The World History of Science Online

Many of you know that in addition to editing the Isis Bibliography, I am also chair of the World History of Science Online (WHSO). This project is designed to help scholars find digital resources in the history of science. It was started a decade ago at an expert meeting in Paris. I recently wrote a brief history of this organization, which has just been published in Acta Baltica. (You can get the full text at their site, and you might also find Birute Railiene’s article on bibliographic control interesting as well.)

The World History of Science Online is hosted at the University of Melbourne’s eScholarship Research Centre under the direction of Gavan McCarthy. In recent years McCarthy has been working on public projects funded by the government of Australia and as a result has developed state-of-the-art facilities and a highly trained staff. McCarthy and his team understand how and why historians work as they do, and their work is aimed at ensuring that scholarly resources are preserved in historically appropriate ways.

History of science is benefiting greatly because of their help both with WHSO and with my plans to build an open-access Isis Bibliograpy. I suggest you also take a look at some of their other resources, such as The Encyclopedia of Australian Science. Indeed, one fascinating resource that McCarthy helped make possible appeared just two weeks ago: a digital archive of an amateur scientist in Australia. The site has the intriguing title Stories in Stone: an annotated history and guide to the collections and papers of Ernest Westlake (1855-1922). It is edited by Rebe Taylor.

Resources like these are burgeoning on the web, and we desperately need to document and index them. McCarthy and I have designed WHSO to do precisely this. And two years ago, I found a small amount of funds to hire two graduate students to help me correct and add lists of resources to the project, but I have not had the staff support to be able to build the project since then.

So I’ll close this post with a pitch for support. Let’s start a discussion about building a robust index of online resources. I would be more than happy to talk with people about organizing ways to sustain WHSO as an “Isis Bibliography” for the internet. I believe that crowd-sourcing is one way we might be able to move forward if we develop the proper interface.

Your ideas are welcome.

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