Gale/Cengage has generously agreed to offer a free trial of the Burney Collection for readers of this blog at http://access.gale.com/emob. This provides us with an opportunity for an open discussion of the Burney Collection’s merits, both as a scholarly resource and as a pedagogical tool.
In preparation for the two sessions on digital text-bases, it would be interesting to hear more about how users search Burney. Search results can be overwhelming and show the need for the Library of Congress cataloguing and classification system to help categorize and make sense of the wealth of data that emerges from any given search. Thomas Mann, a Reference Librarian at the Library of Congress, has a still useful 2005 discussion on the limits of computerized searching for research at http://www.guild2910.org/searching.htm. Mann’s site might be particularly helpful in discussing computerized searching with students. His example is that the 11,000,000 results for the word “Afghanistan” are unclassified, whereas under the LC system, they are neatly parsed into “Antiquities,” “Bibliography,” “Biography,” “Boundaries,” Civilization,” and so forth. So the argument in favor of LC classification and cataloguing is clear.
On the other hand, it would be foolish to overlook the value of non-classified search results. Matthew’s p0st on machine reading makes clear the value of understanding more about what computers can do. But searching Burney isn’t necessarily clear from the outset. It would be very interesting to hear more about how individuals use search methods within ECCO, EEBO, and particularly Burney. We are grateful to Gale/Cengage for making this collective review possible.