Open Forum

Come join us for an open forum on Tuesday, November 13th!

Topics include:

  • Introduction of three soon to be published editions.
  • Presentations on Author Experiences
  • Open Q&A

Forum is open to anyone who would like to learn more about SourceLab or get involved with the process. Food and drink will be provided. Forum will be held on Tuesday, November 13 in Gregory Hall Room 219.

SourceLab Forum

SourceLab Forum

October 23, 2018
Gregory Hall, 307

This is an informational forum open to anyone who wants to get involved with the SourceLab project. There will be discussion on the Call for Proposals and presentations on different aspects of the SourceLab. Pizza will be provided.

Call for Proposals!

Call for Proposals for the SourceLab Prototype Series

Theme: History of Media

Deadline: January 1, 2019 (for development during the Spring 2019 semester)


SourceLab is digital documentary publishing initiative sponsored by the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We train students to create reliable and free digital documentary editions of digitized historical sources, in response to the needs of teachers, researchers, and the public at large.

We seek digital materials connected to the history of media that educators want to use in their classrooms. This call is open to history of media materials from all time periods and geographic locations. Like the Internet, we are not limited to text: we’re interested in images, films, audio records, cartoons as well as quantitative and spatial data. Nor do we limit ourselves to items in English and can work to produce translations. We work with things that are already digitized—and have some existence online—as well as with works that need digital production.

We use this history of media call capaciously to include not only the more traditional forms, such as film, radio, music, television, books, magazines, and newspapers, but also media texts such as playbills, cartoons, ticket stubs, birth or death certificates, booklets or pamphlets, scripts, posters, advertising campaigns, and image and documents of media history—or something else you may find in your research.

We build scholarly frames around them to provide the contextual information you and your audience need. We describe the artifacts’ origins, provenance, current archival location, and publication history. We investigate their copyright status, and provide reliable citations. We stabilize them in the online world, to help make sure they won’t go away. All of our editions are peer reviewed by our Editorial Board and outside reviewers, to ensure their accuracy and scholarship. Our main limitation is one of scale. We are interested in shorter individual documents, not entire collections or archives. Such projects are more manageable for our student teams.

Do you know of a source you’d like to see produced into a digital edition? Do you need such an edition for your own work, as a professor, researcher, or student of history? Send us your ideas! We’re eager to work on projects for our special series.

For more information about the program, see our brochure, “SourceLab: An Idea.” For an early prototype of our work, see our edition of “Red Cross Work on Mutilés, At Paris” (1918).



  • You’ve found a rare book on GoogleBooks, that speaks eloquently to a theme of interest to you. You’d like your students to read 10 pages of it. But it’s 900 pages long, no one has heard of the author, the GoogleBooks version seems to be somewhat corrupted, and there are words in the text that need to be glossed or translated. We can clean all that up, make it easier to handle, provide the students the context they need to follow the section you’ve assigned, make sure the copy is legit, and also provide downloadable versions for offline reading or printing: for free.


  • There’s a picture you’ve seen a million times online (a search reveals 1000 different copies), everyone knows it and talks about it, you’d like to use it in a lecture as well as in an article you’re writing. Its origins and current location are a total mystery, as is its title. It’s probably in the public record, right?  We can help you with this, too.
  • There’s a famous song that you’d like students to hear and study. There are 10,000 different versions on line. But which is the best for your purposes? And can they download it to their phones? And can its text be transcribed—or even translated—so that students can talk about the words as well as the music? Those are also questions we hope our editions can clarify.


  • Your group has digitized a document, and you’d like to make it available for scholarly use, but you’re not sure how to publicize it or don’t have the resources. You also think having it in a scholarly series will help the public find it and take it seriously as “real history.” Sounds great and we’d love to take it on.
  • You’ve produced a quantitative data set (say, a statistical spreadsheet or a GIS shapefile) from some historical sources. You think it would be great to make it available to the public. But you’re not sure you have time to do it, and in any case it might involve technical questions you’re not prepared to research or handle. That, and you think scholars would need to see the source with which you’ve been working, and you’re not sure it’s online. Publishing data is part of what we’re hoping to do.

These are just a few of the possibilities we are hoping this initiative can explore: and we’re very open to other ideas and suggestions as well. Write us at

Maya Vinokour (NYU): The Post-Soviet Public Sphere: Russian Media Culture in the 1990s – March 12, 2018

On March 12, 2018 UIUC’s Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center and SourceLab welcomed NYU Faculty Fellow Maya Vinokour to campus. A noted scholar and translator of Russian literature Vinokour spoke on her ongoing digital archive project The Post-Soviet Public Sphere. Vinokour’s project brings together the ephemeral artifacts of life and culture at the end of Soviet rule, including commercials, posters, newspapers, and websites. The difficulties in locating and studying these materials are myriad as she noted in her talk. No organized effort was undertaken to archive these materials and the occasionally chaotic state of Russian political, economic, and cultural affairs between the 1989 and 2000 render her ongoing project the only scholarly repository for many of these objects. Vinokour is also the co-editor and translator of Linor Goralik’s Found Life: Poems, Stories, Comics, a Play, and an Interview (Columbia University Press, 2017).

Major Grant Explores Classroom’s Place in the Future of the Historical Record

On Thursday, December 14, the Humanities Without Walls Consortium announced the results of its latest research challenge initiative, “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate.”  It awarded one of these grants—a multi-year investment of $138,360—to a team of humanists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The project, titled “The Classroom and the Future of the Historical Record,” will explore how higher education should respond to recent, profound shifts in the way the sources of our knowledge about the past are made.   Students, faculty, and staff from SourceLab will participate in the project.

Mobile digital technologies have allowed documentation to become an ubiquitous practice that extends far beyond traditional memory institutions such as libraries and scholarly presses.  The Internet is not an archive in a professional sense, but it is filled with a vast panoply of artifacts—images, sounds, films, texts, and data—digitized and shared by people around the world.  Many of these sources can be difficult to interpret or cite, however.  Digitization often results in radical de-contextualization, with provenance and proof of authenticity being lost along the way.  Much of this new historical record is also being built on proprietary platforms provided by IT corporations (Facebook, Twitter).  Their primary aim is to commercialize private data, rather than to preserve and sustain knowledge of the past as a common good.

Continue reading “Major Grant Explores Classroom’s Place in the Future of the Historical Record”

Upcoming Lecture: Potential History of the Archive: The Micro Study of a Macro Institution by Prof. Ariella Azoulay (Brown), Nov. 29, 4-6pm at Spurlock Museum.

Potential History of the Archive: The Micro Study of a Macro Institution

November 29, 4-6pm

Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum

600 South Gregory, Urbana

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Archives are interwoven with the presence of those who occupy various positions of power, authorizing them to both preserve and expose materials, as well as with the presence of those who come to leaf through those materials. Yet, archives are also sites of “potential history,” unrealized possibility that motivated and directed the actions of various actors in the past, and of a possibility that may become our own and be reactivated to guide our actions. The power and potentiality of archives brings us to the juncture of the macro and micro, large-scale power structures and smaller scale forms of civil relations and being-together that existed, and exist, at any moment in history without being shaped solely let alone exhausted by macro institutions. This talk will draw on Professor Azoulay’s micro engagement with photographic archives of U.S. slavery to argue for the civil possibilities within the macro structures and macro histories of regime-made disasters.


How To Edit When The World Is Burning

How to Edit When the World is Burning Flyer.jpg

Join us next Monday for Prof. Amanda Gailey’s talk How to Edit When the World is Burning at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities/Levis Faculty Center, 4th Floor at 3:30pm.

Amanda Gailey is Editor of the online journal, Scholarly Editing, the Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing. She is the author of Proofs of Genius: Collected Editions from the American Revolution to the Digital Age, which appeared in the University of Michigan’s Editorial Theory and Literary Criticism Series in 2015. She has written extensively on both the practice of the Digital Humanities, and on teaching digital editing skills in the undergraduate classroom. Her essay on teaching TEI techniques—“Teaching Attentive Reading and Motivated Writing through Digital Editing”—appeared in CEA Critic 76.3 (Spring/Summer 2014). She has also taught scholarly editing at the ADE’s famed Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents, sponsored by the NHPRC.

Last but not least, Professor Gailey is the recipient of an NEH Fellowship in support of her DH work on 
The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children’s Literature, 1880-1939. An innovative, web-based publication, The Tar Baby presents the “intersection of race and childhood between 1880 and 1939 as viewed through children’s literature, its illustrations, and associated material objects.”  (Co-authored with Gerald Early of Washington University at St. Louis, The Tar Baby continues to add materials and scholarly commentary to its exhibitions.)

Professor Gailey’s visit to campus is sponsored by: The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (Research Cluster Program, The Trowbridge Initiative in American Culture, and The Center for Children’s Books

Please note: Professor Gailey will also be speaking earlier in the day (Nov. 13) at the Center for Children’s Books: Noon Brownbag Talk, “Digital Scholarship, Children’s Literature, and Classroom Collaboration: Reflections on Making The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk” (Center for Children’s Books, School of Information Sciences Room 24)

Recap: “Encoding Ida B. Wells’s The Red Record: Critical Questions in Digital Editing and Data Curation of Violence.”


On Monday, SourceLab welcomed Caitlin Pollock, Digital Humanities Librarian at the Center for Digital Scholarship at IUPUI. Pollock’s talk, “Encoding Ida B. Wells’s The Red Record: Critical Questions in Digital Editing and Data Curation of Violence,” posed several crucial questions about the role of digital scholarship and the digital humanities more broadly in regards to race, racial violence, and systemic racism. How does you document violence, and importantly how do you identify it and show it?


Pollock noted, “The scope of the project is on the activism of Ida B. Wells and the work of data mining, not on the gaze of lynching.” How do digital humanitarians document violence without reproducing it? This challenge raised vital questions about digitization. Since digitization does not in itself solve interpretive problems, but rather provides an opportunity to either conceal them or force them out into the open. Digital humanitarians must grabble with the varied and layered processes undertaken to produce any project and the multiple negotiations made along the way. Pressingly, Pollock’s talk asked our instruction in digital practice makes people encourages reflection, or defeats it.

We thank everyone who attended and invite you all to our next talk, “How to Edit When the World is Burning,”on November 13 given by Amanda Gailey, Associate Professor of English, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (University of Nebraska-Lincoln).

Upcoming Lecture: “Encoding Ida B. Wells’s The Red Record: Critical Questions in Digital Editing and Data Curation of Violence.” by Caitlin Pollock, Digital Humanities Librarian at the Center for Digital Scholarship at IUPUI

Monday October 2nd, 3:30-5 pm (IPRH Seminar Room)

SourceLab Forum will be welcoming Caitlin Pollock, Digital Humanities Librarian at the Center for Digital Scholarship at IUPUI, for a workshop talk entitled “Encoding Ida B. Wells’s The Red Record: Critical Questions in Digital Editing and Data Curation of Violence.”

Published in 1895, Ida B. Wells’s The Red Record documents the history and practice of lynching in American life, combining graphic accounts of violence against African Americans with statistics, carefully culled from published sources, demonstrating its prevalence.  In her talk, Caitlin Pollock will consider whether benchmark standards for the creation of electronic editions–such as the Text Encoding Initiative–allow for such a history to be translated into the digital record fully and fairly.  Her talk will engage current, critical literature on race studies within the Digital Humanities, as well as the evolution of digital editing within and beyond TEI.

The talk will have an open workshop format, with initial remarks followed by a direct engagement with encoding this text.  (Though no photographic images will be shown, The Red Record contains graphic discussion of racist violence, that will be analyzed as part of the presentation.)

Caitlin has also provided us with a few recommended readings, that might help set the context for the discussion, listed below (though no advanced preparation is required).

Gallon, Kim. “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 2016.

Palmer, Carole L., Nicholas M. Weber, Trevor M. Muñoz, and Allen H. Renear. “Foundations of Data Curation: The Pedagogy and Practice of ‘Purposeful Work’ with Research Data – Archive Journal.” Accessed August 25, 2017.

Wells-Barnett, Ida Bell. On Lynchings. Black Thought and Culture. New York: Humanity Press, 2013. (The Red Record is reproduced in this electronic edition, which also presents an example of how the text is currently digitized).

We hope you can join us for the session.