Alison Booth receives NEH Start-Up Grant

April 23, 2015

English Professor and IATH Fellow Alison Booth has been awarded an NEH Start-Up Grant of $59,479 for Cohorts of Women in Collective Biographies. This is a cooperative effort by her Collective Biographies of Women (CBW) project and the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) project. The grant is funding development of new tools and methods for data exchange between CBW and SNAC.

CBW examines the narrative structure of short biographies of women in 1,270 English-language biographical collections that were published in the U.S. and U.K. between 1830-1940. The biographies were grouped in books featuring famous, infamous, or otherwise notable women (e.g., Heroines of Modern Progress or Calamity Jane and the Lady Wildcats). More than 8,600 people and 13,400 narratives appear in these collections, which were intended to provide instruction and entertainment for general readers.

SNAC aggregates more than 2.6 million biographical descriptions from libraries and archives, extracting and linking together information about people, families, and corporate bodies. The connections between these descriptions reveal social and intellectual networks of both people and the documents that they create. SNAC users can use a prototype research tool to find biographical records and explore the networks that connect these records and the people who created them.

“This grant allows us to take advantage of SNAC's prototype history tool, so that we can supplement our own research on historical women and biographical networks with archival documentation,” Professor Booth said. “We can interconnect matched CBW and SNAC identities and then research the women in both the biographies and in archival documents.”

Users will be able to harvest information—life dates, nationalities or associations, languages used, occupations—about the subjects of chapters in CBW‘s books and uncover relationships outside of the written versions of those lives while taking advantage of SNAC‘s versatile links to such resources as Wikipedia, ArchivesGrid, and DPLA. Going the other direction, CBW's biographies will offer details that may be overlooked or unknown to historical repositories and provide a wide range of perspectives and judgments of their subjects.