In recent years, a growing number of archives, databases, and collections that organize and make sense of records of enslavement have become freely and readily accessible for scholarly and public consumption. This proliferation of projects and databases presents a number of challenges:
- Disambiguating and merging individuals across multiple datasets is nearly impossible given their current, siloed nature;
- Searching, browsing, and quantitative analysis across projects is extremely difficult;
- It is often difficult to find projects and databases;
- There are no best practices for digital data creation;
- Many projects and datasets are in danger of going offline and disappearing.
In response to these challenges, Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University, in partnership with the MSU Department of History and scholars at multiple institutions, has begun work on Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade, a constellation of software and services built to address these challenges. Enslaved’s primary focus is people—individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in slave trading.