Rainville Speaking at Digital Technology Conference

| December 3, 2011
Lynn Rainville, director of the Tusculum Institute at Sweet Briar College, presented a paper at the 2011 HASTAC International Conference, which was held Dec. 1-3 at the University of Michigan.

The meeting of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory consortium, known as HASTAC, is among the foremost annual conferences of its kind, including those in the digital humanities. Consortium members represent all areas of academic study and are “committed to new forms of collaboration across communities and disciplines fostered by creative use of technology,” according to its website.

Rainville’s paper, “Tracing African-American Communities,” describes a collaborative project she began in 2010 under a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

The project is a partnership among local historians, anthropologists, database designers, and community residents to develop the African-American Families Database. The online database connects African-American families to their antebellum roots and traces patterns of community formation in the post-bellum period, making it a valuable tool for academic researchers.

The project aims to create new dialogues between academics and community members, specifically those descended from enslaved populations. Local historians are often experts at mining archives, such as birth and marriage records, says Rainville, who holds a doctorate in anthropology and archaeology. They can uncover troves of invaluable information, but often have no way to publish their work. The database creates a repository where they and others can access their findings.

“From the beginning, this project has been a partnership among scholars, descendants, amateur historians and students,” Rainville said.

The theme of this year’s HASTAC conference, Digital Scholarly Communication, focuses on the promise and challenge of new forms of academic publication and dissemination.

The African-American Families Database can be found at centralvirginiahistory.org.

Category: Uncategorized