By Rebecca Nedostup
In our fall feature on the digital history projects of History faculty, here we highlight Professor Rebecca Nedostup, who is leading the creation of a new digital sourcing system that will standardize citations in Chinese History and help increase discussion, collaboration, and exchange among scholars in that field.
Supported by a Brown Seed Award and a China Initiative Collaboration Grant, I (Rebecca Nedostup) have been developing Magpie 喜鵲 with co-PI Maura Dykstra of Caltech and technical advisors Ian M. Miller of St. John's University and Paul Vierthaler of Leiden University. Backed by Vierthaler's innovative graph bibliographic database (a rendering of which is pictured here), Magpie will allow users to easily create a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) for any type of source they use in their research, whether or not it exists in the digital realm.
This program will allow individual historians, fieldwork groups, libraries, archives, and other source-collecting institutions to organize their data according to a common standard. These curated lists can then be shared freely and used as a backbone to exchange other kinds of information. The team originally launched the project to solve problems inherent to the field of Chinese history, where many materials are inconsistently digitized or not at all, or are subject to access barriers. Magpie will be widely useful, however, for any researcher facing languishing spreadsheets, reams of photocopies, unruly folders of digital photos, and considerable knowledge left on the cutting room floor of scholarship, all difficult to cite or share consistently in the digital age.