The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University
Postdoctoral Fellow for Data Curation in Latin American and Caribbean Indigenous Languages
The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University invites applications for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship for Data Curation in Latin American and Caribbean Indigenous Languages, focused around engagement with the Library’s world-renowned Indigenous languages collection and the challenges of data curation with and through culturally-sensitive materials related to the continent’s earliest inhabitants. Drawing on the JCB’s extraordinary resources in Native American history and culture across a variety of geographical and linguistic formats, the postdoctoral fellow will work with librarians, curators, Indigenous populations, research scholars, and students from a range of disciplines to better capture, manage, and curate metadata from Latin American and Caribbean digitized cultural heritage objects – and specifically Indigenous language materials – for the benefit of a wide audience of potential users.
As a repository that has since its inception been focused on the lived experiences and linguistic structures of the earliest human inhabitants of the Americas, the JCB is an ideal laboratory for considering not only the representation of native groups in historical literature, but also the way in which dictionaries, grammars, and other historical materials with Indigenous language content can be used by native communities today in projects of language documentation and revitalization. The unique nature of historical language sources from Indigenous communities – often written with European scripts but attempting to reproduce the oral features of non- European languages – and the complex nature of the ways in which these sources were created through processes of settler colonialism, religious proselytization, and cultural appropriation make the challenges of data curation all the more acute. The Library has been at the forefront of putting its rare linguistic sources from Indigenous communities at the service of contemporary native groups, including the Myaamia Center (http://myaamiacenter.org) and the Wampanoag program at Plimoth Plantation (www.plimoth.org). The goal of this project is to assess how digital tools and metadata created through collaborative processes across a hemispheric arc can serve scholarly and non-scholarly communities now and into the future.
The Postdoctoral Fellow will explore and develop these questions by working collaboratively with Indigenous populations who are connected with our partner institutions throughout the hemisphere. These institutions – primarily libraries, archives, and museums – have materials similar to or comparable with our own Indigenous language sources and are interested in further developing data curation projects around these materials in collaboration with local stakeholders. They include: the Biblioteca Americana José Toribio Medina at the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile (Santiago, Chile); the Biblioteca Cervantina (Monterrey, Mexico); the Biblioteca Guita e José Mindlin (São Paulo, Brazil); the Bibliothèque de l’Université des Antilles (Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe), host of the Bibliothèque Numérique Caraïbe, Amazonie, Plateau des Guyanes; and the Centro Cultural San Pablo y Biblioteca Francisco de Burgoa (Oaxaca, Mexico). Because of the hemispheric mission of the Library, the JCB maintains relationships with all of these institutions and is currently involved in active and ongoing collaborations with the aim of finding better ways to access and share our respective collections through innovative digital platforms. The focus of this project will be sharing metadata from our collections with Indigenous populations connected to these and other institutions as well.
The Postdoctoral Fellow will be broadly responsible for compiling, assessing, and ultimately redesigning the metadata infrastructure specifically related to the Indigenous Languages in the Americas collection at the JCB. The goal, eventually, will be to contribute to the broader data curation strategies of the Library as a whole. The Fellow will identify metadata needs for Indigenous communities and help align the Library’s metadata practices with those that place native groups and native projects at the center. This may include placing certain materials or metadata behind a sensitivity wall (and harmonizing these concerns with the Library’s own commitment to open-access) or working on ways to communicate culturally sensitive information related to a book or manuscript in conformity with a particular community’s unique historical and cultural perspective. The Postdoctoral Fellow will also serve as a resource for these communities in order to provide training in metadata editing and curation. With a permanent workspace at the John Carter Brown Library, the Postdoctoral Fellow will also be appointed as a postdoctoral researcher in a department at Brown University (dependent on the successful applicant’s own background and disciplinary training), benefitting from the diverse postdoctoral community at Brown and the myriad professional advantages of collaborating with other students and researchers at institutions that include the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities, and the nascent Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, among others.
The Postdoctoral Fellow will focus specifically on a set of core materials drawn from the Library’s Indigenous Languages of the Americas collection. The JCB holds one of the world’s largest collections of books containing text in one or more Amerindian languages for the period before the nineteenth century. Besides the many grammatical studies, dictionaries, and thematic vocabulary lists the Library holds, genres include speeches, dramatic dialogues, scriptural excerpts, catechisms, and other religious texts, as well as priceless and unique manuscript sources. Focusing on this collection will enable the Postdoctoral Fellow to build on our strategic partnerships with key institutions holding complementary collections throughout the Americas. Examples of these works include: Alonso de Molina, Confessionario breue, en lengua mexicana y castellana (Mexico, 1577); Juan de Córdoba, Vocabulario en lengua çapoteca (Mexico, 1578); Luis de Valdivia, Doctrina christiana y cathecismo en la lengua allentiac (Lima, 1607); Antonio de Araújo, Catecismo brasilico da doutrina christãa (Lisbon, 1686); and Raymond Breton, Dictionaire caraibe-françois, meslé de quantité de remarques historiques pour l’esclaircissement de la langue (Auxerre, 1665). The discrete nature of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas collection – which numbers 744 titles – would enable the successful candidate to begin work with a substantial yet manageable corpus that has tremendous scholarly value for JCB researchers as well as resonance and relevance for contemporary Native American communities.
As part of this project, work by the Postdoctoral Fellow will include:
- Overseeing an initial data migration project, bringing the existing SQL-based database into a more flexible form that is sensitive to the fact that there are multiple ways of knowing and diverse approaches to establishing relationships between data;
- Collaborating with institutions and programs that are grappling with the issue of culturally-sensitive materials, based on programs currently underway at the Design for Diversity initiative at Northeastern University and the Mukurtu CMS, managed by the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University;
- Establishing and maintaining working relationships with representatives from Indigenous communities whose cultural heritage is represented in the Indigenous Languages collection;
- Formulating and maintaining documented data curation policies, procedures, and best practices for the Library, and its affiliated institutional partners;
- Evaluating organizational schemas used by the Library’s multiple digital asset management platforms, and creating a flexible metadata program that works with these systems;
- Coordinating outreach efforts with the Assistant Director for Digital Engagement and Discovery and the Assistant Curator for Digital Outreach via social media to disseminate and celebrate the Indigenous Languages collection;
- Positioning the Library as a leader in the use of digital tools for the delivery of digitized images and attendant metadata, especially through use of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF);
- Working with research fellows to shape digital projects being undertaken with the Library’s materials in ways that encourage thoughtful use of data and metadata.
Desired Skills & Expertise
The successful candidate will hold a doctorate in a relevant field related to Latin American and Caribbean Studies, ideally having experience working with Indigenous languages through rare books, maps, manuscripts, or other source materials. Familiarity with digital humanities methods such as TEI textual markup, geospatial analysis, visualization, and digitization of print materials is highly desirable, though not required. The Postdoctoral Fellow will be given the opportunity to learn and strengthen her/his skills and knowledge in all areas listed above as a part of the fellowship. Some teaching and organizational experience as part of the individual’s doctoral training is preferred.
Roles, Duties, & Responsibilities
Reporting to the JCB Director for academic and scholarly mentorship and to the Associate Librarian for administrative purposes, the Postdoctoral Fellow will become an integral part of the JCB’s unique community of library professionals and scholars-in-residence. With the Library’s extensive array of international partnerships and its cross-disciplinary and institutional connections on the campus of Brown University, the successful candidate will learn from and contribute to ongoing conversations about how digital resources in the humanities and social sciences can yield new models for academic scholarship in the twenty-first century and beyond.
Additional responsibilities (and support) include:
- Partnering with JCB and Brown University Library staff to support robust development of digital humanities projects, including access to the programming and resources of the Center for Digital Scholarship at the Brown University Library;
- Engaging with faculty and researchers in other departments in the use of data curation management tools to facilitate access to available collections;
- Mentoring undergraduate “digital fellows” in the use and pedagogy of Library materials for coursework, research, and data sharing;
- Teaching one course per year in the Fellow’s area of scholarly expertise, in an affiliated department of the Fellow’s choosing, which may include: Africana Studies; American Studies; Anthropology; Art History; Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences; Comparative Literature; French; Hispanic Studies; History; Portuguese and Brazilian Studies.
Compensation: $65,000 and full benefits package.
Required Qualifications: Ph.D. in relevant discipline related to Latin American and Caribbean Studies with attention to the colonial period or other special field of the Library’s collection. Applicants must have received a Ph.D. after January 1, 2013 but before beginning the fellowship.
Preferred Qualifications: Prior experience with digital humanities projects and methodologies, including collaborative digital scholarship and/or digital pedagogy; some experience in project management or project-driven collaboration with librarians and library collections; knowledge of French, Portuguese, Spanish, or a native language from the Americas for outreach/research purposes; interest in promoting the use of digital technologies and resources for humanities research, teaching, and intellectual engagement.
Scholarly Community & Professional Development: The Postdoctoral Fellow will have office space and full staff privileges at the John Carter Brown Library, benefitting from an intimate scholarly community of over 50 short- and long-term research fellows that visit the Library each year from around the world. The work environment is proudly multicultural, multilingual, and receptive to scholars and staff members of diverse backgrounds. The Library welcomes applications from historically underrepresented groups and would encourage making connections with new publics and communities within the United States and abroad. In addition, the successful candidate will have affiliation with a Brown University department of her/his choosing, expanding the resources available to her/him for social and intellectual engagement. The Fellow will be able to dedicate a portion of her/his time to research, writing, and other scholarly activities – the Library will support four weeks of independent research in addition to Brown’s standard 22 days of annual vacation.
About the John Carter Brown Library and its Resources: Established in 1846, the John Carter Brown Library (JCB) is an independently funded and administered institution for advanced research in history and the humanities, located at Brown University since 1904. Its collection on the early Americas includes rare books, manuscripts, maps, and supporting materials from the early decades of European print to the first half of the nineteenth century. The Library’s events, exhibitions, residential research fellowships, open-access policy, and digitization program make these resources available to communities around the world.
Candidates should indicate in their application submitted through CLIR how their scholarship fits in with a focus on the Indigenous languages of the Americas, and should also describe their interest in and plans for promoting digital technologies for research, teaching, and scholarship in the humanities and/or social sciences. Please also indicate clearly your desired departmental affiliation. In addition, a curriculum vitae and three letters of reference are required.
Deadline for applications is December 29, 2017. The appointment will be effective June 1, 2017. Apply online at: https://www.clir.org/fellowships/postdoc/applicants/