Data Analytics in the Archives: A Statistical Examination of the Robinson and Via Family Papers (306452)*Clara Roseberg, Smith College
Keywords: archives, social science, history, data analytics, museums
In this project, we analyze the potential of statistical and data science methods with archival information, using economic analysis of the Robinson and Via Family Papers at the National Museum of American History as a case study. These papers document the farming and personal lives of two families in Southern Maryland starting in 1838, and the data includes all of the Robinson family’s recorded financial transactions from 1845 to 1950. We find that although the potential for collaboration between disciplines is hindered by archival data not being in a simple, digital format, data science methods have the potential to both provide important new insights and inspire new questions for research. For example, with respect to the costs of farm labor, we found through data analysis that workers were likely most often paid weekly rather than daily. We hope that this project will bring into focus the underutilized potential of quantitative methods aiding qualitative historical research.