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Making History Accessible: SlaveryStories.org

SlaveryStories_screenshot

Sometimes, an interesting project gets started unexpectedly. That’s what happened with SlaveryStories.org, a new, collaborative digital project that launched February 3, just as Black History Month began.

So what is SlaveryStories.org? It’s an online home for stories about slavery, told from the perspective of the slaves themselves.

The project got its start shortly after Rob Walsh, one of Scholastica’s* founders, went to see Twelve Years a Slave. He decided to read Solomon Northup’s memoir, but quickly discovered that there was no good, easy-to-read online version. Those versions that were available online were in formats that weren’t pleasant to work with, such as PDF scans of print documents, or plain-text versions full of errors.

Creating a digital version of Northup’s story that would be easy to read, and nicely formatted for any device, quickly led to a bigger project. Why not go beyond Northup’s story, and make the stories of other former slaves available as well? Moreover, why not make it a collaborative project, enabling anyone with the time and interest to contribute?

The necessary materials are in the public domain, and it doesn’t take much technical skill to do the work. All that’s needed is the ability to

  1. put the narrative in HTML format, and

  2. share it on GitHub.

If either of those sounds intimidating, not to worry: the project site provides instructions that are easy to follow, along with an HTML template.

SlaveryStories.org is a great example of a collaborative digital project to make an important part of our nation’s history more widely available. Contributing narratives would be one good way to begin to learn both some of that important history and how to mark up texts for inclusion in digital projects. The project has the potential to be a terrific educational resource for readers and contributors alike.

Do you see yourself using the resources from this project? Might you contribute to it? Do you know of (or have ideas for) similar projects? Let us know in the comments!

*If Scholastica sounds familiar to regular readers of this blog, it’s because Adeline interviewed Rob about the journal publishing platform as part of her series, “Digital Challenges to Academic Publishing,” back in November 2012.

[The lead image in this post is a screenshot of the SlaveryStories.org homepage.]

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