If you’re researching the life of Gertrude Stein and want to see all of the primary source materials created by her and documenting her life and work, you’d likely spend years trying to locate those items.  From finding her manuscripts, to locating her correspondence and photographs — where would you start?  The Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) research and demonstration project — which has sometimes been referred to as “Facebook for the Dead” — is working on addressing that research conundrum.  A quick search in the SNAC Prototype History Research Tool reveals that there are over 300 collections with materials created by or referencing Gertrude Stein that are scattered across archives throughout the U.S. and internationally. By exploring “Related names” in SNAC, you can see her network of associations expressed in the contents of those archives.

Now in its second phase, the SNAC project — a collaborative initiative of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, the UC Berkeley School of Information, and the California Digital Library — is laying the groundwork for a sustainable international cooperative program for archival description, hosted by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).   CDL’s team has contributed research, operational, and access technology expertise to the conception and launch of the SNAC project. A user research study and requirements gathering for the upcoming cooperative maintenance system was conducted by Rachael Hu, the Prototype History Research Tool was architected, engineered and built by Brian Tingle, while Adrian Turner provided operational outreach for many of the initial contributing institutions.

The project has been highlighted in conferences and publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education and at the spring meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information (see the video on YouTube). This week, the Society of American Archivists announced that the project has been award the 2015 C.F.W. Coker Award.  The C.F.W. Coker award recognizes innovative developments in archival description. To merit consideration for the award, nominees must set national standards, represent a model for archives description, or otherwise have a substantial impact on national descriptive practice.

Congratulations to the SNAC project on the receipt of this prestigious award!

Social Networks and Archival Context prototype history research tool

For more information about the SNAC project, see http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/.