The Slave Societies Digital Archive: Preserving African and Indigenous History in the Americas

AHA Session 220
Conference on Latin American History 47
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Gramercy (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Pablo F. Gómez, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Marshall C. Eakin, Vanderbilt University
David Clark LaFevor, University of Texas at Arlington
Jane Landers, Vanderbilt University

Session Abstract

The Slave Societies Digital Archive, directed by Jane Landers at Vanderbilt University, preserves endangered ecclesiastical and secular documents related to Africans and African-descended peoples in slave societies across the Americas. The Archive holds ca. 500,000 digital images dating from the sixteenth through twentieth centuries that document the lives of an estimated four to six million individuals. These are the most extensive serial records for the history of Africans in the Atlantic World and they also include valuable information about the indigenous, European, and Asian populations who lived alongside them.

These paired panels will discuss the SSDA projects in Cuba, Brazil, Colombia and Florida. The first panel will feature a team member from each field project describing the documents they preserved and some of the most important findings gleaned from them, as well as the challenges of this fieldwork. The second panel will discuss how images captured in the field over fifteen years were transformed into the SSDA.

The panelists have collaborated on creating and enhancing the SSDA over time and have handled a variety of project functions including "guerilla preservation" in sometimes challenging locales, metadata creation, transcription, and data curation. SSDA teams also run workshops in our host countries and in our own institutions to train local students and archivists in international digital preservation standards and techniques. SSDA's software developer will discuss the Spatial Historian tool he created to extract data from these records and link it to other datasets while also geolocating and visualizing the data in creative ways.

These panels should attract an audience interested in slavery in the Atlantic World as well as those interested in the Digital Humanities.

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