Information Access Seminar

Discussion of Biographical Data

Friday, March 22, 2013
3:10 pm to 5:00 pm
Ray Larson, Clifford Lynch, Laurie Pearce, Patrick Schmitz, and Brian Tingle

Ray Larson, Clifford Lynch, Laurie Pearce, Patrick Schmitz, and Brian Tingle will lead an open discussion on biographical data drawing the work of the Social Networks and Archival Context project and Berkeley Prosopographical Services.

Earlier this semester we discussed the evolving idea of a national archival name and identity infrastructure and its relationship to the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) project; this also connects to a series of earlier presentations on SNAC, a talk from last year on names and lives in the cultural record, and several discussions of editors’ notes. On October 12, 2012, we had a session on the Berkeley Prosopography System. It is clear that there are interesting and poorly explored similarities between prosopography systems at both conceptual and technical (systems) levels. Today, our discussion will begin to examine these questions, and in particular:

  • What are the conceptual differences between the archival name and identity infrastructure and a prosopography?
  • Are there common system components between name infrastructure and prosopography?
  • Is it reasonable to envision prosopographies contributing to an archival name infrastructure, or to deriving prosopographies from such an infrastructure?
  • Are there missing data elements that would facilitate such interoperability?

We’ll begin the session with a short review of prosopography and the Berkeley Prosopography system; we will assume that participants have some minimal familiarity with SNAC and the national archival name infrastructure concepts, and will try to move quickly into discussion.

The Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) project is a research and demonstration project; it began in 2010 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to use existing archival descriptions to make it easier to discover and locate distributed historic records, and at the same time, build an unprecedented resource that provides access to the socio-historical contexts (which includes people, families, and corporate bodies) in which the records were created. The second phase will vastly expand the source data employed in the project as well as the research and development agenda.

Berkeley Prosopography Services (BPS) is a set of services for prosopographic analysis developed at Berkeley in response to historians' needs to mine prosopographic data from text corpora, supporting study of societal relations among documented individuals. BPS supersedes the limitations of traditional pen-and-paper research by providing researchers with a flexible and intuitive corpus-based toolset for data processing, analysis, and visualization. From its inception, BPS was required to be generalizable, scalable, corpus agnostic, extensible, and universally accessible. BPS' innovative and unique contribution as a research tool is in the support for the promulgation and exploration of counterfactual assertions within the context of corpora curated by domain-experts, while preserving domain integrity and tracking intellectual contribution and authority.

Last updated:

March 26, 2015