.

Brandon Locke and Thomas Padilla are currently developing practical walkthrough guides and case studies for individuals engaged in digital research, with an emphasis on common problems, sources, and methodology used by historians. The project, which will be hosted at, is intended to provide guidance, advice, and examples of curation projects on a variety of different methods common for digital humanists. A great deal of variation exists within the big tent of digital humanities. Many of the practical steps one should follow when curating a collection or TEI-encoded manuscripts varies greatly from those one should follow when conducting network analysis, or mapping, or computational film analysis.

Practical Humanities Data Curation seeks to become a starting point for historians working with data, ensuring that they begin work with proper curation in mind. Without curation at an early stage, it can be difficult or impossible for scholars to evaluate the work of others, and makes it more difficult for the author or other scholars to use, combine, and build upon meticulously created datasets.

This talk will not only showcase progress on the project and illustrate these examples, but will also discuss the importance and the difficulty of method-specific data curation for humanists.

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