ICA New Professionals Newsletter about SAMLA

Information abut SAMLA has now (May 2022) reached fresh archivists all over the world in the newsletter of ICA New Professionals. The text, written by our very own Lars and Angun, may also be found below.

SAMLA Infrastructure Programme for Cultural History and Tradition Archives

Lars Smaaberg and Angun Sønnesyn Olsen
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the University of Bergen

The SAMLA (i.e. Collected) project is now digitising and making archival records from three leading Norwegian tradition archives accessible through the digital archive www.samla.no. Ongoing since December 2020, the project is well under way to becoming the new Norwegian standard for publicising cultural history and tradition archives online.

From the date it becomes operational, the database (and search engine www.samla.no) will facilitate the accessibility of cultural historical documents for research communities, students, businesses, local communities and other interested people. These include folk tales, legends, songs & ballads, riddles, children’s lore, customs & beliefs and old handwritten Cyprianus and song books, as well as traditional knowledge and crafts and a sizeable photo collection documenting both traditional crafts and costumes, and everyday life in a broader sense. A large part of the collections are listed on the Norwegian Document Heritage part of the UNESCO Memory of the World register

Digitisation and trans-institutional encoding

Included in the infrastructure project is the digitisation of approximately 500,000 pages currently held in the Norwegian Folklore Archives at the University of Oslo, the Ethno-folkloristic Archive at University of Bergen and in Norwegian ethnological research at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. All these documents, with their highly valuable records, document significant cultural phenomena from the local communities where they were recorded.

All these documents are being encoded and entered in the database under development at the University Library of Bergen, with the intention of making searches by the public possible regardless of owner institution. A future goal, after the first project phase, is to facilitate inclusion of other cultural historical archive collections from other institutions.

Internationalisation of previously national standards, metadata and documents

Meeting and further developing international standards is highly important in the future world of open digital archives. SAMLA aims to coordinate its national infrastructure with the corresponding Swedish and Icelandic digital infrastructures in a bid to facilitate broader international searchability and research. In this, the project is also looking to connect with the Intelligent Search Engine for Belief Legends (ISEBEL) project, which includes records from tradition archives from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. This integration will pave the way for the first big data analyses including Norwegian traditional archives collections.

Also participating in the project is the Institute for Language and Folklore (ISOF) in Sweden, as is Tim Tangherlini, professor in the Dept. Of Scandinavia at UC Berkeley, who, in addition to being the PI of ISEBEL, is currently working on a model for machine-generated translations between Norwegian dialects. SAMLA is also currently arranging a series of webinars together with the SIEF Working Group on Archives.

What’s next?

The next project phase plans not only to include several new archives and collections in the shared digital platform, but also to further develop the infrastructure to cater to new target groups and overcome existing challenges such as access control and document flow. Further designing and developing a flexible, easy and inspiring front-end enables dissemination in ways that will encourage different audiences to make use of this archival material in new and innovative fashion.

Follow our work on www.samla.no, or connect with us on samlatradisjonsarkiv on Facebook and Instagram or samla_no on Twitter.

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