The Internet is creating a vast new archive of historical sources. Huge numbers of digitized artifacts–including pictures, films, sounds, words, as well numerical and spatial data–appear online everyday. Anyone interested in history would want to use them.
Yet all too often, we don’t know anything about these sources. Who made them? When? Where? How much of the original survives today? What portion is digitized here? Faced by these and numerous other questions, students and researchers are placed in a bind.
SourceLab exists to help solve this problem. Our students help people interested in history take advantage of newly-digitized materials more efficiently. Since Fall 2016, we have produced our SourceLab Series, a set of online editions of historical materials developed in response to the needs of teachers and researchers. Both this series, and its associated digital publishing technologies and curricular materials, are offered to the public as Open Educational Resources.
Faculty associated with SourceLab offer courses that train students in the history and contemporary practice of documentary editing: the craft of publishing historical sources. The core course of this sequence, History 207: Publishing the Past, will be offered this coming academic year, in Spring 2018.
Faculty, students, and staff all serve on the Editorial Board of the SourceLab Series. This publication issues regular Calls for Proposals, asking members of the public to identify digitized materials they would like to see prepared for scholarly use. The Editorial Board reviews these proposals, and establishes teams of students to work on select new editions. Our first prototype publication, Red Cross Work on Mutilés, at Paris, is now online and is being used in courses here at Illinois.
Finally, our SourceLab Working Group meets on a regular basis throughout the year. It sponsors workshops dedicated to building our core expertise in digital documentary publishing. It also sponsors research projects, aimed at developing our base of Open Educational technologies and materials.