Archive 2.0: Imagining The Michigan State University Israelite Samaritan Scroll Collection as the Foundation for a Thriving Social Network

Jim Ridolfo

Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati.

William Hart-Davidson

Michigan State University, United States

Michael McLeod

Michigan State University, United States

I. Brief Project Summary

This (US)National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities start-up funded project explores the challenges and benefits of pursuing a community-centered design approach for digital archives, a process we term an "Archive 2.0" model of development. As the title “Archive 2.0” implies, we embrace both the technologies and the expanded possibilities for user participation associated with Web 2.0. More than simply adding the technological affordances of Web 2.0 to a traditional archive, however, our project uses these new capabilities as a heuristic for reconsidering the very nature of an archive, both what it is and what it can do for stakeholder communities and audiences. Unlike many existing digital archive projects aimed at an audience of other field-specific scholars and archivists, our project has focused on identifying and engaging with the cultural and scholarly stakeholders associated with a particular collection of texts and artifacts. The archive in question, the Chamberlain-Warren collection of Samaritan materials housed at Michigan State University, includes a large assortment of Pentateuchs, liturgical texts, stone inscriptions, and metalwork. The stakeholder communities we located include members of the 712-person Israelite Samaritan community located in Holon, Israel and the West Bank, Palestinian Authority, as well as biblical and Samaritan scholars.

II. Summary of Project Findings

Digital archive initiatives generally, and those in Biblical studies specifically, target and serve the research needs of scholars. As scholar-centric projects, the design, organization, and implementation of many recent digitization efforts are not tailored to the User Experience (UX) needs of other communities with a stake in the archive content. In this paper we present findings that chart a new path for developing digital archives along with stakeholder community participants. Our exploratory project incorporated this participatory approach and led us to three major findings:

1.    The digital humanities provide a unique historical opportunity to engage and connect with cultural stakeholders, groups who were often dismissed or ignored in earlier archive projects. Re-centering cultural stakeholders as integral to the design process of digital archives is a potentially monumental opportunity.

2.    Archive 2.0 community-centered design with multiple stakeholders has the potential to include and showcase other forms of knowledge besides the explicitly scholarly. By doing interviews with members of the Samaritan community in Holon and Mt. Gerizim, we learned about how the Samaritans organize and arrange their texts. By representing this organizational scheme in our rchive 2.0 design, we provide a more culturally rich digital archive experience than what was possible in archive 1.0, or an archive tailored to one immediate stakeholder community.

3.    The digital humanities are not simply about technology: new digitization efforts must make a methodological choice to either build upon or ignore the humanities aspect of the digital humanities. In other words, they must either take greater care to consider the people associated with texts and technologies or risk alienating potential readers and users of the digital project. Archive 1.0 was largely about a single stakeholder community and the nuts and bolts technology of putting images and texts on the web; archive 2.0 goes beyond technology to engage multiple stakeholder communities, including a larger set of procedural and methodological concerns.

The Samaritan collection at Michigan State University provides an interesting, though certainly not unique, opportunity to explore the many ethical, scholarly, and design affordances in doing community-centered design with multiple stakeholders.

III. Who are the Samaritans?

The Samaritans have existed in the Middle East as a unique religious and ethnic group for several thousand years, and today they live primarily in Holon, Israel and Mt. Gerizim, West Bank in the village of Kiryat Luza. Their population is steadily growing in size, from a historic low of just under 130 after the First World War to over 700 in the last few decades. The community in Holon speaks Modern Hebrew as a first language, and the residents of Kiryat Luza speak Palestinian Arabic as a first language. The Samaritans maintain a delicate balance between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority. Being few in number and vulnerable to larger political trends, they seek a peaceful relationship with both government bodies. Continued contact and connections between both communities are important, as the Samaritans commemorate all religious festivals, holidays, and lifecycle celebrations on Mt. Gerizim. 

The Samaritan Torah (five books of Moses) is written in Samaritan Hebrew, which has its own unique script, pronunciation scheme, and grammar. While their Torah is similar in content to that of the Jewish people, it has many textual and theological differences. For example, the Samaritan version of the Torah maintains that Mt. Gerizim rather than Jerusalem is holy, as well as several thousand smaller textual differences from the Masoretic Hebrew; consequently, their religious law and practices differ from Jewish traditions. Starting at a very early age, all Samaritan children in Holon and Kiryat Luza learn to read, write, and chant in Samaritan Hebrew.

IV. Project History

In late December 2007, Jim Ridolfo, then a Ph.D. candidate in the Rhetoric and Writing program and Research Assistant at the Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center, came across an online finding aid for a large collection of Samaritan texts. Ridolfo, who had studied Hebrew for several years, was immediately interested in the history and story behind the large collection: how, when, and under what circumstances did such an impressive collection of Samaritan manuscripts end up at MSU?

In his search for answers, Ridolfo initially came across an article from MSU Samaritan scholar Robert Anderson and learned that the university acquired the collection when it was bequeathed the estate of E.K. Warren, a wealthy industrialist from Three Oaks, Michigan who traveled to Jerusalem as part of the International Sunday School convention in 1901. At that time the Samaritan community was living in dire financial conditions, it’s population nearing a 400-year low, and the community was forced to sell copies of its holy texts, some hundreds of years old, to survive. According to Anderson (1984):

E.K. Warren ... purchased many of the treasures to hold in safekeeping until the Samaritans could repurchase them. The plan never came to fruition, Warren died and the Samaritan materials, legally part of Warren's estate, were shipped to Three Oaks where they were placed in a Warren family museum ... In 1950 the Warren family closed the museum, and ... the various collections were given to Michigan State University ... The materials, with the exception of a brass scroll case and several modern paper scrolls, were placed in cardboard boxes in a storage area under the bleachers of the football stadium until a renovation of the area lead to their rediscovery in 1968. (p. 41)

The rest of the collection was moved to better storage in 1968, and eventually re-located to the MSU Libraries Office of Special Collections. Over the next forty years, only a handful of researchers traveled to East Lansing to conduct scholarship on the collection, and Emeritus Religious Studies Professor Robert Anderson has been the only MSU scholar to publish on the collection.

Soon after locating information on the history of the collection at MSU, Ridolfo found that a Samaritan elder named Benyamim Tsedaka visited MSU on November 14, 2003. During this visit, Tsedaka addressed the Board of Trustees during the Public Participation on Issues Not Germane to the Agenda segment of the meeting. According to the meeting records, Tsedaka told the MSU Trustees that the university had not yet done enough with this significant collection:

MSU received one of the largest collections in the world of Samaritan manuscripts; they are located in the Library. He encouraged the University to utilize this collection to promote Samaritan Studies.

Ridolfo, reading Tsedaka’s request several years later, continued to search to determine if Tsedaka’s request “to utilize this collection” had been fulfilled. Finding no evidence to suggest the call had been answered, Ridolfo located Tsedaka’s e-mail address and on January 4, 2008, contacted Tsedaka to inquire about the Samaritan community’s interest in pursuing a digitization project:

In doing research on the Samaritan collection I came across your address to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees in November of 2003 regarding Samaritan studies, and subsequently found your e-mail address through a search engine. I am interested in potentially digitizing some or all of the three Pentateuch texts in the collection, and making them available online off not-for-profit for educators, researchers, and your own Samaritan community. I wanted to know if first and foremost such an endeavor is respectful of your culture’s values regarding these texts. I am aware that these are sacred texts, and I would not proceed with such an endeavor unless it honors the values of your people. Any feedback you could give would be greatly appreciated. (Ridolfo, J. Personal communication, January 4, 2008).

Tsedaka responded several hours later with his blessing and support for such a project: 

In regards to the question you have asked. We will be much honored with your blessed work. Go ahead with this and you have my pure blessings. The texts in your hands are very important and need a professional use. Displaying them before the public will be a great contribution to the world's culture. (Tsedaka, B. Personal communication, January 4, 2008)

Ridolfo and Tsedaka then began to correspond about funding the first stage of a digital archive project. As a graduate employee of the Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center, Ridolfo discussed the idea of collaborating with the Samaritans, MSU Special Collections, and Samaritan/Biblical scholars with WIDE Co-Director William Hart-Davidson. Hart-Davidson quickly suggested that WIDE pursue the pilot phase of the archive project under the framework of applying for a National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant. From February to May, 2008 Ridolfo and Hart-Davidson worked on the grant application and had a steady stream of meetings with two Samaritan/Biblical scholars, MSU Professors Robert Anderson and Marc Bernstein, and Sharon Sullivan, the US Representative of the A.B. Samaritan Institute. The goal of these meetings with the scholars was twofold: first, to understand the kind of textual work Samaritan/biblical scholars do and to imagine how WIDE might translate this into a digital portal tailored to their needs, and second, to assemble a project team from a wide range of disciplines.

Through numerous electronic correspondences with Tsedaka and multiple face-to-face meetings with Sharon Sullivan, Ridolfo and Hart-Davidson developed the hypothesis that in a digital environment, these cultural stakeholders may have different or additional applications for their texts than that of scholarly stakeholders. We didn’t have a clear handle on what these differences might be, so we proposed our NEH ODH Start-Up to explore the UX (User Experience) differences between these two communities, with a specific focus during the Start-Up to explore the needs of the Samaritan cultural stakeholders. The stated objectives of the proposal were as follows:

* To create a working model of a culturally-sensitive repository of Samaritan texts that may support a variety of learning activities including online teaching, learning, and research for members of the Samaritan community as well as scholars; the repository will provide access to digital versions of the scrolls enhanced with Web 2.0 technologies such as social networking (ability to form groups and define relationships among users), tagging, and shared annotations

* To follow a model of system development consistent with best practices of user-centered design and the movement toward community-oriented transformation of archival collections; we will actively engage members of the Samaritan community as well as Biblical/textual scholars in this collaborative software development project resulting in a system that supports preservation, use, and presentation of a collection that has been all but inaccessible to the very communities who most value the Samaritan texts

* To adapt innovative approaches in digital technology associated with Web 2.0 - especially social networking, tagging, and social bookmarking - to embody new perspectives on humanities research; we will use these technologies to broaden access for scholars while also creating opportunities for those members of the Samaritan community and the public with a cultural stake in both the archive itself and scholarship on Samaritan artifacts to actively engage and collaborate with one another

In support of the NEH ODH grant application, MSU Special Collections director Peter Berg, University Archivist Cynthia Ghering, and MSU Library conservator Eric Alstrom agreed to digitize portions of several manuscripts as cost share.

In October 2008, a month and a half after receiving news that the grant was successfully funded, a meeting was held in the basement of MSU Special Collections with Robert Anderson, Sharon Sullivan, and Benyamim Tsedaka on a conference call from Holon, Israel. Ridolfo and Hart-Davidson asked Tsedaka and Anderson to prioritize the most important manuscripts for digitization in the Start-Up phase of the project. There was a very quick consensus between Tsedaka and Anderson that of the many manuscripts in the collection to choose from, selections from three 15th Century Pentateuchs, bills of sale and portions of Exodus containing acrostics, were the most important to digitize right away. Tsedaka, who had visited the MSU collection several times in the past twenty years, noted that these acrostics would have meaning for the Samaritan people and be of interest to scholars. Anderson agreed with Tsedaka that the selections were interesting examples of Samaritan scribal practice. 

At this juncture in the Start-Up grant it was important to have this consensus from representative cultural and scholarly stakeholders.  As scholars of rhetoric composition, one of the main research questions Ridolfo and Hart-Davidson hoped to investigate with this project is how archives can be designed to meet the rhetorical needs of multiple audiences simultaneously; however, with limited digitization resources to populate the archive with texts, we wanted to maximize the initial appeal of the archive by propagating it with manuscripts valued by both stakeholder groups.

V. Methodology and Design Process

Meeting to discuss the NEH project in the house of the Samaritan High Priest on Mt. Gerizim, Palestinian Authority, 5/26/2009.

From left to right: Binyamin Tsedaka, editor of the A.B. Samaritan News, the late Samaritan High Priest Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq, Gus Whalen, the great-grandson of E.K. Warren, and Jim Ridolfo, Writing in Digital Environments Research Center

Our Start-Up project utilized user-centered design methods such as focus-group interviews and individual usability sessions. This approach helped our team gather information from members of the Samaritan community in order to develop prototypes that would best meet their needs. We engaged with Samaritan community members and scholars as informants who could help us design better (i.e., more community-centered) interfaces for the online archive. In keeping with the best practices of user-centered design, we followed an iterative design pattern, meaning that after each round of new prototypes we went back to our stakeholders for feedback. For the first year and a half of the grant project we followed this iterative design schedule:

February to May 2008: Meetings with Professor Anderson (scholarly stakeholder) and Sharon Sullivan, combined with extensive e-mail correspondence with Tsedaka.

October 2008: Ridolfo and Michael McLeod, user experience researcher and designer at WIDE, worked on early mockups and paper prototyping for the first round of iterative design in November 2008.

November, 2008: Tsedaka traveled from Holon, Israel and returned to East Lansing, Michigan for a day of meetings with Hart-Davidson, McLeod, Ridolfo. Tsedaka and Ridolfo planned a research trip to Mt. Gerzim and Holon in May 2009 to do iterative design walkthroughs with community members.

December 2008 to April 2009: Ridolfo, McLeod, and Hart-Davidson worked on revised mockups for the first iterative design walkthroughs with more Samaritans in May.

May 2009: Ridolfo and McLeod traveled to Mt. Gerizim and Holon and conducted three iterative design walkthroughs with first language Arabic speakers on Mt. Gerizim (two men and one woman), and four walkthroughs of community and family libraries in Holon, Israel (three men and one woman). Ridolfo and McLeod also had conversations about the project with approximately a dozen elders, including the spiritual leader of the community, the late High Priest Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq, who formally gave his blessing to proceed with the project.

June to August 2009: Ridolfo and McLeod utilized the data gathered from the walkthroughs and conversations to develop revised mockups and a community-centered metadata acquisition tool (CCMAT). Ridolfo continued to communicate with iterative design participants through e-mail, and the CCMAT was successfully deployed.

Feedback from members of the Samaritan community was crucial not only in shaping interface designs so that they would find them useful, but also in helping us identify specific areas where our observations about the user community and their needs were incorrect or inaccurate.

Iterative Design Interviews in Holon and Mt. Gerizim, May 2009

Because our aims at this stage of the study were to produce formative feedback with the goal of developing better design prototypes, our sample was a convenience sample made possible by our community partner and insider, Benyamim Tsedaka. We solicited a request for participants to Tsedaka, who distributed our request to potential participants in Holon and Mt. Gerizim. We asked potential participants to provide us with an hour of their time to give us feedback on various archive designs.

We had a total of seven Samaritan participants: one woman and two men on Mt. Gerizim and three men and one woman in Holon, Israel. For our protocol on Mt. Gerizim we showed each participant digital and print images of various site designs, including sketches and mock-ups (images 1, 2, and 3), and asked questions about how the planned features intersected with his or her goals for using the texts. We asked participants to talk through the mockup designs with us and explain how they might do particular textual tasks such as locate a passage or solve a problem. We then asked each of the three participants to use a functional version of the archive on a laptop we provided, showing us how they might navigate the archive with a touchpad interface.

When we arrived In Holon, there was some confusion about doing the participant walkthroughs. Rather than conducting individual interviews as planned, Ridolfo and McLeod ended up conducting a larger focus group hosted in the home of a Samaritan elder. Because the goal of the trip was to solicit community feedback for the purposes of iterative design, the focus group provided Ridolfo and McLeod with an unexpected but productive format. As community outsiders, we were open to this change in protocol, and procedurally this group walkthrough functioned largely in the same manner as the individual walkthroughs on Mt. Gerizim, but it provided the added benefit of listening to groups of participants discuss the various mockup archive designs with each other, rather than only responding to and interacting with us, the researchers. Using the mock-up drawings and laptop, each participant took turns showing us how they would do certain kinds of tasks. After the walkthrough portion was complete there was a large group conversation about Samaritan culture and technology.[1]


Initial fieldwork with the community, including the structured participant walkthroughs as well as meetings with elders and the late High Priest, demonstrated to us what Benyamim Tsedaka had told us several times in 2008: that the Samaritans have a high level of access to cell phones, mobile computing, and broadband technology in both communities. We also met several people working in computer technology-related fields (high tech), and they were able to articulate to us that such digital resources, if useful, would be utilized by a large percentage of younger generations. We also learned from discussions with members of both communities that digital/mobile/social network technology provides a significant link between the communities of Mt. Gerizim and Holon, and we learned more about when and how community members use mobile technology.

Changes to our prototypes

During the walkthroughs we made a number of observations regarding the Samaritan community's textual practices that have influenced our work toward a functional, community-centered prototype. One of the first responses we received from our participants was that community members would have almost no use of our "quick browse" interface (image #2). We designed this feature as an “index” that would enable a user to quickly browse through a Pentateuch, but participants told us that they rarely browse widely through their texts. Instead, they more often skip directly to the Torah portion (parasha) they are studying in a given week. In response to our page detail mockup (image #3), participants told us that they do not use the chapter-and-verse method of dividing and navigating their Torah, the method most often used by biblical scholars cataloguing the Jewish and Samaritan Pentateuch. Since Samaritan children are required to memorize and chant the Torah from an early age, they are intimately familiar with the organization of the text. We learned from these interviews that our designs were too centered on scholarly methods of indexing the manuscripts and that other taxonomies would be more useful for Samaritans, specifically ones focused on the Samaritan family names of those mentioned in acrostics and bills of sale. What we didn’t expect prior to doing our interviews was how much the participants valued the content contained within the unique acrostics.

We were also told by several participants to arrange the texts according to the weekly Torah portion (parsha), and the specific Samaritan names for each of these Torah portions. Adopting the structure of the Samaritan parasha into our designs was a significant shift for us. Not only did our interfaces change, but as well the information architecture upon which we based the interfaces. For example, the Samaritan parasha breakdown differs in many ways from the Jewish parasha structure, so we needed to spend time after our research trip corresponding with the Samaritans about their unique Samaritan Hebrew (as well as the transliterated English) names for each Torah portion. We realized that we needed to develop a tool to build this architecture, and this need in turn led to our first functional prototypes (images #4 and #5), what we've termed a Community-Centered Metadata Acquisition Tool, or a CCMAT. The CCMAT itself is designed to help include the community in the ecological growth of the archive metadata. Currently, we are exploring a way to make this tool a permanent fixture of future design cycles.

We call this dual approach to community and metadata a Sustainable Ecological Archive Approach to Metadata (SEAAM). Our SEAAM philosophy is based on the idea that the ecology of a healthy digital archive requires sustained engagement by as many stakeholders as possible, and that ideally the ability to grow the metadata for digital archives rests more in the hands of stakeholder communities and less in the hands of designers and archivists. The process of implementing a SEAAM and designing an effective CCMAT is a multi-tiered development cycle. For example, after further feedback from the community, we refined the CCMAT and made it even more specific to their needs (image #6). In practice, this version of the CCMAT metadata prototype, unlike our earliest prototypes, was directly informed by our field observations of how the Samaritans utilize memorization for textual navigation. Once this first prototype was functional we resumed our long-distance dialogue with the Samaritans and asked for critical feedback and help in refining the prototype. Based on their feedback, we shifted the library book labeling (identifying the manuscripts by library call number), word count features, and numerical verse identification of the first prototype and rebuilt the information architecture to model the Samaritan parasha structure. The former features are still viable, but are more practical for an audience of scholars. The CCMAT interface was rebuilt to ask users to identify which parashot are included on each scanned page and to provide any notes that might be relevant to that particular page. The interface was also restructured to be bilingual and easier for the community to use. To date, the CCMAT has returned a significant amount of feedback and metadata that will help shape the archive 2.0 interfaces.

While the CCMAT itself is initially distinct from the content of an archive, we argue that it embodies one of the essential practices for archive 2.0: community engagement whenever possible. The CCMAT was a necessary step in the iterative design process, a dialectic between ourselves and the Samaritan community to establish a working community-generated information architecture. We think that such a step will be necessary in other archive 2.0 projects, and in such instances the CCMAT would look considerably different, because it will be tailored to cultural and information design nuances specific to each community. In our CCMAT, the goal was to provide a way to collaborate with the Samaritans to build a schema for properly labeling and categorizing each of the scans. The CCMAT is an essential tool in the development of an archive that is meaningful and useful to cultural stakeholder communities. Creating these possibilities for meaningful participation in and use of the design are key components to archive 2.0 design practices.

Corrected assumptions

One of our main objectives for the NEH Digital Start-Up is to develop a community-centered design approach for digital archives. Our iterative design process allowed us to propose many designs and features to members of the Samaritan community and refine those ideas based on their feedback. For example, we proposed supporting the recently proposed UNICODE standard for the Samaritan script. As developers, we thought liturgical language support would be useful for the community. However, during our field research we learned that the Samaritan community had no interest in the digital script. Our participants informed us that they would much rather continue to read and type in Palestinian Arabic or Modern Hebrew; there was no community interest in creating metadata in the Samaritan script. This led us to develop simple navigation interfaces in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

An early navigation prototype interface

Multiple CCMATs, Multiple Stakeholders

While we spent the majority of the first phase of the project exploring new ways to tailor the design of our prototypes to the needs of the cultural stakeholders, in the next phase of the project we plan to tailor a second CCMAT to the needs of scholars and we have had correspondence and meetings with additional Samaritan scholars. In the next phase of the project we’ve also decided to bifurcate the metadata we collect from cultural/scholarly CCMATS into two groups (scholars and cultural stakeholders), and compare the similarities and differences between the two metadata ecologies in order to inform the next phase of development.

What we as rhetoricians want is to explore is how archive 2.0 can function as a platform for application development for multiple audiences, and we’re particularly interested in how the archive-as-platform for cultural scholars may be most useful in the form of mobile application development. We are also interested in how certain Web-based analytic tools may be the most useful for scholars. The archive-as-application-platform or one repository/many portals approach to our future development is the next direction of the project and allows us to table some of the more pressing problems for the time being. For example, as developers, we do not yet have a system to manage the wide variety of metadata we collected through the first round of the CCMAT. While MSU has agreed to host the archive in the long term, now we are also facing the situation where multiple institutions are contributing texts with different intellectual property restrictions. For now, the developers/researchers (particularly Ridolfo) are coordinating, backing up, and digitizing new institutional streams of content.

VI. Recommendations: Archive 2.0 as Design Platform for Cross-Collaboration and Outreach

Theorizing Archive 2.0

We define archive 1.0 as the traditional, geographically-fixed, brick-and-mortar archive, one that strives to strike a balance between access to resources and preservation of materials. In our research for this project, we found that geographic distance posed the greatest access problem for both cultural and scholarly stakeholder communities interested in the MSU Samaritan texts. In the last fifty years, only one Samaritan stakeholder (Benyamim Tsedaka) has been able to travel from Israel to visit the collection. The problem of limited access is also true for the scholarly stakeholders. In the last fifty years only a handful of scholars have published on the collection.

One may conclude then that simply digitizing the entire collection would solve most access problems, but we don’t think that this is the case. We learned from our interviews and field research that both stakeholder communities need particular language, feature, and interface considerations in order for them to effectively utilize the archival collections online. During this process of user and community-centered design, we began to realize that working collaboratively with the cultural stakeholder community was, in many examples, contrary to the colonial and imperial histories of many brick-and-mortar archives. Our rhetoric colleague Malea Powell (2008), who regularly travels to archives and museums to see and interact with the texts of her own tribal history, reminds us how the design of archive 1.0 is often connected to a violent colonial history.

Informed by Powell's work with archives and the scholarship of other indigenous methodology, such as the work of Howe (2002), we concluded that there is an ethical imperative in archive 2.0 to understand the relationship of the archive to cultural stakeholders. After determining the status of this relationship, it may be possible to pursue a digitization project, but it also may not be advisable. Cultural stakeholder communities, however, should be engaged when applicable, as we’ve seen with the work of William Powell. If the community is not engaged then there is the danger of digitally replicating and amplifying some of the worst practices of colonial archives. We therefore recommend that archive 2.0 include:

· consent from cultural stakeholder communities

· engagement with cultural stakeholder communities (when applicable)

· community-centered design in addition to user-centered design

· broad interdisciplinary collaboration with area specialists, special collections, university archivists, and usability/design experts

· active use of the archive as a communications tool to establish new extra-institutional relationships

· a Sustainable Metadata Ecology 

We recommend that such an approach, while time consuming on the part of researchers, will ultimately produce a more purposeful digital archive. In the case of MSU, the archive has helped to strengthen relationships between the institution and the stakeholder communities. In our research project, the community offered us the proper English pronunciation for the weekly Samaritan torah portions. Collectively, they helped us identify every single digital image through the use of our Community-Centered Metadata Acquisition Tool (CCMAT). We thus recommend that other comparable projects consider the potential benefits of a sustained methodological process of community engagement.

VII. Appendix

Images uploaded as supplementary files.

VIII. Works Cited

Anderson, R. T. (1984). The Museum Trail: the Michigan State University Samaritan Collection. The Biblical Archaeologist, 47 (1), pp. 41-43.

Howe, C. (2002). Clearing a Path: Theorizing the past in Native American Studies. In N. Shoemaker, (Ed.), Keep Your Thoughts Above the Trees: Ideas on Developing and Presenting pp. 161-180 New York, NY: Routledge.

Michigan State University. (2009, Nov). MSU News: Special Report. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University. <>.

Michigan State University Board of Trustees. (2003, Nov 13). MSU Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes for November 13, 2003. (031114 ed.). East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University. < >.

Powell, M. (2008). Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process. In G. Kirsch and L. Rohan., (Eds), Dreaming Charles Eastman: Cultural Memory, Autobiography, and Geography in Indigenous Rhetorical Histories pp. 115-127 Carbondale, IL: SIUP.

Simpson, M. G. (1996). Making Representations: Museums in the Post-Colonial Era. New York, NY: Routledge.

[1] We want to emphasize that the data we collected during our fieldwork is not representative; rather, this feedback from our convenience sample is one important step in a long-term process of community engagement and iterative design. While what we learned by no means reflects the views of the entire community, it does serve as a helpful guide to meet the needs of some community members at a specific moment in time.