The Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory / Le Collaboratoire scientifique des écrits du Canada is an online platform designed to enable unprecedented avenues for studying the words that most move people in and about Canada. At this critical juncture when Canada’s literary heritage is moving online, management of information about Canadian cultural history still relies on tools derived from print models, which cannot accommodate the explosion of online materials. Some scholars work solo on small groups of texts while others engage in cross-disciplinary collaborative initiatives involving large numbers of texts, but all use digital tools and all create digital materials or data.
That cultural research material or data most often remains locked into hard drives, emerging in very partial form in the printed publications that report the scholarly findings, and inaccessible for reuse. If it appears online it is usually housed in siloed and scattered websites that do not allow data to be accessed in its raw form, combined with other data, repurposed by other researchers. Inaccessible to other scholars in the short term, and often as frozen as if it had been printed on a page, such data stands to be lost entirely in the long term, creating what has been called a second “dark age”.
CWRC works to remedy these problems. It aims to connect data by promoting and providing means to employ standards and best practices that make data shareable, interoperable, and preservable. It provides a linked data foundation for investigating links between writers, texts, places, groups, policies, and events both within and beyond the Collaboratory. It provides Canadians scholar and scholars of Canada with a foundation for investigating past and present cultural change and a means of exploring new forms of knowledge production. It understands scholarship as the dynamic production of knowledge communities who can collaborate through digital means to sustain, enhance, and continually expand cultural knowledge.