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SNAC project will use archival authority records to expand access

CDL’s Digital Special Collections Program is collaborating on an exciting research and development project with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia (project lead) and the School of Information at UC Berkeley. The Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Project will explore the potential for archival authority records to improve access to cultural resources in libraries, archives, and museums.

In organizing archival records, archivists research and describe the individuals, families, and organizational groups that create and are represented in them. However, because archivists traditionally have described records and their creators together, this valuable information is tied to specific resources and institutions.

The SNAC Project builds on the recent release of an archival authority control standard (Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons, and Families [EAC-CPF]) to “unlock” descriptions of people from descriptions of their records and link them together in new ways. Our collaborators will derive archival authority records from existing archival descriptions and enhance them through matching and merging with existing records and thesauri.

CDL’s role is to create a prototype access system that links the creator records to each other and to related resources in a “historical social network.” The goal of the project is to demonstrate the extent to which archival authority records can be used to provide better context for and access to a broad array of humanities materials.

A project website—to be developed in the coming weeks—will provide detailed information and distribute software developed for the project at its conclusion.

The SNAC Project has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in the amount of $348,000 over two years, starting in May 2010. Data for the research will be provided by the Library of Congress, Getty Vocabulary Program, Virginia Heritage, Northwest Digital Archive (NWDA), Online Archive of California, OCLC, and the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF).