Furthering Digital Humanities with Availability of Primary Source Content Sets

December 15, 2014

Gale Digital Collections users—students, faculty, librarians, and other types of researchers—have, on the whole, been pleased with the search, retrieve, and browse paradigm that Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, and other database publishers have provided over many years, when accessing digitized primary source archives in support of education and research goals. Electronic access to these archives has changed the very nature of scholarship and research over the course of the last decade or so.

Since making a large corpus of primary sources available through databases like Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO), Sabin Americana and The Making of the Modern World, there has been a persistent and growing number of requests from researchers for access to the data BEHIND these databases. That is, casting off what some advanced researchers might see as the shackles of "search and retrieve" and instead looking at the many millions of pages of texts in these iconic resources as data or information—information that can be interrogated and analyzed by an ever-increasing set of computational tools.  

Students and faculty at institutions with access to Gale Digital Collections can now request the data behind the databases (XML) through their libraries, and apply algorithms and other processes to the texts within these resources to identify patterns, relationships, trends, and, ultimately, insights and discoveries, which might not have been easily gained via close reading, browsing a series of texts, or viewing and working one's way through a lengthy results list. 

While Gale has supported many individual, institutional, and grant-based projects of this nature in the past and on an ongoing basis, the ability for all Gale customers to access this data en masse implies that a whole new wave of scholarship, discovery, and insight into to the past is about to burst moving forward. 

Gale, together with the vast majority of libraries, archives, museums, publishers, and other repositories with which we've partnered to digitize content, is very pleased to lead the way by making this data available to students, educators, and researchers via their supporting libraries. By working in this manner, Gale also seeks to help preserve and strengthen the library's role as the center of scholarship for universities and other research institutions.



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