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Collaborative center to make it easier to access knowledge on computers

5/16/2011 | Dusty Rhodes, Arts and Humanities Editor | 217-333-0568; rhodes8@illinois.edu

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN,Ill. — A new research center created by the University of Illinois and Indiana University, along with HathiTrust Digital Repository, will develop software to foster computer access to the growing digital record of knowledge.

The HathiTrust Research Center will enable open access for nonprofit and educational users to published works in the public domain (as well as limited access to works under copyright) stored within HathiTrust, a collaborative digital library of more than 8 million volumes and 2 billion pages of archived material maintained by major research institutions and libraries worldwide. (Hathi (pronounced hah-tee) is the Hindi word for elephant, an animal regarded for its memory, wisdom, and strength.)

The research center will draw on computing resources at Illinois and data storage at Indiana to create a secure computational and data environment for scholars to perform research using the digital repository. It will give scholars the opportunity to use the HathiTrust Library while preventing intellectual property misuse.

“I’ve been working in digital humanities since 1990, and up until now, we haven’t had the kind of watershed event that really changes the way people do research in text-based humanities and social science disciplines,” said John Unsworth, the dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois.

“The opening of the HathiTrust Research Center is that watershed event – the equivalent of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey for astronomers,” said Unsworth, a member of the executive committee leading the research center project. “This opportunity will be transformational for scholars in the humanities and social sciences, and also will be important to those in computer science and other fields interested in natural language processing, image recognition, optical character recognition and other areas of research.”

Other members of the executive committee: Beth Plale, a professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana; Robert McDonald, associate dean of libraries at Indiana; and Scott Poole, a professor of communication at Illinois who is the director of the Illinois Center for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science.

“This project will open vistas of research in multiple fields, including the humanities; social sciences; natural, biological and agricultural sciences; engineering; and health sciences,” Poole said. “The data provided by the HathiTrust corpus is no less than a window on knowledge as it has developed over the past 300 years.”

Partners in the research center at Illinois: the Illinois Center for Computing in the Humanities, Arts and Social Science; the Illinois Informatics Institute; and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Indiana University partners: the Pervasive Technology Institute – Data to Insight Center; Office of the Vice President for Information Technology; Office of the Vice Provost for Research; and the IU Libraries.

“The HTRC partnership combines expertise and resources of two of the nation's foremost research universities to build a first-of-its-kind center for advanced analysis of the HathiTrust corpus,” said John Wilkin, the executive director of HathiTrust. “HTRC promises to ease computational analysis of the texts and promote new algorithmic development and discovery.”

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