Student-Built Archival Tools
Afro-American Newspapers / Johns Hopkins University
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The student work for this case study is two archival tools designed by Tom Smith: a low-cost robotic scanner for paper-based materials and a web application for an oral history archive. Click on the images below to learn more about these tools.
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 In 2008 Tom Smith took a practicum course called The Power of Place, taught by Melanie Shell-Weiss through the Center for Africana Studies. The students recorded oral histories of residents of Baltimore’s Middle East neighborhood for the East Baltimore Oral History Project (EBOH), which they later assembled into a digital audio archive. The course led Smith to think about how to integrate the recordings with their lengthy transcripts. In addition to the interviews he conducted for the class, Smith eventually built the player software featured on the project website. The software that he developed is open source, so anyone can use it without having to pay license or royalty fees. Smith’s company, ESDA LLC, can implement the software on a contract basis for those without the expertise to do it in-house.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Smith’s research on practical archival problems brought him into contact with Moira Hinderer, the project manager for the Diaspora Pathways Archival Access Project (DPAAP), a partnership between the Baltimore Afro-American Newspapers and Johns Hopkins University. DPAAP focuses on organizing and preserving the archives of the Afro-American Newspapers; they have worked on the newspapers’ morgue collections as well as personal papers and institutional records. Hinderer, who is also a lecturer in the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins, teaches classes in which students work directly with the Afro’s archives. Smith watched Hinderer’s students and archival interns involved in the painstaking labor of flatbed scanning and wondered if this process could be made more efficient. The time and expense involved in the digitization of delicate archival materials at the Afro prompted Smith to invent another tool: the Gado scanner.