Thursday, 18 September 2014

Founding and surviving

The Founders & Survivors project is a collaborative initiative of four universities in Australia and three overseas, including one in the loosely-stitched together United Kingdom. The project combines a range of longitudinal metadata to track the lives and descendants of the 73,000 convicts sent to Tasmania during the nineteenth century.

The new Tasmanians were chosen for this research "... because Tasmanian records are better than those that have survived..." elsewhere. 

The Founders & Survivors project is an exemplar of The Wisdom of Crowds. Because of funding constraints over its lifetime, the project has used volunteers for various aspects of its data collection and quality assurance processes. This includes utilising the separately hosted services of memory institutions to confirm the convicts' identities - national and state archives, historical societies, libraries, the Old Bailey, and life event registries.

It is therefore not surprising that a new discovery service has been announced as a by-product of the project, to bring together content from disparate and geographically-dispersed sources. As Chainletter states
"The new system incorporates the results of extensive record linkage conducted by the Founders and Survivors team, increasing both the speed with which records can be accessed and the range of available record images. A particularly nice feature is that a search will bring up all census, birth, death and marriage records as well as departures and other information for individuals with the same or similar names..." [17 August 2014, p.3]
Although the type of metadata is different, the goal to bring it together for easier discovery is shared with Trove: a powerful co-location of Australiana in a myriad of forms which provides rich contexts for research and unparalleled corroboration of existence. It is also a source of enjoyment as mysteries are solved and new avenues of enquiry are launched. The Founders & Survivors portal is likely to induce the same, albeit for a small number of Australians. 

However the certainty of identity is the last remaining bastion of collaboration to be achieved, so the outcome of the portal project will be considered with interest. 

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