Month: February 2022

(via UConn Today) App Supporting Archival Research Continues Development with Community Partnerships

App Supporting Archival Research Continues Development with Community Partnerships

Sourcery aims to provide a one-stop shop for archival document sharing between collecting institutions and researchers.

Sourcery’s interface.

Archivists hold in trust centuries of documents and artifacts that historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and more use to uncover new knowledge and understand our collective past.

But all too often, archivists and researchers are navigating workflows, processes, and institutional needs that make it challenging to  communicate effectively. This makes it difficult for archivists to manage document requests and for researchers to get a hold of the materials they need.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $805,000 to the UConn team behind Sourcery, a software designed to simplify archival document requests.

This new funding will allow the team to develop Sourcery with input from partners at diverse collecting institutions. The team will work with the Hartford Public Library, Northeastern University, UConn Archives and Special Collections, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Tom Scheinfeldt, associate professor of history, and Brian Daley assistant professor-in-residence in the Department of Digital Media and Design, co-invented Sourcery in 2020 with the support of Greenhouse Studios.

Sourcery improves the workflow of archivists and librarians by providing a centralized platform for document requests.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, accessing documents at other institutions is a challenge for researchers as they would either need to travel or navigate confusing online request systems. Existing document request systems often result in duplicate requests or multiple archivists working on the same task. Additionally, each institution has their own system for submitting requests, which can be difficult when researchers are trying to navigate multiple processes.

“Sourcery is kind of a middle layer between these closely intertwined but not always very well-communicating groups,” Scheinfeldt says.

With Sourcery, researchers simply log in and submit the citation information for the document they need. If the request is more complex, they can enter a live chat with an archivist in the app.

“We want to make sure the labor of archivists isn’t invisible,” Carly Wanner-Hyde, design technologist at Greenhouse Studios and project lead of Sourcery, says.

With this grant, Sourcery will work with each partner to address specific concerns. For example, the Folger Library deals with rare documents of the English Renaissance and early modern period. Sourcery can help archivists digitize and prioritize cataloguing order of materials so they don’t need to physically handle these fragile documents as often.

The Boston Globe donated their photo morgue to Northeastern’s archives. Soon, whenever the Globe needs an archival photograph, they will use Sourcery to request them.

“Historical research doesn’t happen without archivists and there wouldn’t be much of a role for archivists without historical research,” Scheinfeldt says. “Providing better channels of exchange between the two will improve the work of both.”

Sourcery allows archives to see all active requests on a simple dashboard and manage the requests from there. It also provides archivists with useful data about what documents are being requested, what kind of research they are supporting, and more. Normally, archivists need to collect this data manually.

With Sourcery, researchers can see all their active and past requests on the platform, making it easy to track the status of a request or view previously requested documents.

“One of our big goals now is to make Sourcery a tool for archivists and institutions as much as it’s been a tool for researchers,” Wanner-Hyde says.

Sourcery also integrates with existing systems archivists and researchers use such as ArchivesSpace and Zotero.

Over the next few years, the team will visit conferences of historians and other relevant disciplines to gather community input about Sourcery’s functionality and how to make it more useful to them.

“It’s important to us that this is a product developed by universities for academic researchers,” Scheinfeldt says. “And it’s important for is that we build it with the input of the community. It’s really a community product.”

To learn more about Sourcery, visit If you would like to join us in our testing phase, visit


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(Via UConn Today) DMD Professor’s Historically Themed Video Game Receives Industry Accolades

A Virginia mansion burned by the British during the Revolutionary War provides the setting of Professor James Coltrain’s award-winning “Blackhaven” game (contributed photo).

The historically themed video game “Blackhaven” from Digital Media & Design assistan professor James Coltrain has grabbed international praise and industry-wide attention for its narrative structure that centers on the efforts of a fictional plantation-turned-museum that attempts to cover up its past.

Three months after its July release, “Blackhaven” was one of only 47 official selections and garnered two nominations at the prestigious IndieCade Festival for best Narrative and best Impact Game, going home with an unexpected juried award for best Innovation in Experience Design.

IndieCade – described by Time magazine as the “Sundance of Indie Games”– works year-round to support independent video game developers and their pursuits, culminating with its two-day awards festival.

In giving “Blackhaven” one of their top awards, judges commended the game for allowing players to unveil “layers of personal and national history that help make pointed realizations about modern life and its roots in the past.” They also noted that “the game creates a surprising new experience by delicately balancing its detailed aesthetics and unobtrusive mechanics around this simple narrative that ties each element together into a surprising and exciting new experience.”

Coltrain was excited to see the game be received so positively noting, “Blackhaven is a slower, quieter game drawing from real historical documents, and so it’s really exciting to see it get this kind of attention.”

“Blackhaven” is the first release from Coltrain’s Historiated Games. He collaborated with students and faculty at Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically Black institution. A student script team under the direction of Shearon Roberts, an Xavier associate professor of mass communications, helped craft the game’s protagonist, Kendra Turner, a student from a historically Black institution.

In the game, Kendra, voiced by TikTok personality Darby Farr, works at the Blackhaven Hall Historical Society and discovers how it has whitewashed its slave-owning past.

Beyond IndieCade, “Blackhaven” in January received another notable recognition, an honorable mention for Excellence in Narrative at the Independent Games Festival, part of the larger industry-leadingGame Developers Conference (GDC) to be held in March. Coltrain also will speak at GDC on his experience developing “Blackhaven.”

Since its release, the game has had 30,000 downloads. It is available to play on PC for free on Steam.

“We are thrilled that James joined our growing game design program,” says DMD Department Head Heather Elliott-Famularo. “IndieCade and GDC are the top venues in the world, and IndieCade is arguably the most prestigious festival for independent games globally.”

She adds, “In a year when over 10,000 games were released for PC alone, winning the award is a remarkable achievement, particularly considering that his game studio, Historiated Games, is essentially a one-man show, and the release of ‘Blackhaven’ happened amidst a global pandemic, which brought great challenges to the production.”

“Blackhaven” is only the beginning for Coltrain and Historiated, as the game began as an offshoot of a larger project called “Cassius,” which will take players back to Blackhaven Hall during the 18th century. That game is slated for 2023, but first Coltrain will release “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” a historically accurate account for all ages inspired by painter Grant Wood’s work by the same name. It will be Historiated’s first game in virtual reality.


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