I was excited to read this article for class, because it describes the kind of collaborative digital environment I want to create for George Eliot studies. Now I have some models to examine, and some protocols to follow!
As an example of a specialized service, the University of Virginia’s proposed American Studies Information Community will draw on harvesting protocols to bring together disparate types of information (text, data, media, images) for a community, defined as a group of scholars, students, researchers, librarians, information specialists, and citizens with a common interest in a particular thematic area. The project is being undertaken collaboratively with other institutions and content providers (e.g., Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Virginia Tech University, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art). The University of Virginia describes these information communities as “learning and teaching environments in which subject-driven websites are developed around print and digital versions of our collections and the teaching interests of our faculty members . . . Information communities will foster interdisciplinary and collaborative research and publication amongst scholars with common interests.”2
This access model is interesting because it reflects several trends that are also evident in the broader landscape. The new service will take advantage of a distributed collection model and a range of partners. The descriptive techniques will reflect enhanced attributes appropriate to the subject area and the diverse formats in the distribut ed collections. Analytic tools will be incorporated to add value to the content and to stimulate collaboration. Perhaps most significant, the access system is explicitly designed to serve a social role as a catalyst for an interdisciplinary community—a far more intrusive role than is provision of access alone.