Call for Testing Partners

Summary Details

Over the past decade, many institutions of higher education have begun to publicly examine and embrace their historical roles in the injustices and legacies of slavery. So far, however, there is no common, shared method for collecting, organizing, and describing historical data from the rich archival holdings of all these institutions. The absence of a common, shared approach to documenting, describing, and organizing the data derived from the archival records relating these histories limits researchers’ understanding of the lives and experiences of the enslaved across these institutional contexts, retards search and discovery across collections, and constrains the possibilities of a broader analysis of American educational institutions’ historical ties to slavery.

Therefore, a core team of experienced digital history experts, archivists, and historians of slavery from Michigan State University (MSU), the University of Virginia (UVA), and Georgetown University (GU) has, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, undertaken the On These Grounds (OTG), a project

  1. to create, evaluate, revise, and disseminate a LOD ontology focused on adequately describing the lived experiences of those enslaved individuals who labored in bondage at higher education institutions that are represented in those institutions’ archival holdings;
  2. to create a set of resources, both descriptive guidance and support materials, that will enable other colleges and universities to undertake this work;
  3. and, to both aggregate the resulting data in the service of increasing the discoverability of this information and of fostering new scholarship.

Collaborative Testing Partners

Given the goals of the OTG project, we are seeking four colleges or universities that have an institutional history of involvement with slavery to test the viability of the alpha version of the OTG Event Ontology to adequately describe the events depicted in archival materials. Successful Collaborating Partner teams should be composed of an archivist or librarian and an historian familiar with the institution’s history with these events. In selecting Collaborating Partners, the OTG team will try to identify groups with records that include events not accounted for in the initial testing base from the Core Partner institutions. The Collaborating Partner teams must be willing to implement a testing protocol with their holdings over a nine-month period, and to provide the OTG with full and constructive feedback about their experiences with the data model. Applicants need not have an infrastructure in place to publish linked open data. At the end of the testing period, the Collaborating Partners will have a model for moving forward with this type of descriptive work for a full set of records. Published data will be aggregated and openly shared to offer a macro-level view of these events across institutions.

Selected Collaborating Partners will receive:

Collaborating Partners will be supported by a two-day virtual launch meeting with the Lead Project Partners in July 2021. After the launch meeting, the Collaborating Partners will join in an ongoing community of practice sharing their experiences using the descriptive model. Finally, all of the partners will come together for a summative virtual meeting to offer final feedback on their testing experiences.

Some requirements and guidelines:

Submission format

Please prepare an application document that includes the following elements:

Submit materials as a pdf attachment via email to
Due date: June 1, 2021

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

Questions and concerns should be directed to the OTG team at