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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 5, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 10
New Center Created to Manage Digital Scholarship

Sheridan Libraries effort will support faculty work in sciences and humanities

By Pamela Higgins
Sheridan Libraries

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 and scholarship.

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."


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