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Three Goals of the Cyberinfrastructure Project:

A. Build a Sustainable Combined Search Portal Service:
Building on several years of digital library research, we will create an easily manageable and reusable software suite for the creation and maintenance of humanities-oriented search portals that implements all of the experimental techniques that we have developed to date in the MetaCombine project for harvesting, automatically classifying, and metasearching information resources combined from multiple sources (Web, OAI, and other sources). We will use this software to implement a scholarly subject portal focused on Southern cultures and history that will index and organize sources reviewed and selected by an advisory panel of scholars. We tentatively intend to call the service SouthComb, a name meant to be evocative in several senses: “Comb” is a root word simultaneously associated with a tool for organizing unruly tangles of hair, an ordered cache of honey created by industrious bees, and an agricultural vehicle that harvests masses of ripe grain. By combining the roots “South” and “Comb” we hope to capture a variety of connotations for such an information harvesting and organization system.

B. Improve Networked Access to Humanities Collections in the South:
There is a great need to mobilize collaborative efforts to improve networked access to humanities research collections at cultural repositories. Our previous work has led us to several effective approaches to addressing this need that we will deploy. Assisting smaller institutions in deploying mechanisms like the OAI-PMH leads to greatly improved exposure of “hidden” collections through metadata harvesting services. Subject portals, especially those with metasearch capabilities, have been shown to have great utility for both scholarship and teaching. New models for digital peer-reviewed publications such as Southern Spaces have provided scholars with ways of producing research that uses such collections and makes them more accessible. We will pursue all of these approaches in the course of this project, and will make a special effort to establish long term mechanisms for engaging in such collaborative efforts.
First, we will work with the faculty of several of the largest Southern studies programs in the country, including the programs based at the university systems of Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama. By working with an expanded group of Southern studies programs and archives to deploy and refine the technologies we have developed, we intend to make the SouthComb service an integral part of how materials are used by scholars investigating Southern cultures and histories, and how archives provide access to such materials. We will specifically engage in collaborative efforts with these academic programs to tailor sub-portals of the SouthComb service to their research needs, conducting an analysis of their research and teaching needs and then associated usability studies to make sure the service is accomplishing its aims. Several different kinds of contextualization services will be incorporated in this system for purposes of research and pedagogy, potentially including some GIS and recommender capabilities.

Second, in the course of these interactions we will further widen the involvement of scholars in producing new digital publications in Southern Spaces contextualizing and analyzing collections held in cultural repositories throughout the region. We have developed methods for engaging scholars in such digital productions in the course of cultivating the Southern Spaces internet journal and forum. This approach directly connects scholars with the process of improving access to collections.
Finally, we will work with a number of smaller, hidden "treasure-trove" archives in these states to improve access to their holdings. This would be done by advancing our model for regional collaboration developed in the IMLS-funded Music of Social Change project for exposing digitized collections of materials related to various aspects of Southern cultures and histories, including the civil rights movement, Southern folk life, and early Black pamphlets. We will advise institutions in the use of OAI-PMH tools such as the Metadata Migrator which we recently developed as part of the same IMLS project. We will also work with the partner institutions of the MetaArchive Cooperative preservation network led by Emory University, which has been developed as part of the National Digital Information and Infrastructure Preservation Program (NDIIPP) of the Library of Congress. This collaborative effort will seek to provide better access to the public materials (as opposed to embargoed or private materials) preserved in the MetaArchive network.

Our general goal in all of these interactions would be to seek ways of better exposing high-quality collections for scholarly communication purposes. We are particularly interested in analyzing such interactions with a mind to long term sustainability of such efforts. This relates to our third and final project goal of sustainability for our program.

C. Explore Sustainable Models for the Advancement of Scholarly Cyberinfrastructure
A third goal of this project is to examine models for creating sustainable long-term services for scholars. This will be accomplished through consultation with a variety of experts to explore options for such service programs at Emory University. A careful market analysis will be conducted by consultants in the first year of the project for the services of this sustainable entity. A compelling user interface will be developed, making use of web design consultants. Operational models for the service will be evaluated in consultation with business service consultants. Finally, several meetings will be conducted with experts to explore models for sustainability of digital library services.