Dr. Ryan Shaw receives IMLS grant for “Contours of the Past”

June 26, 2012

Ryan ShawDr. Ryan Shaw, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been awarded a $218,063 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarians Program - Research in Early Careers Development grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to invent tools for understanding collections of histories through computational text processing techniques. The project, titled “Contours of the Past” will focus on techniques for identifying individual events and their participants within narrative histories related to the civil rights movement. These events will be used as basic units for building up larger-scale models of narrative structure that can be used to link and compare related histories. The specific histories to be used for this project are 80 scholarly monographs and 350 oral histories.

The three-year project will initially focus on the technical side of building and evaluating tools for text analysis. During the later stages of the project, Shaw hopes to collaborate with the UNC at Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Program, the Southern Historical Collection, the UNC Press and others to design innovative forms of scholarly communication, educational materials and public exhibits that build upon computational models of historical events and narratives.

The project is a continuation of Shaw’s research on “The Event Directory: A Semantic Tool for Events and Periods,” which was funded with one of the first 2011/2012 Eleanor M. and Frederick G. Kilgour Research Grant Awards. Inventor, researcher, librarian and educator, Dr. Frederick G. Kilgour was a member of the SILS faculty serving as a Distinguished Research professor in 1990, teaching seminars in applications of technology for libraries. While a professor here, Kilgour saw the critical need for faculty support and he and Mrs. Kilgour created the Eleanor M. and Frederick G. Kilgour Faculty Development Fund in 1993.