The Johns Hopkins
Sheridan Libraries have announced the creation of the
Digital Research and
Curation Center to manage, preserve and provide access to
the mounting digital scholarship generated
by faculty and researchers at the university. No longer
limited only to the sciences, the creation of
data sets to support teaching and scholarship is becoming
increasingly common in the humanities.
"It is critical for the library at a
research-intensive university like Hopkins to be on the
forefront of capturing this digital scholarship and
ensuring that it is usefully organized for and
available to both current and future generations of
researchers," said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean
of University Libraries at Johns Hopkins.
Sayeed Choudhury, who was recently named associate
dean of university libraries, is also the
Hodson Director of the Digital Research and Curation
Center. The DRCC builds on the extensive
digital library track record of the former Digital
Knowledge Center, established in 1997.
"The new center is a key element of the libraries'
digital program, which is looking beyond
merely preserving immense digital data sets," he said. "Our
librarians and technology specialists are
working collaboratively with faculty across a broad range
of disciplines to use the data in innovative
ways that were not possible in the print world."
Choudhury's DRCC team of programmers, engineers and
scientists brings together a unique
combination of talent and experience. These experts are
working collaboratively with specialists
throughout the Digital Programs Division, from the Library
Systems Department to Library Academic
Computing Services, which supports projects such as
electronic dissertations and theses, geographical
information systems services and integration of library
resources in courseware management systems.
One of the flagship digital initiatives in the
humanities is the Roman de la Rose project, which
enables new approaches to medieval studies through the
creation of digital surrogates, transcriptions,
and text and image searching. Initially a collaborative
effort between the libraries and Stephen G.
Nichols, the James M. Beall Professor of French and chair
of the Department of
German and Romance
Languages and Literatures in the Krieger School of Arts
and Sciences, the foundation-funded
initiative spans a decade and now includes medieval
scholars, librarians and technical specialists at
Johns Hopkins and other research institutions around the
world. The result is 20 digitized versions of
one of the most popular romances of the Middle Ages and an
innovative teaching tool for the global
community, which will ultimately make 149 of the known 250
Rose manuscripts available for research
The Digital Research and Curation Center is also
tackling the data-intensive challenge of
astronomical data sets in its work with astronomers at
Johns Hopkins and the National Virtual
Observatory. Begun in 2001 by Alexander Szalay, the Alumni
Centennial Professor of Astronomy in
the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the NVO collects
databases of telescopic images from
observatories around the world to give researchers
universal access to a complete view of the skies.
The center has begun work on creating a digital archive and
data set for the NVO, which has potential
for new modes of astronomical inquiry that were
unimaginable a few years ago.
"The creation of the new center allows us to focus our
experience, energy and expertise in
designing a flexible infrastructure to support digital
curation and research across a broad range of
disciplines," Tabb said. "Because of the speed at which
digital scholarship is being generated, it is
essential for the library to take the lead in partnering
with the faculty to capture and help create new
knowledge. It's an exhilarating prospect."