Proposed development of a MaterialLives virtual archive & research community
December 29th 2017
Summary of the idea, as it developed in late December 2017, in chats with a number of people, including Dr Angela McShane, Dr Michael Pearce and Professor Elaine Chalus:
(1) Build on MarineLives experience of team working, palaeographical training, and creation of research communities, but structuring, setting up and funding MaterialLives differently
(2) Conceptualised as a virtual digital archive and virtual research community, explicitly transnational, with legs in UK & US from the start
(3) Linked to, but in parallel, with MarineLives resources
(4) Structured with say two founding archives/museums/libraries, e.g. V&A; British Library; TNA; and/or the Huntington Library; two or three founding university history departments, including one in the US; a network of young PhDs, post-docs and early career scholars interested in material culture; a network of public with material culture interests. There is also an argument for working with the National Libary of Scotland and/or county/university/specialist level archives. As a post-founding step, I would be interested in including material from the totally undigitised Westminster Abbey Muniments, which are a rich potential source of social and material history
(5) Launch, unlike MarineLives, with funding (50% academic & 50& charitable/commercial), but benefit from the start-up mentality and capital efficiency of MarineLives approach to capability & infrastructure development
(6) Build into the concept, training and funding for graduate students to work as team facilitators, both as transcription and research facilitators, on model of MarineLives approach
(7) Build on current MarineLives/University of Warwick History Department collaboration to teach Early Modern transcription, expanding to more universities, and working with MaterialLives material as well as MarineLives material
In terms of potential period covered, my own research interests are in the C17th, but arguably the idea could be stretched back to the 2H of the C16th and forward to the 1H of the C18th, and would thus be broader than the fifty year focus we now have for MarinelLives [1627-1677]
There is a lot to discuss technically, for example, around image standards, interchange of images between archives, digital listing of each others images and metadata, cross-archival search etc., but that is better done down the line.
The important thing at this very early stage is to explore the potential goals and shape of the idea, and to see how it might mesh with the goals and broader visions around research and engagement amongst archives, museums, libraries and universities.