Archive for the ‘EEBO’ Category

Commercial Databases: Greater Access to JStor, EEBO, ECCO, Burney, and more in 2014?

January 2, 2014

 As EMOB readers know, equal access to various subscription databases has been one of our key concerns over the years. Posts such Unequal Access and Commercial Databases have addressed this problem in detail, while other entries have suggested arguments to present to administrators and librarians as to why subscribing to these resources is crucial for scholars and students alike. From time to time we have been able to obtain trial subscriptions to commercial databases—EEBO, ECCO, WWO, Burney, Orlando—for EMOB readers. Most recently, Anna has detailed a Cengage-Gale trial granted to SUNY institution and the results of that trial.

Issues of access, however, continue to affect many—both those whose institutions do not subscribe to these digital resources and those whose status as independent scholars, retired, or seeking employment  means that they lack the necessary affiliation to gain access. Yet some recent developments indicate that 2014 might be a turning point in gaining greater albeit not equal access for scholars.

JStor, for instance, has launched a number of initiatives.

  • Two years ago JStor instituted Early Journal Content, which made its holdings of material “published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world.”
  • After a three-year pilot, JStor established the Alumni Access program for institutions participating in JStor. This video features a presentation on Alumni Access given at the Fall 2012 Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) conference. SAGE journals also has a similar program.
  • In March 2012, as a follow-up of sorts to its Early Journal Content, JStor commenced its Register & Read program. This program enables those without institutional access to gain access to a subset of JStor—to articles in roughly 700 journals; the program, however, does not enable access to current material. See FAQs for more information.

Most promising, perhaps, is JStor’s JPass launched this past fall. JPass offers individuals access to 83% of JStor’s database for a fee ranging from $19.50 a month to $199.00 a year. The JPass enables unlimited access for reading articles contained in 1,500 journals and published up until 3 to 5 years prior. The program also allows JPass holders the ability to download a limited number of articles each month. Equally promising, in late October the Modern Language Association (MLA) announced that it had just added discounts on the JPass as a member benefit. Rather than pay $199 for annual subscription to JPass, MLA members can obtain this pass for only $99 per year.  This model resembles to some degree that of the The British Newspaper Archive , which offers annual, monthly, week, and daily access plans.

MLA, however, is not the only scholarly society to add access to databases as a member benefit.  Other societies and scholarly organizations (including the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing [SHARP])are, or will be shortly, making this a new member benefit.

Most impressive is the initiative by the Renaissance Society of America (RAS). This past November RSA announced that all members would enjoy full access to Early English Books Online.  RSA evidently secured an institutional subscription to EEBO, thus enabling all its members to have free access to EEBO. An experiment of sorts by Proquest and RSA, this model of a society acting as an institutional subscriber could serve as an example to others. At the same time, such subscriptions are costly to the society and databases would need to be ones that were relevant to most if not all members. Another potential risk that has arisen entails cancellation of database subscriptions by academic libraries based on the rationale that faculty members have access to a given database because of their membership in a professional organization. Such cancellations are extremely shortsighted and ignore entirely the pedagogical benefits of these databases for undergraduate and graduate students alike. Similarly, such a move seems particularly irrational given the large-scale push to promote undergraduate research and in light of the unusual opportunities that access to these primary texts offers undergraduates.Understandably such cancellations are not conducive to inspiring confidence in publishers of these databases to engage in such experiments.

To date Cengage-Gale has no plans to embark on individual plans or the like. For more than a few years, it has been investigating possible models that would allow it do so, but it has yet to discover one that is financially viable or that would not conflict with existing contracts (this latter issue is one often overlooked, but these contracts carry many clauses and can complicate opening up access given existing agreements with subscribing institutions). It has, however, been successful in lowering the costs of such databases as ECCO and 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, enabling more academic libraries to be able to afford subscriptions.

This overview has not even touched upon the issues surrounding green and gold standards of open access, nor has it discussed the policies related to these standards announced in 2012-2103 in the UK, Australia, and continental Europe. Yet, these issues deserve an independent post in the future.

In the meantime, it would be interesting to hear what others think of these initiatives and what they might signal for better if not full equal access in the future.  Do these various plans seem affordable? What other solutions might be offered?

Trial Access to ECCO and NCCO for SUNY Colleges + Essay Contests

August 16, 2013

The following announcement from Gale Cengage will interest faculty and students at SUNY schools. It’s a great opportunity to explore these resources and students’ responses to them.

We hope to hear about classroom experiences here on emob.
AB

*****

This fall, Gale Cengage Learning is sponsoring an essay contest for SUNY students. Its purpose is to encourage primary source research using advanced databases like Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO). We hope this experience with these key resources will help students prepare for a digital future.

We are offering free access to SUNY schools during fall 2013 through our new platform Artemis, which will contain both ECCO and NCCO. We hope you and your students will explore these tools to see how they enrich the learning environment. We also hope you will encourage your students to submit essays that incorporate these resources as part of the contest.

Two undergraduate essay awards ($250 each) and one graduate essay award ($500) will be offered for the best submissions on 18th-19th-century history and/or literature.

More information can be found at the link below: http://galesupport.com/suny/

Questions can be forwarded to Theresa DeBenedictis:

Theresa DeBenedictis
Gale, Cengage Learning
Theresa.debenedictis@cengage.com
1-800-877-4253 x 2229
Cell: 732-865-4249

Free Trial Access to Early European Books (EEB)

April 7, 2013

The following has been forwarded from Emma Longden at ProQuest.  Readers are encouraged to post responses to Early English Books – Thanks, AB

Free trial to ProQuest’s Early European Books now available

ProQuest is pleased to offer a free open trial to Early European Books to EMOB readers – hurry, access ends Monday 22nd April, 2013

Every day in universities worldwide, early modern scholars turn to ProQuest’s Early English Books Online as the definitive source of incunabula and early printed works in English. But EEBO, of course, provides only a partial view of intellectual life in early-modern Europe. In fact it contains only 4% of the continent’s printed output of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. What of intellectual life beyond the British Isles?

Users of EEBO can now internationalize their research through ProQuest’s acclaimed new companion resource Early European Books.

Through the highest quality digital reproductions of thousands of printed works by important writers and thinkers working in continental Europe pre-1700, Early European Books gives researchers an international overview of early print culture during this vibrant period of history.

Over four million pages have already been scanned in high-resolution colour, including images of all pages, bindings and page-edges, allowing for a detailed examination of each book’s history and provenance. All volumes are digitized on-site at participating libraries, which to date include Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Bibliothèque nationale de France (from June 2013), Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, and Wellcome Library, London. These digital scans have been gathered in a bespoke platform with search capabilities tailored to the needs of the specialist early modern researcher to provide the most detailed tool for early printed sources available.

ProQuest is delighted to offer EMOB users a free open trial of Early European Books until Monday 22nd April, 2013

Click here to access the Early European Books Open Trial

Want more time to explore the resource? University-based members can also contact their librarian to arrange a 30 day institutional trial.  For queries about this trial, or to share post-trial feedback about your experience of using Early European Books please email emma.longden@proquest.co.uk

“EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History” Roundtable I and II @ ASECS 2013

March 22, 2013

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) are co-sponsoring two roundtables at the upcoming American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) conference in Cleveland, 4-6 April 2013: “ECCO, EEBO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History I and II.

The idea for these sessions originated in earlier EMOB posts, especially Anna’s posting EEBO Interactions and Bibliography: Linking the Past to the Present” and the twenty-two comments her remarks prompted. The full Call for this roundtable can be viewed here. This space offers an opportunity to preview these two sessions and exchange ideas in advance of the sessions. The results of the Digital Humanities Caucus Technology Survey reports that members have found ASECS sessions devoted to these tools particularly useful, so we are hoping that many will not only attend these sessions but will also participate. For those who cannot attend, this forum will enable you to participate virtually, and a follow-up post summarizing the roundtables will enable you to obtain the highlights of the exchange.

The lineup for the two roundtables is as follows:

“EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History” (SHARP BSA Roundtable) I
Chair: Eleanor F. SHEVLIN (West Chester University)

  • 1. Anna BATTIGELLI (SUNY Plattsburgh)
  • 2. Kevin Joel BERLAND (Pennsylvania State University)
  • 3. Laura RUNGE (University of South Florida)
  • 4. Stephen KARIAN (University of Missouri)

“EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History” (SHARP BSA Roundtable) II
Chair: Anna BATTIGELLI (SUNY Plattsburgh)

  • 1. Jacob HEIL (Texas A&M University)
  • 2. Eleanor F. SHEVLIN (West Chester University)
  • 3. Norbert SCHÜRER (California State University, Long Beach)
  • 4. Rivka SWENSON (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Participants will be discussing a wide array of uses for these tools in pursing bibliographical issues and book-history matters. The discussions will address the ways these databases can be employed both for advanced research and for pedagogical purposes.

We invite the participants to provide the general focus of their remarks and attendees to suggest areas that they hope will be addressed.

Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership: User Survey

October 8, 2012

Posted on behalf of the EEBO-TCP project

Please help the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership
plan for the future by filling in our user survey, and be entered into
a prize draw to win one of ten £50 Amazon vouchers!

http://bit.ly/EEBO-TCPSurvey

The survey is part of a JISC-funded project SECT:Sustaining the
EEBO-TCP Corpus in Transition, which is investigating the impact and
sustainability of the EEBO-TCP collection. For more details on the
project, go to http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/eebotcp/SECT

New Digital Projects I: Vernacular Aristotelianism and Digitized Archives at the Wellcome Library

September 28, 2012

The following guest post, the first of two parts, is from Andie Silva, Wayne State University

The University of Warwick, in association with the Newberry library, has been conducting a long-term research project on “Reading Publics.” This project, led by Professor Simon Gilson, Dr. David Lines, and Dr. Maude Vanhaelen, encourages conversations about communities of readers, evidence of readership and reception, and the social and cultural involvement of individual and networks of readers on the print marketplace. This research is possible in great part due to the growth of digitization projects and increasing availability of data and archival materials. As the project’s webpage outlines, however, “the availability of these resources not only varies greatly depending on language, author, country, and period, but also calls for careful methodological reflection.”

This summer, the program leaders organized three activities designed to foster conversation and scholarship on the topic of “Reading Publics” and digitization. I, along with nineteen other scholars from the United States, England, and Italy, was selected to participate in their final activity, a two-week workshop at the University of Warwick. During this workshop, we attended presentations on two new, exciting database and digitization projects: Vernacular Aristotelianism in Renaissance Italy, c. 1400-c. 1650 (University of Warwick); and the on-going project to digitize the entire catalogue at the Wellcome Library, one of the world’s largest collections of history of medicine materials. The following, the first of a two-part post, will focus on the Vernacular Aristotelianism.

The Vernacular Aristotelianism database was launched in May 2012. So far, the catalogue accounts for over 400 titles, half printed books and half manuscripts. The goal of its developers is to catalogue all vernacular works that reference Aristotle or interpret Aristotelian works, (including falsely-attributed texts)—a helpful addition to those researching reception and production of Aristotelian texts in early modern Europe. One of the greatest features of this database is the flexibility of its search engine. A sidebar menu allows searches to be conducted solely on “manuscripts,” “printed editions,” “authors,” “dedicatees,” and “printers.” Thus, a scholar interested in how many times Cosimo de Medici was the chosen dedicatee for Aristotelian-related works would quickly and relatively easily discover at least five works on her first attempt. The catalogued texts still appear in varying degrees of detail. All works, I believe, already have a basic listing, including date and location of first publication, author, printer, and a short description of the work.

A shorter, yet still impressive, number of records contain further detail: if the database’s current webmaster, Eugenio Refini, has physically visited the copy, he has shared his notes on the size, condition, and title-page details of particular editions. Since a lot of his notes pertain to specific copies, he will also note which edition he has seen, and where. Even better, Refini has put considerable effort in cataloguing paratextual information, including what kinds of paratexts are available in the work (epistles, indexes, notes) and whether or not the book includes any visual elements (though no specifics are given as to what kinds of visuals). A few texts also contain “internal descriptions,” where sections of the work are either fully transcribed or generally outlined.

This kind of deep-level information is still lacking from most North American databases and catalogue searches. Although it would be recognizably difficult to restructure a large website like EEBO so that it contains more non-authorial details (and do so consistently across records), many projects like Brown’s fantastic Women Writers Online or the University of Michigan’s Renaissance Liturgical Imprints could benefit from more comprehensive and transparent search options. Of course, that is not to mention many potentially exciting projects like British Literary Manuscripts Online and Arkyves, which are largely available by subscription only. This reliance on existing catalogues and older cataloguing methods, especially ones originally designed for material holdings, holds back many digital projects from their full potential as new search tools.

When the database was first presented at the workshop, we were impressed with the range of detail and information Dr. David Lines and Dr. Eugenio Refini have been able to gather. However, most of us were skeptical about their ability to offer the same level of detail for all their records. One pertinent suggestion from the group was the possibility of “crowd sourcing.” Although it could take a single scholar (or even a small group of scholars) a long time to add bibliographical details to all 400 works (their goal, I believe is to expand the database in the future), if users could submit their own notations, that work could happen quickly and effectively. This would no doubt enrich the database beyond its already incredible achievements and make a number of new kinds of research possible.

There are, of course, a few limitations to the database. In order to make so many search terms immediately within reach, the page is visually overwhelming. The search button at the top is easily missed amongst all the information on the center of the page, and the preloaded first record that opens with the database might at first be confusing. Once the search is successfully performed, the user will need to find the browsing buttons at the top left of the page to sort through each result. For those uneasy with technology, these immediate challenges might be intimidating, and the researcher would unfortunately be missing out on a valuable and incredibly detailed resource.

Even for those of us not performing research on Aristotle, this database raises some important issues. First, the range of non-canonic texts yet to be properly catalogued and annotated, let alone studied, remains overwhelming. Smaller, single-focused websites like Vernacular Aristotelianism highlight how crucial the Digital Humanities have been to providing new and productive avenues for scholarship. We need more projects like this (and perhaps more government funding to make them possible).

Secondly, the organizers have taken into consideration an important shift (by no means wholly “new” anymore, but still time-consuming due to limited search methods) in bibliographical studies, having to do with the analysis of paratextual material and surface-level concerns as integral aspects of textual production and reception. Although scholars like Helen Smith and Michael Saenger have greatly contributed to the study of paratextual and material elements, most of these materials remain uncatalogued. What’s left to the scholar of paratexts is a manual archival search, browsing through texts one by one either digitally or at national archives. Vernacular Aristotelianism provides a helpful starting point of information that, although it does not replace visiting the physical copy, broadens the scope of research and expands the specificity of academic projects.

CFP: EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History

August 26, 2012

American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) 2013 conference, Cleveland, Ohio, April 4 -7.

EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History (Roundtable)
(Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and the Bibliography Society of America (BSA) Organizers: Eleanor F. Shevlin and Anna Battigelli

ProQuest‘s Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Gale‘s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) and its Burney 17th- and 18th-Century Newspaper Collection are transforming the landscape of eighteenth-century scholarship and teaching. While these commercial databases are well known for affording unprecedented access to early modern works, their full potential has yet to be realized. Aimed at advancing these tools’ usefulness, this roundtable seeks four to five ten-minute presentations that demonstrate ways in which these textabases can further work in book history and bibliography. Possible topics include using EEBO, ECCO, and/or Burney textbases to uncover, amend, or enhance information about the creation, production, circulation, or consumption of texts in the long eighteenth century; employing these tools to illustrate the importance of bibliographical knowledge and practices; applying their search capabilities to trace details about authors, printers, booksellers, paratextual elements, distribution networks, illustrations, translators (and translations), readers, pricing, and more; exploring the ways these digital tools are affecting or even reconfiguring the methodologies and research practices of book historians and bibliographers. Presentations that focus on EEBO Interactions (EI), a scholarly networking forum available to both EEBO subscribers and nonsubscribers, are especially welcomed. So too are examples of classroom exercises, course assignments, or advanced undergraduate or graduate seminars designed around one or more of these databases.

Abstracts of 250-words should be emailed to Eleanor Shevlin (eshevlin “AT” wcupa.edu) and Anna Battigelli (a.battigelli “AT” att.net). Proposers need not be members of SHARP or BSA to submit, but panelists must be members of both ASECS and either BSA or SHARP in order to present. For questions about SHARP membership, please direct inquiries to Eleanor Shevlin at eshevlin “AT” wcupa.edu. For questions about BSA membership,please direct inquiries to Catherine Parisian at catherine.parisian “AT” uncp.edu.

CFP: JEMCS Special Issue on the Early Modern Digital

August 11, 2012
The following call for papers, posted on SHARP-L, may be of interest
to readers.  Contact Devoney Looser for additional information (contact information below).
Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies:  Special Issue on the Early Modern Digital (due 15 Jan 2013)
It is well understood that “the digital turn” has transformed the contemporary cultural, political and economic environment.  Less appreciated perhaps is its crucial importance and transformative potential for those of us who study the past.  Whether through newly—and differently—accessible data and methods (e.g. “distant reading”), new questions being asked of that new data, or recognizing how digital reading changes our access to the materiality of the past, the digital humanities engenders a particularized set of questions and concerns for those of us who study the early modern, broadly defined (mid-15th to mid-19th centuries).For this special issue of JEMCS, we seek essays that describe the challenges and debates arising from issues in the early modern digital, as well as work that shows through its methods, questions, and conclusions the kinds of scholarship that ought best be done—or perhaps can only be done— in its wake.  We look for contributions that go beyond describing the advantages and shortcomings of (or problems of inequity of access to) EEBO, ECCO, and the ESTC to contemplate how new forms of information produce new ways of thinking.We invite contributors to consider the broader implications and uses of existing and emerging early modern digital projects, including data mining, data visualization, corpus linguistics, GIS, and/or potential obsolescence, especially in comparison to insights possible through traditional archival research methods. Essays of 3000-8000 words are sought in .doc, .rtf, or.pdf format by January 15, 2013 tojemcsfsu@gmail.com<mailto:jemcsfsu@gmail.com>.  All manuscripts must include a 100-200 word abstract. JEMCS adheres to MLA format, and submissions should be prepared accordingly.In addition, we would welcome brief reports (500-1500 words) that describe digital projects in progress in early modern studies (defined here as spanning from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries), whether or not these projects have yet reached completion.  These reports, too, should be submitted in .doc, .rtf, or.pdf format, using MLA style, by 15 January 2013 to  to jemcsfsu@gmail.com.

Devoney Looser, Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair and Professor of English
Co-Editor, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
Tate Hall 114
Department of English
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
573-884-7791
FAX: 573-882-5785
looserd@missouri.edu
http://www.devoneylooser.com

“The Past Has Arrived”: NYU’s Conference on Digital Media, Teaching, and Scholarship

May 5, 2012

Martha Rust (NYU) recently organized an inspiring conference on digital tools called “The Past Has Arrived: The Digital Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”  The tools discussed usefully supplement books in both teaching and scholarship.

Annotation tools like Digital MappaeMundi–now re-branded as DM–allow users to annotate and link images and texts.  In the image below, downloaded from the DM web site, purple annotation selects material on the twelfth-century world map from Sawley Abbey in Yorkshire (left screen) and links it to text on the right screen.  The text can similarly be formatted or annotated to include links to relevant sites, images, or glosses, such as entries in the Dictionary of Old English.  Martin Foys and Shannon Bradshaw (Drew) and Asa Mittman (Cal. State, Chico) presented an introduction, a technological context, and an application of this tool.

Image from Digital MappaeMundi

Visualization tools, such as Mapping Gothic France, allow users to view representations of medieval buildings in staggering detail.  MGF presents twelfth- or thirteenth-century cathedrals in France “in terms of sameness and difference found in the forms of multiple buildings within a defined period of time and space that corresponds to the emergence of France as a nation state,” according to its web site.  The photographs–and there are tens of thousands of them–are strikingly clear and the site is interactive, so that one can navigate the interior of cathedrals as if one were flying through them.  Those raised on Harry Potter will be particularly happy with this feature.  The views would once have been considered nearly unobtainable.  Click on the following screen shot for a larger image.

Screen shot of Mapping Gothic France home page

What’s striking about this project is that it supplements book technology.  “Architecture doesn’t fit tidily into the pages of a book,” co-administrator Andrew Tallon (Vassar) explains in an interview with Chronogram.  Indeed, this five-year project designed by Tallon and Michael Murray (Columbia) demonstrates how digital media can provide features that a book can’t or rarely offers.  Using MGF, students can manipulate maps to see the sequence in which Cathedrals were built, zoom in on architectural details, view floor plans, read narratives associated with a building, and even use a simulation tool to experiment with the physics of stone arches.

Michael Witmore’s keynote talk “What Is Access?” provided an overview of the history of Docu-Scope, which was designed to help teach freshman English but functions in surprisingly innovative ways to annotate texts.  It categorizes words into types, and generates charts of word strings that force a re-consideration of texts, such as Shakespeare’s plays, in new ways.  Witmore distinguished between archives–that maze of material books shelved within a given collection–and the archive available by a digitized database or tool.  Docu-scope might be said to re-shelve Shakespeare’s oeuvre by suggesting surprising points of contact between plays divided generically.  As noted in an earlier emob entry, Witmore finds points of contact between Othello and the comedies.  It also exposes what is odd about a given play.  The following screen shot downloaded, not from Witmore’s NYU talk, but from his blog, Wine Dark Sea, shows how Docu-scope found a high frequency of words denoting motion and spatial relations in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Those words appear underlined in yellow below (click on image to enlarge and clarify):

 

The preponderance of such motion words, once we see them, makes immediate sense in a play featuring fairies and other supernatural creatures that move in ways that humans cannot.  One of Docu-scope’s gifts is to help us see formal aspects of a text that we might not otherwise see.  In this sense, digital tools can provide access to linguistic features of a text less likely to be found by human reading.

Cataloguing tools was the topic of my discussion of EEBO InteractionsEEBO Interactions facilitates “relational cataloguing,” allowing entries to link to ODNB entries, or to related texts within EEBO, or to articles, or to spaces where bibliographical  and critical issues can be discussed.  In the past, an EEBO user might have found the following entry to be something of a dead end:

Clicking on the text bubble by the author’s name calls up the corresponding EEBO Interactions page, which identifies J.V.C. as a Catholic priest and provides brief biographical information.

Scrolling down the EEBO Interactions page, one would also find relevant links.  Because users can add pertinent information for either the author or the text title, those working on little known work can, if they wish, share their expertise and enhance catalogue entries. This kind of relational cataloguing capitalizes on current technology and points the way to the future.

Pedagogical tools were the focus of several talks. These included the Medieval Narrative Project, designed by Evelyn Birge Vitz and Marilyn Lawrence (both at NYU), which collects video clips of performances of medieval texts.  Other teaching aids included Second Life, which Martha Driver (Pace) had her students use to construct avatars engaged in medieval contexts.  The afterlives of these projects, which continued to be used beyond the end of a given course, suggest that students enjoyed imagining medieval life through this technology.

Theoretical and practical issues were also probed.  On the practical side, Consuelo Dutschke, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Columbia University, argued eloquently for the value of projects like the Digital Scriptorium, which, in addition to collecting images segregated by disparate archives into one database, also allows a “diverse community of medievalists, classicists, musicologists, paleographers, diplomats and art historians” to help strengthen cataloguing.  Similarly, Stephen Nichols (Johns Hopkins) and Nadial Altschul (Johns Hopkins), editors of Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures, discussed some of the technical and pragmatic issues that emerged regarding digital publication, including the difference between a link to a work of art and its printed reproduction, or how royalties affect what can be included in digital publications.   More theoretical speculations included concerns expressed by Alan Galey (University of Toronto) regarding textual variation: how can interface design help organize text, textual notes, and commentary?  The Visualizing Variation project demonstrates how digital media provides innovative features, such as animated variants, for textual editing.  Nicola Masciandaro mediated on how digital tools produced “textual shapes” other than the article or the monograph.  Bill Blake discussed keywords, a topic he broached at the ASECS meeting in April and developed further here.  How can searching be conceptualized so as to explore, rather than reproduce an archive?

A final keynote delivered by Stephen Nichols on “The Anxiety of Irrelevance: Digital Humanities and Medieval Literary Scholarship” probed the ambivalence prompted by digital humanities projects.  He argued that there need not be a disconnect between the goals of Digital Humanities projects and those of traditional humanists, but that more attentive listening and understanding of questions at hand is necessary.  The day-long conference and the discussions that it fostered well into the evening, including at a lively dinner, helped advance that needed conversation.

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JISC’s Historic Books: Searching EEBO, ECCO for meaning

March 6, 2012

This past fall JISC announced a new venture, the JISC eCollections, “a new community-owned content service for UK HE and FE institutions.” What might interest EMOB readers most is its Historic Books. This digital collection contains over 300,000 books from before 1800 and also makes over 65,000 19th-century first editions from the British Library available for the first time online. The entire corpus is accessible through institutional subscription and, most welcome, searchable over a single platform.

The pre-1800 material in the JISC Historic Books eCollection consists solely of ProQuest’s Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Gale’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) textbases, so some might wonder what this collection offers that is new for those working in the early modern period. One does not need to be in eCollections, for instance, to conduct searches simultaneously across both databases. Yet the Help page for the eCollections indicates that more than just the convenience of a single interface and platform is being offered:

JISC Historic Books uses meaning-based searching rather than traditional keyword searching, which is why you will notice you get different results to searching EEBO and ECCO on the publishers sites. Meaning-based searching enables you to find conceptual and contexual [sic] links betweeen [sic] related documents which aren’t possible using traditional keyword searching.

Besides returning traditional results, JISC Historic Books also delivers “meaning-based” concepts deemed relevant to the search in the form of a Concept Cloud:

Concept Cloud

The more prominent the word, the more relevant it is deemed to the search, and as the screenshot indicates, items in the cloud can be manipulated to narrow one’s search further.

Over the past three or four years (and maybe longer) I have been consistently struck by the transformations that traditional searches of ECCO, Burney, EEBO, as well as Google Books have had on the ways I think about searching, construct searches, and view my results. More specifically, these keyword searches, described here as traditional, were already encouraging me to view results in a more networked, contextual way and, as a consequence, to devise additional searches aimed at teasing out new potential relationships. The meaning-based search enabled by JISC’s mimas platform, of course, is offering something quite different, but I wonder how its use might cause rethinking of what it means to search and research.

It would be interesting to hear from EEBO and EECO users in the UK who have used JISC Historic Books, especially the differences between results obtained from searching using the JISC platform and those obtained by searching using the original publishers’ platform.

 


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