Welcome to Matrix

Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences works with museums, libraries, archives, and heritage sites to digitize, preserve, and provide access to collections of cultural and historical materials. We collaborate with scholars, educators, institutions, and community members to create tools and digital experiences that engage researchers, students, and the public in questions about the past and our shared culture. We build software and services that enable the analysis and interpretation of historical and cultural data in new and innovative ways. We work with students, scholars, communities, and institutions to build critical digital skills, capacity, and infrastructure.

Recent News

view full post

Enslaved: October Meeting with Partners

On October 8-9, 2018, Matrix hosted a second meeting in East Lansing, Michigan, with Enslaved project partners to share updates and collectively work through the data model.

Over two breakout sessions, the Enslaved project partners refined controlled vocabulary terms for key Enslaved concepts such as Person Status, Event Type, and Document Type. Matrix presented on the outcomes of the first phase of the project and the group made plans for the implementation phase. The partners also discussed preparations for the upcoming
Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade conference that will be held at MSU March 8-9, 2019, as well as the future inclusion of additional partners to the larger Enslaved project.

Partner projects reported on progress they had made aligning individual datasets with Enslaved core metadata fields and the Linked Open Data framework. Matrix provided updates about the website design, metadata enhancements, and the project’s data model (ontology). The Matrix team also showed partners samples of Enslaved data in our current installation of Wikibase. This demonstration helped partners see how Enslaved will use its data model to structure data to promote connections across disparate datasets. Finally Matrix elaborated on the Enslaved Wikibase ecosystem by providing an overview of OpenRefine, QuickStatements, and BlazeGraph.

The principal partners in attendance were Walter Hawthorne, Enslaved co-PI from Michigan State University (MSU), Paul LaChance from the University of Ottawa, Jane Landers and Jessica Fletcher from Vanderbilt University, Sharon Leon from MSU, Henry Lovejoy from the University of Colorado – Boulder, Paul Lovejoy, Erika Delgado, Fernanda Sierra, and Luisa Cruz from York University, Keith McClelland from University College-London, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall of Rutgers University and MSU, Steven Niven from the Hutchins Center at Harvard, Daryle Williams from University of Maryland, Daniel Genkins from the John Carter Brown Library, Jim Schindling from West Virginia University, Kathe Hambrick from the West Baton Rouge Parish Museum, and Ina Fandrich, a consultant on Louisiana history and culture from New Orleans, LA. Also in attendance from the Matrix team were Dean Rehberger, director, Ethan Watrall, co-director, Ryan Carty, Catherine Foley, David Glovsky, Jeff Goeke-Smith, Alicia Sheill, Duncan Tarr, Liz Timbs, as well as Jeff Mixter from OCLC. Pascal Hitzler, from Wright State University, participated in a working group to discuss the Enslaved data model.

For more photos of the meeting click here.

view full post

Enslaved Conference coming March 8-9, 2019!

In March 2019, Michigan State will host an international conference, “Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade.” For more information, see our Call for Papers below!

Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade

Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

March 8-9, 2019

This is a call for papers for an international conference, “Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade.” The major objective of this conference is to encourage collaboration among scholars utilizing databases to document and reconstruct the lives of individuals who were part of historic slave trades. This conference will focus primarily on the enslavement and trade of people of African descent before the twentieth century, but we welcome papers from scholars studying other slave trades. We are interested in proposals from scholars who are presenting, interpreting, coordinating, integrating and preserving data about individuals–of slave, free or other status. Databases may be in various stages of development and construction from beginning to complete.

Please send a brief description of your slave database including place, time, type or types of documents, number of records and fields, graphics if any, how it has or can be used to ask and answer new questions, and to link to other slave databases. Limit 500 words. If you wish to be considered for a travel award, please provide a brief statement of need and preliminary budget with your application. If you plan to submit and require a visa to travel to the United States, please notify us before the deadline so that we can provide a letter of invitation/acceptance for your visa application.

We welcome papers/presentations that discuss the historical importance of particular databases, the nuts and bolts of the databases themselves, and/or potential uses of databases by the larger public, educators, and scholars.

Please email abstract and CV to
enslavedconference@gmail.com by September 30th. Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis.

In 2018, Michigan State University (MSU) in partnership with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, Slave Societies Digital Archives at Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado Boulder, University College London, the Harriet Tubman Institute at York University, and University of Maryland, received critical support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to build a digital hub for students, researchers, and the general public to search over numerous databases to reconstruct the lives of individuals who were part of the historic slave trade. Using Linked Open Data (LOD), we seek to provide a platform for researchers to upload, analyze, visualize and utilize data, and link that data to other databases which will create a richer resource than the individual databases alone. African enslavement was fundamental to the making of Europe, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, and parts of the Asian subcontinent.

During the past two decades, there has been a significant shift in perceptions about what we can know about enslaved Africans, their descendants, and those who asserted ownership over them throughout the world. Those on the cutting edge of the digital humanities and social sciences have set about identifying, digitizing, analyzing and making these resources available on innovative public history and cultural heritage websites. As a result, a growing number of collections of original digital manuscript documents, digitized material culture, and databases, that organize and make sense of records of enslavement, are free and readily accessible for scholarly and public consumption. At the same time, these projects fail to merge the data across the datasets, resulting in isolated projects and databases that do little to aid scholars in analyzing these sources. Our task as historians is more than to preserve images of primary sources, but to interpret those sources by finding new ways to organize, share, mine and analyze as well as to preserve original materials which might otherwise be discarded or lost.

For more information on the Enslaved project, visit Enslaved.