data

Historical Texts as Data?

(This post was originally published on the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool blog here)

Last summer I had the chance to travel to the colonial archives in Aix-en-provence, France (Archives nationales d’outre mer orĀ ANOM) to get a taste of ‘primary document archival research.’ Armed with a digital camera, a macbook, and a French dictionary, I bumbled around the archives, attempting to mirror the sense of confidence and purposefulness that other scholars seemed to have. After a month of 9-5’s at the archives (and evenings of pastis and concerts in Aix), what did I have to show for my dedicated data-collecting? Over 3,000 poorly labeled digital photos, an incomprehensible excel sheet of ‘important!’ records, and the overwhelming sense of gloom that I would never get through the endless number of primary documents needed to do my research.

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