eBio Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships 2009


Arabic and Islamic Studies

#1. From Baghdad To? eBio possesses the 1962 yearbook for Al-Hikma University in Baghdad. The university was unique in its diversity with its student body being 40 percent Muslim, 32 percent Catholic, 21 percent Orthodox Christian, and about 7 percent Jewish. Most of the class emigrated to the U.S. and elsewhere. We are interested in tracking these migration patterns.

The first research objective is to translate the yearbook into English and then uncover the remainder of the biographical details of the graduates’ lives post-1962. The second objective is to identify their descendants today, including biographical details (e.g. address, education, etc.) that would allow them to be tracked. Each link in the family tree of descendants must be documented with a physical record (e.g. birth record, marriage announcement, obituary, etc.) and any biographical details should be picked up along the way.

A premium is placed on the use of archival material that is not currently available in digital form. Identifying that material in the American Arabic communities and devising a method to make it accessible in a digital format is one of the major objectives of this work.

For example, Al-Hikma and Baghdad Universities periodically hold reunions in the United States. What documentation comes out of those reunions and how can it be accessed and archived?

Similarly, many of the ex-pat Arabic communities publish newspapers in various communities. How can they be accessed and possibly digitized to enable further research in the area. Presuming that the newspapers are in Arabic or Farsi, is there an auto-translator that can be applied to any OCR that will yield meaningful metadata tags for non-Arabic researchers? As any newspaper archive likely exists in microfilm format only, are there any issues unique to Arabic or Farsi that would make digitization of the microfilm and performing OCR on the results more complex? Also, what is the state of Article Recognition technology when the source material is in Arabic or Farsi?

#2. Your own Topic. Pick a topic of your own interest that illustrates some of the issues described above, including:

  • Picking a census of an Arabic or Farsi speaking community that migrated to the U.S.

  • Identifying archival sources that relates to the census

  • Remotely gathering the archival material.

  • Making the archival material more accessible through digitization at the lowest cost.

  • Making digitized archival material more accessible with better metadata.

  • Track the genealogy of the census – both forwards and backwards.


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