The Weingart reading this week reminded me an archival networking project called The Social Networks and Archival Context Project. SNAC involves the machine extraction of data from thousands of archival finding aids containing names of creators and people referenced in archival descriptions, as well as biographical or historical information and then linking that data across a network to show the connections between people referenced in the archival collections. The idea is to find the connections between the creators of archival collections.
It is very reminiscent of the “edges” that Weingart writes about. The SNAC project is establishing who “is an author of” as well as who “collaborates with” by pulling data out of finding aids and matching the names across the network. It is easiest explained with an image. Below you can see the record for Ella Fitzgerald on the SNAC website. It has a timeline of her life and subjects to help describe her. More importantly, on the right side of the screen her record is hyperlinked to related archival collections, people and resources. These links were established by references to her in other archival collections.
The site has ~130,000 names currently making it a fairly large network. I find the tool very interesting and I think it has the potential to be something very powerful but wonder if it can be seen as a case of Weingart’s idea that “If we’ve managed to make everything in the world a node, realistically we’d also have some sort of edge between pretty much everything, with a lesser or greater weight.” The data for this project was derived using computers and with no preconceived notion of a network existing. It proves that there are many connections between the creators of archival collections across the country but does it actually show why those connections are important?