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Strategies of Data Archiving for Cultural Anthropology, Using Gwembe Tonga Research Project (GTRP) Data

Project Director
Dr. Lisa Cliggett
Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Kentucky

Project Home:  [forthcoming]

Project Description

The qualitative social science community has been engaged in debate about how data can and should be shared for at least the past two decades. The recent NSF requirement for data management plans has reignited these discussions and caused scholars to rethink strategies for preserving and sharing primary data, rather than disseminating findings through publication of synthesized results alone. Additionally, the discipline of anthropology has reached a life cycle stage when many anthropologists may consider archiving their data from studies begun forty or more years ago. Data from these longitudinal studies form a valuable resource for the discipline – as historical documents, but also as primary data on which we can build understanding of change over time. Creating systems of archiving that preserve data and that facilitate useful sharing with other scholars, while simultaneously protecting confidentiality and study participants, has become an urgent need for establishing a truly 21st century anthropological discipline.

The project addresses this urgent need by developing a prototype digital archive (using the PI’s Gwembe Tonga Research Project data of the past eight years) that will serve as a test case for building a specifically cultural anthropology system of data archiving, metadata documentation and data sharing. While the project will establish a formal system of data archiving appropriate to the GTRP – benefiting future GTRP research and the more than sixty years of GTRP data in the Elizabeth Colson / Thayer Scudder archives – others in the qualitative social sciences and humanities communities can adapt the archiving system to use for their own projects.

Outcomes of the project include: 1) A prototype digital repository for the GTRP data archive, which other scholars can adapt for their own needs; 2) A “work flow” guide for qualitative data archiving 3) A project web site to disseminate details about the archiving process and other related information; 4) An American Anthropological Association meeting session about qualitative data archiving.


Research on the Gwembe Tonga Digital Archive project has been supported by:

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