Digital Humanities: Digital Humanities Implementation Grants

Period of Performance

8/1/2016 - 7/31/2019

Funding Totals

$225,000.00 (approved)
$199,922.03 (awarded)

Revitalizing the Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies Digital Archive

FAIN: HK-250720-16

Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN 37203-2416)
Jane Gilmer Landers (Project Director: February 2016 to August 2022)

Implementation of robust systems for preserving and accessing a longstanding digital resource on the history of African and Afro-descended people. The project would also conduct outreach to scholarly communities, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and the general public to encourage further awareness and use of these collections.

In 2002 the Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies Digital Archive was launched with NEH support. Since that time international teams of historians trained in languages and paleography, IT specialists, bibliographer and archivists have collaborated to preserve over 400,000 unique images dating from the 16th-19th centuries, documenting the history of four to six million African and Afro-descended individuals. Having outgrown our dated technology and platform, we seek support to revitalize this archive, transfer these data to SOBEK and create metadata and transcriptions that will enhance both use and long-term preservation. At project’s end, we will also host an international conference of our collaborative network of digital humanities scholars and a post-conference workshop to share digital preservation expertise with institutions in the region that have limited cyberinfrastructure.

Media Coverage

I dig through archives to unearth hidden stories from African-American history (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Jane Landers
Publication: The Conversation
Date: 12/4/2018

Associated Products

Slave Societies Digital Archive (Web Resource)
Title: Slave Societies Digital Archive
Author: Jane Landers
Abstract: The Slave Societies Digital Archive (SSDA), directed by Jane Landers and hosted at Vanderbilt University, is dedicated to identifying, cataloging, and digitally preserving endangered archival materials documenting the history of Africans and their descendants in the Atlantic World. The SSDA’s largest and oldest collections were generated by the Catholic Church, which mandated the baptism of African slaves in the fifteenth century and later extended this requirement to the Iberian New World. The baptismal records preserved in Slave Societies are the oldest and most uniform serial data available for the history of Africans in the Atlantic World and offer the most extensive information regarding their ethnic origins. Once baptized, Africans and their descendants were eligible for the sacraments of Christian marriage and burial, adding to their historical record. Through membership in the Catholic Church families also generated a host of other religious documentation such as confirmations, petitions to wed, wills, and even annulments. In addition, Africans and their descendants joined church brotherhoods organized along ethnic lines, through which they recorded not only ceremonial and religious aspects of their lives but their social, political, and economic networks as well.
Year: 2016
Primary URL: