Enslaved.org Recommended Practices for Historical Slavery Data

Dean Rehberger's picture

The Enslaved.org project team has published "Enslaved.org Recommended Practices for Historical Slavery Data"


From the Introduction:

This document explains recommended practices for data collection, metadata creation, data extraction, and related workflows for Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade (Enslaved.org). Enslaved.org is a digital platform to learn about the lives of individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in the historical slave trade. A primary goal of Enslaved.org is to record the names of enslaved women, men, and children of African descent.

This document is a general framework describing how information about the names and lives of enslaved people and historical slavery can be extracted from archival materials in a way that acknowledges the humanity of the people described in the documents and structured so that the data can be understood and used now and in the future.

It is understood that dataset creators extract information from records for their own purposes and projects, and thus this set of recommendations is not meant to be prescriptive. The guide has been written with two primary audiences in mind: 1) data collectors starting out in the field who would like to learn about recommended practices, and 2) seasoned researchers who would like to enhance their work to make it more shareable and usable by other scholars. It can also be helpful to those scholars, genealogists, and members of the general public who are doing research in the field of historical slavery. It can be particularly helpful to those institutions -- libraries, archives, museums, historical sites -- that would like to prepare contributions to Enslaved.org. Finally, it can help teach students data-informed historical methods.

These recommended practices describe various considerations for specific fields that dataset creators may capture during data collection. Enslaved.org maintains documentation defining records and fields that reflect the type of information that the site integrates in its discovery hub. These documents can be found at docs.enslaved.org/metadata. These are not a definitive set of fields for a historical slavery data, but a subset of fields used by Enslaved.org to build an interconnected system of tools to search, browse, visualize, and analyze disparate, previously siloed datasets in a single location. Enslaved.org developed the records, fields, and controlled vocabularies it uses to link together historical slavery data in collaboration with a team of historians of slavery.

Within this recommended practices document, Enslaved.org provides more elaborate explanations for fields and data extraction processes that have challenged previous contributors to Enslaved.org. This document and other Enslaved.org materials are guides, not restrticive blueprints, for designing new historical slavery datasets. [...]