Digital Methods for Archival Research with Tropy

AHA Session 126
Friday, January 4, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Salon 6 (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
Abigail Mullen, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media

Session Abstract

Over the past decade, researchers’ practices in the archives have changed. As digital cameras have become ubiquitous for capturing archival materials, researchers are able to process more material in the archives, but their practice of research has not caught up with the new affordances of digital technology. Faced with hundreds or thousands of photos, many researchers do little more than create folders on their hard drive to help them find their research photographs.

This practicum workshop will explore ways historians can organize and describe their research photos and introduce new approaches to research using digitization and metadata. Our primary focus will be Tropy, a free and open source tool built by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Tropy features customizable metadata templates to allow researchers to tailor the information they record about each of their sources, either individually or in batches. Flexible tags and lists provide multiple ways to organize sources. A notes field allows for transcription or research notes to attach directly to photos, or to selections in a photo. Tropy is able to export to Omeka, a free and open source online platform for digital collections and exhibits, as well as to a flat JSON-LD file that can be used for data analysis.

Whether you choose to use Tropy or not, this workshop will highlight best practices for taking photos in the archives and considerations for how you use those photos and how this form of digital research could transform both your workflow and approach to research. No experience with Tropy is necessary; participants should bring a laptop.

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