Collaborative Scholarly Building with the Early Caribbean Digital Archive

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Elizabeth Hopwood

    Northeastern University

  2. 2. Benjamin J. Doyle

    Northeastern University

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This poster presentation will introduce scholars to the collaborative components of The Early Caribbean Digital Archive, a project of Northeastern University’s NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks.
The Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA) is a highly interactive digital scholarly lab for the collaborative research and study of pre-20th century Caribbean literature. The ECDA seeks to engage scholars and students in a shared, critical study of the textual, material, and cultural histories of the Caribbean by providing them innovative digital technologies and platforms for generating new and understudied knowledges of the Caribbean’s rich body of materials. Our approach to this digital archive solves major challenges facing scholars of Caribbean literature; currently no such pan-Caribbean digital or analogue archive of pre-20th century materials exists. This continued absence of a robust digital archive has largely been the result of the history of empire and colonialism in the Caribbean region, where the negative longstanding impacts of imperialist/colonialist practices is visible in the fragmentation and division of Caribbean print materials among archives in Europe, North America, and the Caribbean. Writings from the Caribbean offer critical perspectives of the broad movements of history and culture in the Atlantic world. In an effort to respond immediately to the needs and imperatives of the wide range of scholars already engaged in generative, collaborative scholarly work in the interdisciplinary field of Caribbean studies, scholars at Northeastern University’s NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks began building the ECDA in the spring of 2012.
Our site will foster a shared and informed engagement with the Caribbean and its literary, aesthetic, cultural, and political impact on the study of the pre-C20th century Atlantic world. The project will not only preserve original texts, but will also reframe the literary history of the early Caribbean as one where something new is preserved—voices beyond the imperial history of the Caribbean.
Our poster presentation will emphasize how the archive functions as a working lab through which a diverse population can not only access materials but interact and use them while developing and building the project as a whole. For instance, the site allows image annotation and transcription functions that allows conversations between scholars about the materials. The site is currently hosted at This Omeka installation is the first phase in the ongoing development of the ECDA’s digital text analytics research lab. The ECDA project, broadly speaking, seeks to establish strong partnerships with a wide range of publics interested in developing digital analytics, digitization techniques, and digital research methodologies that will benefit a shared and informed engagement with the Caribbean and its literary, aesthetic, cultural, and political impact on the study of the pre-C20th century Atlantic world. Therefore, the creation of the ECDA will provide scholars, teachers, and students an immediate opportunity to begin working with these valuable Caribbean materials, where they will participate directly in the collaborative building of both the ECDA digital archive project and a shared Caribbean studies discourse and scholarly practice.
The digitization of these materials serves an ethical imperative for making these important cultural histories and otherwise difficult to access materials available to a necessarily broad and critically engaged audience. The practice of digitizing and performing digital analyses of these materials raises important questions about both digital humanities practices and methodologies as well as practical questions regarding the establishing of cross–cultural, transnational, multi-institutional, transdisciplinary partnerships in the building of such a massive project. Supported by NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, we have also partnered with the Digital Library of the Caribbean.
Our session will invite collaboration and discussion on how the ECDA can make possible not only the compiling and transcription of primary source materials, but also innovative research possibilities for bibliographic and political histories of the site’s catalogued items; provocative and educational developing and designing of curated exhibits; and an open-access and interactive platform for offering original research and analyses of personal, economic, political, and cultural histories, all of which will contribute to Caribbean studies discourse and scholarly practice.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

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Conference website:

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO