Coordinator: Dean's Office
Ayush Gupta and Tathagata Sengupta
Monday and Thursday (11 AM to 1 PM)
Starting from August 23, 2021
Coordinator: Dr. Mashood K. K.
Venkat Srinivasan, NCBS, TIFR, Bangalore
940 5808 5713
Archives and libraries are integral to science. They are the in-between space for research, method, analysis and future discoveries. And to a broader public, they can be seen as the bridge between stories, objects and future stories. However, archival material is difficult to work with in India due to lack of access, common standards, and no existing network of archives. At the same time, there has been an explosion of research in semantics and ontologies over the past two decades, which provides an opportunity to finally link the trajectory of knowledge repositories -- libraries and archives -- with that of the Internet. The tying element is a framework of information layers – annotations -- around each web or archival object and opening up platforms for the public to find, tell and share new ways of constructing knowledge.
At the heart of an archive – both for the archivist and for the user – is an attempt to find meaning in the data stream. Archives and libraries have for long been custodians of knowledge that is accessible mostly through the metadata developed by the archive/library. But one now has the opportunity to make this process more inclusive by considering annotations from the public, and also annotations that are in different regional languages or visual or sound annotations. Through semantics and information theory research, we think about a thousand tiny connections between objects. Working with discrete elements like the archival objects provides a solid foundation to build an ontological framework and ways of co-relating metadata schemas and classification standards. This is also an effort to connect W3C web annotations to archival descriptions: this framework can be extended to every discrete object -- anything with a URL -- on the Internet. Beyond the possibility of bringing diverse voices to institutional archives, diverse sets of metadata that manifest from community collections evolve to become community-managed community archives. An annotation framework coupled with narrative-building tools can now be structured on a scientific concept, allowing students to critically think about relations between concepts and the context in which they developed. This can be transformative in opening the landscape of interactive education, across geographies and well into the future.
I’ll speak based on our experience in developing both the Archives at NCBS, a collecting centre for the history of contemporary biology in India (https://archives.ncbs.res.in/), and the Milli Archives Collective, a network of individuals and communities interested in the nurturing of archives. We see a broader set of objectives for archives: reimagine archives as spaces to strengthen the commons, revamp educational methods through the use of archival material, and to build a broader collective of archives with a discovery layer for the public to find, describe and share archival material and stories. A living, breathing constellation of archives can bridge the gaps between four silos: the scientists, historians of science, storytellers for a non academic audience, and the public.
Disclaimer from the speaker:
This talk is an edited version of previous presentations of the work in the Archives at NCBS.
Venkat Srinivasan is a visiting researcher and archivist at the Archives at NCBS in Bangalore. He’s part of the team that set up the Archives at NCBS. He is also on the board of Oral History Association of India, and of the Commission on Bibliography and Documentation of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. Prior to this, he was a research engineer at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University (https://lcls.slac.stanford.edu/overview). In addition, he is an independent science writer, with work in The Atlantic and Scientific American online, Nautilus, Aeon, Wired, and the Caravan.