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Enabling Better Data Discovery of Records Across Archives, Institutions and Libraries

Making use of a purpose-built structured database with the flexibility to capture data from a variety of different sources and jurisdictions, and enabling a productive partnership between researchers and volunteer transcribers, the Prosecution Project is a platform for revolutionising our understanding of criminal justice histories. We plan to extend the functionality of this database by operationalising a national, sustainable and scalable API standard that will allow data (and metadata) sharing and transfer between archives, institutions and research projects (such as Tasmanian Archives  and Heritage Office, The Prosecution Project, Trove, Queensland State Archives, HuNI and the ALA).

Criminal justice history is a substantial research field, with a vital international community of scholars among whom Australia holds special interest given the convict origins of European settlement, as well as the impact of colonisation on the contemporary challenges of Indigenous crime and incarceration rates. The research field has significant inter-disciplinary connections to a range of other humanities areas  including criminology, gender studies, law and psychology.

The Prosecution Project is a major initiative in this research field. The project is digitising large-scale criminal justice record sets in Australian jurisdictions to enable new research, quantitative and qualitative, in the history of prosecution and the criminal trial.

Historically, archival records have been hidden away in different archives across the country. To access them you need to physically visit the archives, copy the original records and then transcribe the data. With the advances in digitisation and digital archiving solutions, data can be made accessible to the national and international community, and related records can be linked across multiple institutional repositories.

In this presentation we will discuss how the Prosecution Project and Griffith University are working collaboratively with archival institutions such as the Queensland State Archives and the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office to enable better access to archival data. The Open API project is currently investigating a standardised method of accessing archival data. For example, this API will enable access to the Prosecution Project’s transcription of court records alongside the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Offices’ digitised records. This method of providing data as service, once created, will be able to be exploited by discovery services such as the National Library of Australia (NLA), national and state archives.

The issues of how institutions (through their library and IT departments) can help researchers to leverage open standards and APIs, and share our consideration for providing support models for these tools will also be addressed. This presentation will discuss the project and the planned objectives in detail.