This project will allow scholars (and other stewards of cultural heritage) to create Web-based geospatial and temporal visualizations that build on the rich EAD metadata libraries produce in describing their archival collections and making them more discoverable — but the crucial twist is that we didn’t want to think of our Neatline visualizations as products of the metadata. They’re not brain-dead algorithmic output or some kind of thoughtless expression of the archivist’s (nuanced, but necessarily broad) stance toward historical or literary documents of interest. (Yes, I’m asking for it; bring it on!) In other words, Neatline isn’t about the parsing of placenames and automated population of timelines with data. Rather, we’ve conceived this tool (really, as development proceeds, this approach, because Neatline is emerging as an arrangement of instruments and an attitude toward their use) as a kind of playspace for the scholarly interpretative act. In future posts, we’ll describe our development effort and I’ll delve a little into the conceptual background for Neatline in the Temporal Modelling project I undertook several years ago with Johanna Drucker.
In the meantime, you can read about how we’re employing the Omeka plugin framework as a way to handle GIS services for scanned historical maps on the ScholarsLab.org project pages for Neatline-in-progress and our larger Omeka plugin work, or you can check out our dedicated project blog. — Bethany