In addition to evaluating and endorsing the intellectual and technical quality of scholar-produced resources, the peer review process allows each ARC node to prepare for the aggregation of their materials into the ARC catalog. Each node, each community under the ARC umbrella, is a digital “aggregator.” Instead of hosting or publishing digital materials, our virtual research environments point to peer-reviewed, scholarly projects and resources. Scholars may search our entire catalog—including free-culture scholarly projects side-by-side with proprietary resources—from any one of these research environments. The scholar is then directed to that information elsewhere on the Internet. Limiting aggregation to the indexing of metadata rather than the collection and storage of data makes it possible for projects to retain ownership of their information, while still allowing it to be indexed, referenced, and discovered through us. Significantly, it is this same mechanism that allows us to enable searches of the JSTOR, ECCO, and EEBO catalogs through our interface: we do not host the proprietary page images ourselves, but we allow users without access to these catalogs to search the proprietary metadata. The metadata indexed by the ARC nodes resides in the ARC Solr indexer, enabling our metadata to be interoperable between nodes. When searching in MESA for a specific term or phrase, for example, it is possible to expand that search throughout the history of Western culture.
Freedom of interpretation via metadata elements, however, means very little to some humanities scholars with little to no experience in data management or archival indexing. In response, the ARC aggregation model and workflow provides technical support and community outreach. Node directors, associate directors, and project managers supply materials on standards and best practices, yet also provide certain consultation services to archives and scholarly resources at all stages of the ARC aggregation process. Following in the footsteps of NINES, the ARC and node offices have always dispensed XSLT support (for converting data/records into ARC RDF), consulted on data management, and given workshops at disciplinary conferences on best practices for digital projects.
When a project joins the ARC community, whether they are joining as a digital resource or a peer-reviewed archive, the scholar contacts the project manager for their appropriate node. The project manager then sends basic information about RDF-required elements for metadata submission, and metadata generation suggestions based on the resources infrastructure. Depending upon the scholar’s amount of expertise, the metadata submission process may proceed very quickly, or may require troubleshooting and communication between the node project manager and resource management team over a period of time. However the process proceeds, the end product is a fully indexed set of descriptive metadata (and, sometimes, indexed full text for searching) residing in one of the ARC node search interfaces, where the scholarly project can be searched alongside other high-quality scholarly resources.