In 2014, Dr. Clayton McCarl published a small-scale experimental digital edition in the journal Scholarly Editing. Following that effort, he began experimenting with conducting digital editing projects with students. In the spring of 2015, he worked with University of North Florida (UNF) Spanish majors Buddy Delegal and Kalthoum Elfasi in the transcription and encoding of a manuscript completed in 1799 that gathers information related to Spanish missions sent from New Spain to present–day British Columbia. Over the next year, he continued work on that text with help from other students, including Spanish majors Cameron Adelsperger and Kathlina Brady and criminal justice major Krysten Ross. He also begin collaborating with information science major Rachel Bennett in the encoding a transcription of a Spanish bibliography of the Indies that Spanish major Robin Sheffield had prepared several years earlier.

In early 2016, McCarl founded coloniaLab as a way to bring together the work he was doing with students on these and other projects. Since that time, more than two dozen additional students have collaborated on coloniaLab projects. They have done this work in the context of internships, honors capstones, and in-class projects, both on campus and as part of a summer study abroad program in Colombia. Students have presented on coloniaLab projects at numerous academic conferences at UNF and elsewhere. McCarl’s own scholarship has been shaped by this work, with several publications and conference presentations arising out of questions encountered in coloniaLab projects.

For more information on the evolution of coloniaLab, see our lists of publications, presentations and awards, as well as our photo gallery and page of acknowledgements. Our portfolio of contributors also tells the story of coloniaLab by tracing the participation of individual students.