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K-State Today

April 9, 2021

Computer science team continues support for online database on history of slavery

Submitted by Wynne Reichart

Pascal Hitzler, professor and Lloyd T. Smith creativity in engineering chair in the computer science department at Kansas State University, and his postdoc, Cogan Shimizu, will continue in their subcontracted role of ontology design for the online database Enslaved.org, which has been awarded a grant expansion.

Michigan State University recently shared the new $1.4 million expansion that will run through March 2023 and extend the reach of the project. This will be done by refining the infrastructure; publishing more datasets and narrative stories; introducing new features for visualizations; driving sustainability; strengthening a commitment to the inclusion of underrepresented voices in humanities scholarship; and continuing partnerships with scholars, heritage and cultural organizations, and the public.

The database collects archives and entries documenting the lives of those who were enslaved, owned slaves or participated in slave trading. The K-State team was in charge of developing the model for the database, which dictates how the data is organized and how Wikipedia-style browsing of the historical records is enabled.

Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade at enslaved.org/ was launched Dec. 1, 2020, and is sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, and the dhistory department, both at Michigan State University; the University of Maryland; and multiple other scholars at various institutions plan to overcome the challenges of databases with five objectives for the site:

  • The people — focuses on recognition and identification.
  • Linked open data — facilitates federated searching and browsing across all linked project data, and supports preservation of current and future slave data projects.
  • Best practices and workflow — not yet agreed upon by scholars due to the rapid pace of online database projects.
  • Scholarly recognition — ensures quality of data.
  • Preservation and sustainability.

More information about the project can be found at enslaved.org/about.

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