Decoding Origins Web Portal

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 The Research Project

Decoding Origins Web Portal addresses the concerns of accessible design and deployment of a visual database and an interface which facilitates storage, access, and analysis of this textual and visual information by scholars of historical and contemporary of Africa. We have developed this web-based platform and searchable visual database enabling in-depth and accurate analyses of manuscripts, potentially revealing individual’s identities and origins. In addition, this web portal will is suuported by machine learning-based virtual mathematical models that are capable of cross-referencing individuals with all known patterns in the database, powering the likelihood of identifying kinship and birthplace. This research work will shed new light on demographic change, individual identities and patterns of slave-taking. This new interfaces we have designed, giving accessible access to the data visualizations and the database, will become tools to study familial history as we further refine them. The digital architecture of the Decoding Origins Web Portal allows specialists to add and organize information for diverse analyses, and to ideate and perform research projects based on the curated data. The ultimate goals of this project are to respect the provenance of important historical and personal data, and to use design, data gathering, analytics and visualization to join with ongoing efforts to restore and recover African identities which the slave trade sought to erase.

 Collaborating Projects



The Decoding Origin Web Portal is developed as part of a collaboration between the Creating a Visual Language of Marks and the Freedom Narratives research projects. Kartikay Chadha, who is a Researcher in Dr. Martha Ladly's research group in the Visual Analytics Labratory at OCAD University, and Techincal Co-ordinator (Project Direction) for Dr. Paul Lovejoy's team at York University, is the primary developer of this web portal. We acknowledge valuable contributions of Dr. Katrina Keefer (Co-PI Creating a Visual Language of Marks, Trent University), Dr. Érika Melek Delgado (Co-Director Freedom Narratives, Kings College London) and our research assistants including Maria Yala (OCAD University), Eric Lehman (Trent University) and Michael McGill (Trent University), in development of this web portal.

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Brain Alliance, OCAD University and York University. We also acknowledge our collaboration with Matrix: The Center For Digital Humanities & Social Sciences, as part of the Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade project at Michigan State University.

How to Cite us?
Kartikay Chadha, Katrina Keefer and Martha Ladly, “Decoding Origins Web Portal: Creating a Visual Database with Archival Sources from the Era of African Slavery,”. Daryle Williams, Walter Hawthorne, and Dean Rehberger, editors. Encoding Slavery, Databases, and Digital Histories. Michigan State UP. Under consideration.