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Parallel Archive - The Project

Our scope

Parallel Archive (PA) is an online repository created by and for scholars to store and share their archival documents. It was developed by the Open Society Archives (OSA) with the generous support of the Institute of Record. The project builds on OSA's long-term efforts to collect, preserve, and make available material related to recent history and contemporary human rights while experimenting with innovative ways to contextualize primary sources.

PA is the centerpiece of OSA's research into the changing role of archives in the digital environment. It aims to support and extend the role of archives in research by making it possible to study primary sources directly online, by encouraging archives and individuals to publicize their material, and by providing a space for collaborative work. Scholars can: search the repository using standard search criteria to find individual archival documents; discover additional contextual information and related material through links to source repositories; upload and store archival documents digitized in the course of research; organize documents by research themes; edit and analyze documents with the help of full-text and annotation tools; share and discuss their documents with colleagues and like-minded researchers; and refer to full primary source documents in their original research. In this way, PA incorporates primary sources into the digital research life cycle.

Our objectives

  • To create alternative access to primary sources by building on the individual efforts of scholars to digitize archival material;
  • To develop tools which allow scholars to work directly online with digitized material;
  • To enhance scholarly publication with direct links to primary sources alongside original research;
  • To foster cross-border and cross-disciplinary collaboration among scholars;
  • To help small archives and private collectors bring their collections to scholarly audiences;
  • To educate scholars in the appropriate use of archival materials in accordance with the contemporary legal framework and academic practice.

Our target-audience

We have three target audiences:

  1. scholars and students in the humanities and social sciences who work with archival material;
  2. small archives, documentation centers, and human rights institutions;
  3. individuals with private archival collections.
PA provides these audiences with the tools to manage their collections online and the infrastructure to make their collections available to a wider public while protecting them from degradation.

Our development: present and future

PA is a scalable web application with a robust back-end database integrated with an Abbyy OCR server. Though PA currently utilizes Abbyy's proprietary software, which is known for its high level performance and support of special alphabets, our ultimate goal is to create a fully open source tool by investing into existing open source OCR programs like Linux OCR. The PA user interface was developed using AJAX techniques, which we hope to extend in order to further enhance interactivity. Our goal is to create a light and easy-to-use interface with a back-end that ensures stability and long-term storage and access. Our guiding principle has been to design PA to excel within a given scope but to build in the potential to integrate PA with other research tools. PA now includes the following external services: OpenID, Recaptcha, and Handle.net.

The prototype was developed between May 2008 and December 2008. After thorough user testing and migration to a larger capacity server, the beta version was released to the public in February 2009. We are currently in the first phase of dissemination: the introduction of the system to selected research communities. Over the coming months, the system is planned for release at the Central European University (CEU) as well as to various communities affiliated with the OSA and the Institute of Record. At this stage, our aim is to gather as much feedback as possible for the development of version 1.0, planned for release in winter 2009/2010. Three phases of development will then follow, the development of advanced desktop features; the  establishment of a legal curation center and implementation of additional social software functionalities; and the introduction of robust indexing and added search functionalities.

Because this is an open source effort, we anticipate that elements of technical development will be picked up by a broader technical community. The user community will inform the collection and curation policies as well as providing input on development priorities. In later phases, we may also support localization efforts to increase our presence and viability. The long-term economic sustainability of online research tools, particularly those supporting scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, continues to be a problem. One possibility we envisage is to include PA in a suite of tools to be offered to universities and research institutions.

Our team

Project Director: István Rév
Project Managers: Gabriella Ivacs, Kathryn Máthé
Content Specialist: Csaba Szilágyi
Content Curator: Éva Deák
Project Administrator: Katalin Gádoros
Technical Support Team: József Boné, Károly Timári
Technical Development: Itent kft

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