Katie Cavanagh: How Humanities e-Researchers can come to love infrastructure

Flinders Humanities Research Centre for Cultural Heritage and Cultural Exchange

Do e-research structures form the questions, or do the questions define the structures? There should be a feedback loop connecting the two; but there is a worry that the tools are not actually helping ask the right scholarly questions.

Archiving influences the construct of the archive itself.

Institutional repositories are driven by capture and preservation, not retrieval and interpretation. Institutional repository content is not googleable: the archive is orphaned from its context, so it is no longer retrievable into a sensible context. If institutional repositories are for research, where is the middleware to provide access to the repositories? Must all projects be bespoke, and can unique solutions interact? What can you currently do with institutional repositories, other than print out PDFs?

Humanities queries memory and cultural heritage, not just data sets; so it depends on context. Important to curate collections, not just archive them. And doing so is no quicker than with paper collections; nor is it immediately obvious to researchers that it's more useful to do so digitally.

Metadata and preservation are not the problems to be solved any more; making the content usable and discoverable is.

Multi-pronged approach: build a community around modest tools; create tools to underscore current research practice (e.g. OCR); user centered design.

Also, track researchers who are already doing good practice and have the IT skills. Create forums, ICT guides, etc.

Make the infrastructure indispensable.

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