CWD150 is open to contributions from libraries, archives, museums, and individual researchers–essentially anyone with Civil War related data kept in a structured format, be it spreadsheet, database or collection management system. These contributing institutions and individuals are “data providers,” or in most cases, more accurately, “metadata providers.”
Contributing institutions and scholars are contributing to the project for a variety of reasons, but the most important reason may be: they want their collections to be discovered! Participating in this project and publishing Linked Open Data can greatly increase discovery from search engines, and in turn the general public. The ability to link like records from one collection to another will greatly aid in discovery as well, by researchers and the general public alike.
What should we contribute?
The best candidates for contributions to CWD150 are data associated with collections that can be ascribed to a Civil War soldier, regiment, or battle. This could be journals, regimental flags, photographs, letters, muster rolls, service records, pension records, etc. Collections and databases not directly related are welcome as well, though we may need to work with your organization and other partners to identify the appropriate vocabulary to ascribe to your specific collection.
Remember, contributions include only metadata in structured format, not the digital assets themselves. One of the most important qualifying aspects is that collection items must have a unique and persistent URL for each item, so that we can point people back to your holdings.
Metadata Collection Process
Currently, we’re designing the process in which we will collect metadata, aggregate it, conduct vocabulary alignment, solicit public assistance, and publish the data for public consumption. We’ll be working through that process on our blog and welcome your feedback. (We’ve been inspired by the open and transparent planning by colleagues working on the Smithsonian Commons, and the LOCAH Project). We’re working on test datasets now that are not yet being shared publicly, and welcome alpha testers who would like to contribute data. The current draft diagram of the process is below. Click to view as full size pdf.
One way to think of CivilWarData150 is effectively an online public digest of structured data related to the American Civil War. Once we receive it, in a variety of formats and mechanisms, we’ll work with the data to find important strong identifiers that we can use to link the data together, such as locations, battles, regiments, etc. We’ll use several techniques to do this, from datagames that utilize human judgment, to parsing out city names and geolocating them. This process provides us with a primary way of making useful connections across datasets, and leads us to the next step of publishing the digest.