Why the Lab?

Lire en français/Fè lekti an kreyòl

The Revue de la société haïtienne d’histoire, de géographie et de géologie is the greatest repository of historical research produced on Haiti, from Haiti.

And yet…

This research is rarely used by scholars outside of Haiti. This remains the case in spite of the fact that scholars in the North Atlantic (US, Canada, and Europe) now recognize the centrality of the Haitian Revolution in the dramatic transformations of the late 18th– and 19th-century Atlantic world. If Haitian history is now central to the study of the Atlantic World, why not Haitian historians? We phrase this provocatively in the hopes of activating further reflection and discussion of best scholarly practices when it comes to working on Haiti. As the folks at Small Axe Archipelagos ask: “How might we encourage collaboration with, increase accessibility for, and otherwise work to narrow the gap between Caribbeanist researchers, especially those in the North Atlantic academy, and the communities we are committed to serving?”

Nevertheless, it is important to note here that North Atlantic specialists of Haiti have long recognized the importance of the RSHHGG. At least part of the problem, then, is a rather mundane one: this crucial repository of Haitian scholarly research remains opaque to most traditional searching practices. This is, incidentally, not specific to the RSHHGG; most periodicals exist within library catalogs with a single entry and no index of their contents. The RSHHGG Lab is therefore a first step in a much larger project: to make more accessible 19th- and 20th-century Caribbean knowledge production that resides in the privileged medium of the revue (or revista, magazin, little magazine, etc.)

Why a “lab”?

The project title gestures to the role of collaboration, experimentation, and sharing in the Labs project at labs.loc.gov. The RSHHGG index will feature annotations from Haitian and non-Haitian scholars and researchers, while the data itself will be made available for further experimentation—such as the visualization project that Library and Information Science students are doing at The Catholic University of America.

“Lab” also because of the specific format of the Society’s publication, the revue. For Olivier Corpet, the revue is much more than a collection of texts, it is “un lieu d’échange, de confrontation, un espace de création collective et de convivialité” (“Que vivent des revues” 1998 282).

Hence the RSHHGG Lab: an interactive online index of the Revue de la Société Haïtienne d’Histoire, de Géographie et de Géologie. The hope is that indexing the contents of the journal will increase the impact of this important publication by facilitating the work of scholars of Haiti in the US, Haiti, and beyond. The site aims to foster collaboration and new partnerships by connecting scholars and researchers of all levels and locales.

Check out our presentation of the RSHHGG Lab project at the 2017 Collections as Data conference at the Library of Congress: