C.F.W. Coker Award: Social Networks and Archival Context Project

The Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Project (http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/snac/search) by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, the UC Berkeley School of Information, and the California Digital Library is being awarded the C.F.W. Coker Award. The C.F.W. Coker Award recognizes finding aids, finding aid systems, innovative development in archival description, or descriptive tools that enable archivists to produce more effective finding aids. To merit consideration for the award, nominees must set national standards, represent a model for archives description, or otherwise have a substantial impact on national descriptive practice.

SNAC addresses a longstanding research challenge: discovering, locating, and using distributed historical records. These records are held in archives and manuscript libraries around the world, and the standards to describe the records may differ from one archive to another. Thus, scholars using the records as primary evidence often undergo time-consuming and inefficient research. With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, SNAC began to explore the feasibility of extracting data in record descriptions (such as finding aids) that describe the people who created or are documented in the records. The data was then assembled into a prototype research tool that integrates and simplifies access to the dispersed records and provides unprecedented access to the biographical-historical contexts of the people documented in the resources. The team is now in the planning phase of transforming its research into an international cooperative hosted by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

One supporter wrote that SNAC “will fundamentally begin to change the landscape of archival description: the program will be a substantive contribution to the national, and indeed, international platform, making the description of archives more efficient and effective—and significantly ameliorating the challenge of discovering, locating, and understanding the resources that document our shared history.”

Established in 1984, the award honors SAA Fellow C.F.W. Coker.