Contributed by Alonso Velásquez
Professor Mark Healey, Faculty Affiliate of El Instituto and the History Department’s Head, has been awarded a $50,000 Scholarship and Collaboration in Humanities and Arts Research (SCHARP) Breakthrough Award. The co-PI on the award is Tom Scheinfeldt, Professor of Digital Media and Design. According to the submitted proposal, the goal is to develop GLAMGear, a low cost, open source digitalization tool kit for underserved areas in the United States and the Global South. The project is a collaboration between UConn’s Greenhouse Studios, Department of History and the Connecticut Digital Archive.
In past decades, there has been extensive digitalization of archival collections, but Healey and Scheinfeldt saw a large obstacle to access for poor and remote communities: the cost of large scale digitalization, with large format scanners costing over $10,000.
GLAMGear plans to expand on a system developed by project partner “Bibliohack Plus,” which uses low cost, low cost, easily obtained materials. The expectation is that this technology will help preserve the cultural heritage of underserved communities and expand the resources available for scholarship.
Having spent part of his childhood in Argentina, Healey has become a specialist in its national history. He is currently working on the politics of water in the province of Mendoza. As part of this project, he came to appreciate the extensive records of the Irrigation Authority, key sources for the history of the area. After trying without success for around a year to get access to the archives in Mendoza, he finally got access a few days before he was scheduled to return to the United States. His teaming up with Argentine scholar Facundo Martín, to explore and digitize these sources, marked the beginning of GLAMGear.
Matías Butelman and Juan Pablo Suárez founded Bibliohack to make information more accessible to outsiders. Butelman and Martín traveled to UConn in March to plan GLAMGear, just before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel. Having experience building DIY plywood scanners for libraries and museums in Buenos Aires and elsewhere, they worked with Healey and Martín to build a scanner for Mendoza.
At UConn, PI Tom Scheinfeldt, a co-designer of the bibliography program Zotero and other digital tools, brings extensive experience leading projects and seeking external funding, beyond the UConn grant. The Connecticut Digital Archive, housed at UConn, has extensive experience digitizing material. It can be of great use for digitizing materials in Argentina.
Healey said in Global North countries, like the United States, there is a good record of recording material considered valuable; Argentina lags in digitization of historical resources, but Healey notes that neighboring Chile has gone some distance toward digital archiving through its “Memoria Chilena” initiative.
Through their SCHARP grant, Healey and Scheinfeldt hope to develop prototypes to develop open access tools for community institutions. The grant will enable the team to build another scanner in Connecticut, and permit them to develop a standard workflow for digitizing materials using the scanner and open access software. Graduate students will be key players in the process, paid out of grant funds.
The project timeline goes from September 2021 to August 2023, with this year’s awards having been delayed due to pandemic-related disruptions.