Friday, November 29, 2019

Dudziak Prize Co-Winners: "O Say Can You See" and the Scottish Court of Sessions Digital Archive

What a pleasure it is here at the Legal History Blog, founded by Mary Dudziak (Emory University), to report the winners of the inaugural Mary L. Dudziak Digital Legal History Prize. About the prize:
The Dudziak Prize, named in honor of Mary L. Dudziak, a leading scholar of twentieth century U.S. legal history and international relations as well as a digital history pioneer, is awarded annually to an outstanding digital legal history project. These projects may take the form of either traditionally published peer reviewed scholarship or born-digital projects of equivalent depth and scope.
This year's co-winners are: 
O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C. Law and Family and its Anna Film


The official citation from the prize committee:
The O Say Can You See Project merited the Dudziak Prize because it does more than merely put content online that could be digested in print form. Rather, it uses the internet platform to enable others to access 509 D.C. Circuit Court, Maryland state, and U.S. Supreme Court petitions for freedom. The creators have also modeled more than 55,000 relationships between the participants in these cases. They also included engaging essays by legal historians about these sources and the broader historical context. And, in 2018, the creators unveiled an 11-minute animated film, Anna, which has been widely used in secondary schools to teach students about the history of slavery and freedom. Overall, we were impressed by how this project harnessed the power of new media to excite the imaginations of current and future legal historians. 
The Scottish Court of Sessions Digital Archive merited the Dudziak Prize because it is an ambitious multi-institutional effort to digitize Scottish sessions papers from the 1750s to 1840s, which are held by the University of Virginia Law Library and the Library of Congress. The project, which went public in 2018, consists of high-quality scans of approximately 10,000 documents, all expertly tagged using open source and exportable programming. These documents are especially valuable sources because they contain rich narratives of underrepresented groups in the British Atlantic world during the era of the American Revolution. This new archive should help facilitate research on women, enslaved persons, and laborers. Overall, we were impressed by the scholarly significance of this digital archive for the field of British Atlantic studies.
The members of this year's Dudziak Prize Committee were: David Tanenhaus (chair) (University of Nevada, Las Vegas); Lauren Benton (ex officio, President-elect) (Vanderbilt University); Deborah Dinner (Emory University School of Law); Kellan Funk (Columbia Law School). We thank them for their service and offer our congratulations to both winners!
-- Karen Tani