Archive for the ‘Digital Archives’ Category

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015–Part I

July 25, 2015

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) has featured digital projects at its conferences for many years now. With the SHARP 2013 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, SHARP began the tradition of hosting a stand-alone digital projects showcase at its conferences. During a two-hour time slot, creators present and demonstrate their projects to attendees. SHARP 2015, held in Montreal this past July 7th through July 10th, offered attendees the following fourteen fascinating digital projects and tools:

  • Jonathan Armoza, “Topic Words in Context (TWiC)”
  • Belinda Barnet, Jason Ensor and Sydney Shep, “A Prototype for Using Xanadu Transclusive Relationships in Academic Texts”
  • Troy J. Bassett, “At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901”
  • Léon Robichaud, “Bibliographie de l’histoire de Montréal”
  • Richard Cunningham, “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base”
  • Bertrand Gervais, “Arts et littératures numériques: du répertoire à l’agrégateur”
  • Joshua McEvilla, “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama”
  • Jordan Michael Howell, “Digital Bibliography Quick Start”
  • Hélène Huet, “Mapping Decadence”
  • Mireille Laforce, “Des innovations pour faciliter le dépôt légal à Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec” ”
  • Sophie Marcotte, “Le projet HyperRoy”
  • Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee, “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century”
  • Chantal Savoie, Pierre Barrette, Olivier Lapointe, “Le « Laboratoire de recherche sur la culture de grande consommation et la culture médiatique au Québec » : un ambitieux système de métadonnées pour mieux comprendre la culture populaire”
  • Mélodie Simard-Houde, “Présentation de la plateforme numérique Médias 19”

Complete abstracts may be found here on the SHARP 2015 conference website.

This two-part post, however, will focus on a few projects most relevant to EMOB’s focus. Part I will focus on Joshua McEvilla’s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” and Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century.” Part II will cover Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” and Richard Cunningham’s “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base.”

Joshua McEvilla‘s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” showcased his An Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language, a resource aimed at encouraging the study of neglected seventeenth-century dramatic authors whose work and contributions have been overshadowed by the attention given to Shakespeare.

(Click to enlarge)

As the site’s introduction explains, John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language (1655) is the first seventeenth-century book of quotations to draw its material exclusively from early modern dramas. As such, Cotgrave’s collection “provides a means of studying the original reception of the plays of Shakespeare with the plays of other dramatists” (Cotgrave home). In turn, Dr. McEvilla’s construction of a digital edition of Cotgrave’s work—complete with a concept-based faceted search tool (introduction and search tool), a full list of all the known plays from which the quotations are drawn, data tables, and much more—harnesses the power of the digital to transform this printed resource into a dynamic tool. Besides assisting researchers and encouraging study of neglected English seventeenth-century dramatic works, the Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s ETWL also seems useful for teaching English drama in an advanced undergraduate classroom or graduate course. For those with access to Early English Books Online (EEBO) and/or 17th and 18th Century Burney Newspaper Collection, McEvilla’s tool could serve as an important complement in assisting students understand the contexts for the drama contained in EEBO or in providing them with a guide for selecting texts in EEBO. That the bookseller Humphrey Moseley held the license to print Cotgrave’s work is also worthy of note. As David Kastan recounts in “Humphrey Moseley and the Invention of English Literature,” Moseley played an important role in what he terms the “invention” of English literature (see Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, Univ. of Mass Press, 2007, pp. 104-124).

Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s Scottish Chapbook Project at the University of Guelph draws from the university’s collection of Scottish chapbooks—the largest such collection in North America. A true exercise in collaboration, the digital project results from the cooperation of the university’s Archival and Special Collections and its Department of History”. Not only have librarians, faculty, and graduate students been involved, but undergraduate students (114 since 2013!) in Dr. Andrew Ross’s digital humanities course have helped to build various exhibits as the one depicted in this image.

Exhibit: A Groat's Worth of Wit for a Penny

Exhibit: A Groat’s Worth of Wit for a Penny

(Click to enlarge)

Besides the exhibits, the site also features teaching modules geared to high school instruction, thus extending the reach of this work beyond the university student population.

Among the site’s goals stated in the SHARP abstract is the aim of supporting “an ongoing analysis of the role of woodcut images for the popular readership in Scotland during the early modern period” as well as “the goals of the recently formed Chapbook Working Group of the UK Bibliographic Society.” At present one can browse 416 items, and more are being added regularly. The ultimate aim of this project is to integrate all the estimated extant 10,000 Scottish chapbooks in an interconnected site. Such a long-term goal of integration and interconnection is a promising one, especially in terms of centralizing sources and information on a given topic. As a related aside in terms of integration of projects, Benjamin Pauley’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker (see prior emob post, post, and post) is now being phased out, and its information being incorporated into the English Short Title Catalogue.

Please explore these tools and offer your comments and suggestions.

Folger Digital Anthology Encoding Specialist Posting

July 14, 2015

The following announcement from Owen Williams at the Folger Shakespeare Library may be of interest to readers.

Digital Anthology Encoding Specialist

Posting Date: 7/6/2015

The Folger Shakespeare Library, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is seeking an encoding specialist for a 2 year NEH grant funded position working on our Digital Anthology of non-Shakespearean drama (or early modern English drama). The Folger is a world-class research and cultural center on Shakespeare and the early modern age. Home to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials, the Folger offers activities that range from scholarly seminars to theatrical performances, from K-12 outreach to exhibitions and lectures.

The Digital Anthology Encoding Specialist (DAES) will work closely with our CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation on a new project to establish clear and consistent encoding of 36 carefully selected plays from the early modern period using Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) markup. The DAES will be responsible for helping develop the XML schema, correcting current markup, and enhancing existing encoding work to correctly identify and verify such elements as act and scene divisions, speakers and speech prefixes, cast lists, stage directions, or other information. They will help establish standards and workflows for coding correction, participate in project documentation, and identify areas for further improvement as the project develops. This is an exciting opportunity to be in on the start of a project that will open the study of these, and other, plays to a wider audience on open and free platforms. This is a grant funded position at no more than 50K a year plus full benefits.

The ideal candidate for this position will have a working knowledge of early modern drama, including the works of Christopher Marlowe,  John Marston, and others, as well as significant training or experience in TEI markup language. Requirements: B.A. in relevant field with a preference for M.A. in early modern English drama, history of early modern theatre, or literature, or equivalent professional experience, strong knowledge of Early Modern Drama, experience with TEI markup, and familiarity with the concepts behind Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP). Preference will be given to candidates familiar with early modern descriptive bibliography, text mining, topic modeling, digital indexing, and/or digital publication.

Interested applicants should submit their resume and a cover letter, with the subject line ‘DAES’ to or by mail at Attn:HR/DAES, Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003. Incomplete applications will not be considered. No phone calls please. EOE.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) — A Brief Update

July 4, 2015

Since the launch of the DPLA in April 2013, the staff under the direction of its director, Dan Cohen, have been pursuing various projects to determine best ways to develop this resource/tool further and broaden its serviceability. In an April 2015 whitepaper, “Using Large Digital Collections in Education: Meeting the Needs of Teachers and Students” authors Franky Abbott and Dan Cohen set forth one set of plans for making the DPLA valuable in K through 16 settings. The plans resulted from research supported by the Whiting Foundation and yielded a program that enlists the help of educators through another initiative funded by Whiting. The following 15 June 2015 “Call for Educators” on DPLA’s blog describes the kind of partnering with educators that DPLA is seeking to undertake:

The Digital Public Library of America is looking for excellent educators for its new Education Advisory Committee. We recently announced a new grant from the Whiting Foundation that funds the creation of new primary source-based education resources for student use with teacher guidance.

We are currently recruiting a small group of enthusiastic humanities educators in grades 6-14* to collaborate with us on this project. Members of this group will:
•build and review primary source sets (curated collections of primary sources about people, places, events, or ideas) and related teacher guides
•give feedback on the tools students and teachers will use to generate their own sets on DPLA’s website
•help DPLA develop and revise its strategy for education resource development and promotion in 2015-2016

If selected, participants are committing to:
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting on July 29-July, 30 2015 (arriving the night of July 28) in Boston, Massachusetts
•attend three virtual meetings (September 2015, November 2015, and January 2016)
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting in March 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts (dates to be selected in consultation with participants)

Participants will receive a $1,500 stipend for participation as well as full reimbursement for travel costs.

DPLA has also been receiving significant funding from additional sources for other efforts–including funding its “hubs,” both its content ones (“large libraries, museums, archives, or other digital repositories that maintain a one-to-one relationship with the DPLA and assist in providing and maintaining metadata for content”) and its service ones (“state, regional, or other collaborations that host, aggregate, or otherwise bring together digital objects from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions”). In a big boost to its hub development, the DPLA has recently received $1.9 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and $1.5 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation); it will use this support to advance their efforts in “connecting online collections from coast to coast by 2017” (“Digital Public Library of America makes push to serve all 50 states by 2017.”)

Universal Short Title Catalog (USTC)

April 5, 2014

The Universal Short Title Catalog (USTC) holds records for European books printed through the sixteenth century.  Records list locations of original copies.  If open-access digital copies are available, these are also noted.

The USTC web site describes itself as “a collective database of all books published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century.”

The project also offers 6-8 week internships at St. Andrews for

qualified scholars wishing to gain experience of work with a major bibliographical project. Successful applicants will receive instruction in rare books cataloguing and have the chance for hands-on experience with the University Library’s uncatalogued 17th century collections.  In addition to physical bibliography, the internship will involve extensive practice in the manipulation of digital resources. A certificate of completion or letter of reference will be made available to those successfully completing the internship. They also attend our annual book conference, held at the end of June (this coming year, 19-21 June 2014).

Please see St. Andrews’  internship page for details.  Plans are underway to expand coverage into the seventeenth century.

Folger Digital Texts Now Online (and Other March Announcements)

March 15, 2014

This month has already seen a number of news items of potential interest to EMOB readers including Gale-Cengage’s announcement that will it offer STEM e-books from Springer and Elsevier (a potentially potent nexus of publishing forces in the subscription database world) as part of its Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) and that it is launching a Proprietary Monograph Publishing Program; free access in March to Orlando: Women’s Writing Online that Anna announced here a few days ago; and a note from Dr. Ian Christie-Miller about digital imaging resources he has been developing and the interest it has received in the UK.

Just this week the Folger announced that all 38 of its digital texts of Shakespeare’s plays are now available, free of charge, online. As the homepage’s title Timeless Texts, Cutting-Edge Code suggests, a key feature of these texts is the robust coding that one can freely download. Besides the meticulously executed TEI-compliant XML structure of these plays, the texts are also attractively designed for reading as this opening of All’s Well That Ends Well illustrates. This page also displays the useful digital paratexts accompanying each work. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine offer a brief Textual Introduction to the site.

We would like to hear from others about how they are using this new resource–both in terms of its texts and the source code.

2013 ODH Project Directors Meeting

September 23, 2013

The NEH has just announced its 2013 Office of Digital Humanities Meeting will take place on Friday, October 4, 2013, at NEH Headquarters in Washington, DC.

As in the past, the meeting will feature 3-minute Lightning-Round presentations from ODH grantees. This year thirty-two grant recipients from 2013 will be presenting–almost all of those who received a grant this year. EMOB will be reporting on these presentations in a subsequent Fall post. See an earlier post for reporting on past NEH awards.

In addition to these lightening rounds, Dr. Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, will give one of two keynote addresses. His talk is titled “Adjacencies, Virtuous and Vicious, in the Digital Spaces of Libraries.”
Abstract: This talk will explore how techniques of discovery — scanning shelves, exploring digital texts and catalogues — may change the nature of research conducted in Libraries. The argument: with the advent of massively searchable digital corpora, the uses and advantages of “nearness” in Libraries will change.

Dr. Amanda French, Center for History and New Media at George Mason, will deliver the second keynote, “On Projects, and THATCamp”
Abstract: Since its start in 2008, THATCamp, The Humanities and Technology Camp, has seen more than 170 events held or planned worldwide and has provided digital training and professional development to more than 6000 people, most of them humanities scholars, students, or professionals. Whether we consider it one project or many, THATCamp has become an essential feature of the digital humanities landscape, and it is time for some perspective on it.

While there is no charge to attend, one must register. For more details and to register to attend, please visit the ODH webpage.

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.


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:

Questions can be forwarded to Theresa DeBenedictis:

Theresa DeBenedictis
Gale, Cengage Learning
1-800-877-4253 x 2229
Cell: 732-865-4249

Conference to Launch of Digital Miscellanies Index, a New Resource

August 5, 2013

On 17 September 2013, St. Peter’s College Oxford will host a one-day conference, “A Miscellany of Miscellanies: Popular Poetic Collections and the Eighteenth Century Canon” and an evening performance of eighteenth-century music to launch the Digital Miscellanies Index.

This Leverhulme-funded index was three years in the making. Its publication will make freely available 1,000 poetic miscellanies published during the eighteenth century. The Index adds to the porjects hosted by Bodleian’s Centre for the Study of the Book. The Bodleian Library’s Harding Collection, “which houses the most significant but largely neglected group of miscellanies in the world,” contains the majority of the miscellanies, but the project also contains data about copies held at the British Library and the Cambridge Library. The project developers based their work on Professor Michael Suarez, S.J.’s recent bibliography of eighteenth-century poetic miscellanies.

Dr. Abigail Williams (St. Peter’s College Oxford) is the Index’s principal investigator. Some EMOB readers may have heard Dr. Jennifer Batt, DMI’s post-doctoral project coordinator, speak about this exciting project at past American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conferences. As the DMI website notes, “In displaying this material for the first time, the Index will enable users to map the changing nature of literary taste in the eighteenth century.”

We look forward to the availability of the Digital Miscellanies Index and to hearing the experiences of EMOB readers using this new resource.

Preserving Digital Archives

April 28, 2013

Most attendees at the Beinecke Library’s recent conference on digital archiving–Beyond the Text: Literary Archives in the 21st Century“–arrived equipped with the idea that there is no preservation without loss.

What may have given some attendees pause, particularly those who work primarily on the first two centuries following the Reformation, is how much 21st-century digital stuff is being preserved–and how idiosyncratic the process of selection can be.

Faced with the data deluge of a contemporary literary figure’s electronic correspondence, for example, how do archivists determine what gets archived and what gets tossed?  Now that archiving can begin during a writer’s or publisher’s lifetime, without a family member’s interference (think Cassandra Austen), who shapes the archive?  And if digital archivists shape the archive, what principles of retention do they use?  Where do their loyalties lie? With the author?  Or with the data-hungry and feverishly scandal-mongering scholars of posterity?

The two-day conference raised unresolved and provocative questions, many of which focused on the problem of selection.  Fran Baker, the Assistant Archivist for John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, discussed the complexity of archiving the Carcanet editorial papers, including email.  Hearing about the decision-making process determining what stays and what gets tossed may not seem new to librarians familiar with the problem of sorting and discarding, but in the context of shaping an archive, that decision-making process and its likelihood of error takes on urgency.

There were stories of forensic success, the most notable of which is Matthew Kirschenbaum’s narrative of the extensive and collective effort tracking down William Gibson’s electronic poem, “Agrippa,” which was designed to encrypt itself after a single reading.  That a text programmed to go away can be recovered suggests both the value of collaborating on large digital projects like The Agrippa Files and the perils of assuming that an author has control over her or his electronic archives.  Similarly, Beth Luey’s account of the rich storehouse of data contained in publishers’ records–sales data, copies printed, copies sold, print runs, design decisions, contracts, marketing files, legal disputes, reviews, book jacket design, subsidiary rights, and so forth–both encouraged work on publishers’ records and raised ethical and legal issues.  In the discussion that followed, for example, it became clear that though some publishers did not retain rejected manuscripts, others did, including pertinent correspondence and readers’ reports.

The Keynote talk by David Sutton noted that literary manuscripts are like no other manuscripts in that they offer insights into the act of creation.  He showcased ongoing projects that promote an awareness of digital literary archives:

Hazel Carby’s eloquent, harrowing, and culturally resonant account of tracing her family genealogy back to a slave owner’s carefully archived records, reminded everyone that archives preserve both the beautiful and the monstrous.

Diane Ducharme drew on her experience at the Beinecke to warn that however much we may desire an unmediated past and a pristine archival order free from editing and explicating, all archives arrive shaped and selected.  Her discussion underscored the importance of searching for the traces of a previous archivist’s work.

Micki McGee described her experience with the Yaddo Archive Project, which aims at providing visualizations of the social network of writers who worked at Yaddo.  She described the process of seeking a relational database with social network mapping and a visualization widget.  Though the project, Yaddo Circles, requires authentication and is not yet available for public view, this vimeo provides an overview.  Clicking here reveals the kind of relational visualization this project might produce.

McGee also recommended looking at the following projects:

These projects have potential for helping us recover the intensely sociable and highly competitive literary worlds of the long eighteenth century.   Like the many other provocative and interesting papers and introductions to sessions, they point a way forward even as they raise methodological, logistical, and even ethical questions.

This conference made clear the value of a longer conference, with sessions focusing on specific problems posed by digital archives of material both old and new.  I welcome contributions by others who attended the conference to help complete this cursory overview.

English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA at UCSB)

February 25, 2013

This is the second of a two-part series on free digital archives featuring English ballads.  It follows Eleanor’s discussion of the JISC-funded Broadside Ballad Initiative at Oxford.

The University of California at Santa Barbara has created a free digital ballad collection called The English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA), which provides access to more than 8,000 seventeenth-century ballads.  The collection includes ballads from the Pepys Collection, the Roxburgh Collection, the Euing Collection, and the Huntington Library.  EBBA is directed by Patricia Fumerton at UCSB.  This project was supported by the N.E.H.

Individual entries provide links to  sheet facsimiles, facsimile transcriptions, and often recordings.  These features facilitate introducing students both to ballads’ visual details–ornaments, woodcuts, columned verse–and to their tunes.

Cataloging is full and includes the following:

EBBA ID: An internal identifier. Each individual ballad in the archive has a unique EBBA ID.

Title: A diplomatic transcription of the ballad title as it appears on the ballad sheet. The title consists of all ballad text before the first lines of the ballad, including verse headers but excluding text recorded elsewhere under other catalogue headings (such as the license or author, date, publisher and printer imprints).

Date Published: The year—or, in most cases, range of years—during which EBBA believes the ballad to have been published. See Dates.

Author: The recognized author of the ballad in cases where an indication of authorship has been printed on the ballad or, in the case of Pepys ballads, when Weinstein has identified an author from external sources (e.g., Wing, Rollins).

Standard Tune: The standardized name for the melody (according to Claude M. Simpson or other reliable sources). Clicking the standard tune name will return all ballads with the same melody, including alternate tune titles.

Imprint: A diplomatic transcription of the printing, publishing, and/or location information as it appears on the ballad sheet.

License: A diplomatic transcription of the licensing or permission information as printed on the ballad.

Collection: The name of the collection to which the ballad belongs. In cases where the ballad is not part of a named collection, the name of the holding library plus “miscellaneous” will appear. For example, Huntington Library ballads that are not part of a collection are grouped as “HEH Miscellaneous.”

Sheet/Page: For ballads that are collected as independent sheets, the citation page displays the word “Sheet” and lists the sheet number given to it by its holding institution (usually part of its shelfmark). For ballads bound in a book, the citation page displays the word “Page” and lists the page number within the bound volume.

Location: The name of the holding institution.

Shelfmark: The shelfmark assigned by the holding institution.

ESTC ID: The Citation Number for the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). Use this number to find the full ESTC citation for any given ballad at

Keyword Categories: The keywords from EBBA’s standardized keyword list that relate to the ballad’s theme and content.

Notes: Clarify potential areas of confusion for users, such as ballads that have print on both sides of a sheet.

MARC Record: A link to our MARC-XML records

Additional Information: Information specific to each part of the ballad.

Title: Separate titles for multi-part ballads.

Tune Imprint: Tune title(s) as printed.

First Lines: A diplomatic transcription of the first two lines of the ballad text proper, below any heading information included in the title or elsewhere under other catalogue headings.

Refrain: Repeated lines at the end of or within ballad stanzas.

Condition: Description of ballad sheet damage and the current state of the sheet. (This information is from Weinstein and is currently for the Pepys collection only.)

Ornament: A list of decorations made of cast metal that appear on the ballad. Frequently used to fill empty spaces in the forme and/or to delimit parts of the ballad text, these ornaments include vertical rules, horizontal rules, and cast fleurons. (This information is from Weinstein and is currently for the Pepys collection only.)

Ballad scholars working with EEBO or ECCO will be familiar with the difficulty of finding ballads, making English Broadside Ballad Archive and Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads necessary.

Together with new printed resources, such as Patricia Fumerton and Anita Guerrini’s Ballads and Broadsides in Britain, 1500-1800 (Ashgate 2010) and Angela McShane’s Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth-Century England: A Critical Bibliography (Pickering & Chatto 2011), these digital resources provide a robust and growing archive  for the systematic study of a format whose transiency may have discouraged such studies in the past.


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