RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH IN THE HUMANITIES
Computing Arts Conference, Sydney,
originally published in Online Currents December 2001 and reprinted with kind permission of the
publishers Enterprise Information Management Pty Ltd.
international conference on digital resources for research in the humanities,
held at Sydney University in September 2001, highlighted
the role of digital technology as a unifier of interests in the
humanities, underscored the importance of academia as a player in the
information game and unveiled tentative steps to coax kindred spirits up the
by the Scholarly Electronic Text and Imaging Services and Research Institute
for Humanities and Social Sciences at Sydney University and supported by
ProQuest, SUN Microsystems, Australian Academy of the Humanities, National
Scholarly Communications Forum and Digital Resources for the Humanities, the
conference attracted around 140 participants.
act of terror on the World Trade Centre affected the line-up of international
presenters. But the program
offered the full quid to academics, publishers, computer specialists,
librarians and archivists who were assembled to compare notes on projects,
collaboration, standards, systems and strategy.
STANDARDS & SYSTEMS
English Books Online 1473-1700
McLean in Modelling Successful Large Scale Digitisation Projects and
Mark Sandler in Advancing Humanities Research and Teaching Through
Library/Publisher Cooperation demonstrated the compatibility of commercial
publisher interests and those of research libraries through Early English
Books Online (EEBO).
collaborative project aims to create structured SGML/XML text files for a
significant proportion of the surviving record of the English speaking world
from 1473 to 1700 by capitalising on the strengths of three initiating
partners. ProQuest offers production, marketing and distribution capability,
as well as front money. The University of Michigan has strengths in production
- derived from its experience in JSTOR and the Making of America Cooperative
Project – skills also offered by the other partner, Oxford University.
business model consists of a board, a contribution by each library of
$US50,000 over 5 years to support conversion, and matching expenditure by
ProQuest of up to 20%. Future
plans, partly dependent on the market response, include the recruitment of
other libraries (perhaps up to 150 libraries participating through tiered
financial contributions), accelerated production, encouragement of campus use,
the enhancement of tools, and integration with other projects.
generation is also an objective of the Austlit project, developed by the
National Library of Australia and eight Australian universities with the
support of a three-year $1 million Australian Research Council grant.
The new subject gateway will provide free basic information to
all-comers, but a subscription will be necessary to gain access to more
detailed information and services – such as links to full text documents,
information in specialised datasets and holdings information from Kinetica.
The subscription money will be reinvested in content and service delivery -
indicating a recognition of the need for a business approach in sustaining
projects beyond their initial grant stage and a burgeoning e-commerce dynamic
in sites developed by major public institutions.
Currents November 2001
highlighted many of the site’s features, including its lassoing of existing
Australian literary projects (such as AUSLIT and From Page to Stage: an
Annotated Bibliography of Australian Drama).
Mary-Louise Ayres, in her conference presentation, emphasised
the value IFLA’s Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records as
a data model and the work of other groups - such as ABC Harmony, INDECS and
Topic Map – as contexts for the development of appropriate metadata,
workflow, quality control and technology solutions.
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is free. Under the directorship of
Edward Zalta, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Language
and Information at Stanford University, and with the help of part-time
programmer and university graduate, the site marshals the work of 500 authors
and subject editors from 20 different countries to produce ‘an
authoritative, comprehensive and dynamic reference work devoted to philosophy
that will remain useful to those in academia and the general public by being
responsive to new research’.
Digital Workflow Concepts for Dynamic Reference Works, Zalta described
one of the most interesting aspects of project, the design of a system for
recruitment and group content management, developed with grants from the
National Endowment for the Humanities and National Science Foundation. Using
the system, Zalta can easily add entries to the database, assign editorial
control for entries to the subject editors, issue invitations, track deadlines
and publish entries and updates when they are made. The tracking and logging
system can identify the state of any given entry, recognise which deadlines
have or haven’t been met and pass the latter information through an
automated email reminder system.
Archival Context, Text Encoding Initiative and XML
Pitti, Director of the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia, spoke on Encoded Archival Context, an ongoing
initiative within the international archival community to design and implement
a prototype standard for the description of individuals, families and
organisations. The XML-based EAC
standard has the potential impact of library name authority files and will
‘lay the foundation for building international biographical and organisation
history reference resources’. An
alpha XML DTD is currently in the draft stage.
Burnard, Manager of the Humanities Computing Unit at Oxford University
Computing Services, in TEI and XML: A Marriage Made in Heaven, spoke
about the history and motivation for the design of the Text Encoding
Initiative, the range of application areas in which it has been successful and
plans for the future development of the TEI in its new guise as ‘an
environment for the construction of compatible XML vocabularies appropriate to
many different research areas’.
Johnson, Director of the Archaeological Computing Laboratory at the University
of Sydney and a specialist in GIS and database applications for archaeological
and historical data, reminded us of the importance of maps and images as a
cognitive tool. His presentation Mapping
the Humanities: the Whole is More Important that the Sum of the Parts explored
the potential of interactive maps to add value to humanities data through its
capacity to index text and image information, overlay information from
distributed sources, and create visual patterns and relationships in two and
three dimensions, as demonstrated by his TimeMap software and the
International Dunhuang Project.
Brown-May in Hyperhistory and Jock Phillips and Ross Somerville in
Old Wine in New Bottles described their experiences in re-purposing
existing print information for a wider audience through the online
projects, Encyclopedia of Melbourne and Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
John Stinson, in Medieval music on the Web, spoke about the
development of the internationally-significant website and database of
medieval music at La Trobe University, containing bibliographic
information on every piece of music known to have been composed in the
14th century as well as Gregorian chant from 14th century sources.
The website and database is seeking a new home and development
opportunities following the closure of the music department at La Trobe.
cultures and oral history projects. Linda Barwick (University of Sydney), Nick Thieberger (University of
Melbourne), Anne Horn and Michael Fagg (University of Queensland) explored
technical matters associated with their separate work on endangered
cultures, linguistics, music and oral history, including the digitising,
editing and enhancing of audio-visual material, transcribing and analysing
digitised recordings, using digital recordings for public preservation,
and the retrieval of audio materials on the Web.
Lou Burnard described
the content, structure and design of the £1.6 million British National
Corpus Word Edition. ‘a one-hundred million word snapshot of British
English, both spoken and written, taken at the end of the 20th century’.
The project is managed by a consortium of leading dictionary publishers
and research centres involved in the ’widest possible selection of text
types with very detailed linguistic tagging down to the part-of-speech
level and rich metadata, all delivered in standard SGML format, using a
state of the art search and analysis text retrieval system’.
Nicoletta Calzolari’s presentation was devoted to the ISLE
(International Standards for Language Engineering) and EAGLES (Expert
Advisory Group for Language Engineering Standards) - initiatives that
focus on multi-lingual issues.
based on individuals.
Morris Eaves, Professor of English, University or Rochester, described
websites as tools for ‘experimental action’, using his experience in
developing the William Blake Archive website.
Andrew Stawowycsyk Long provided a case study in his management of
the Dick Smith-sponsored Barton Project at the National Library of
Australia, highlighting technical details and lessons learnt in the
digitisation of the Edmund Barton papers, including the use of persistent
identifier and file naming conventions, the process for delivering images
online and the use of the Government Gazette as a legal tactic to overcome
complex, labour-intensive copyright management problems.
streams made it impossible to taste all smorgasbord offerings, which
included presentations on medieval manuscripts, image collection
management, information and content management systems, learning
technologies and Geographical Information Systems.
Papers or abstracts are available at http://www.arts.usyd.edu.au/Arts/departs/rihss/drrh.html
conference was touted as ‘the first conference in humanities and computing
in Australia’, which is gilding the lily a little. Certainly, it has taken
time for a momentum to gather, both here and overseas, for the adoption of a
holistic approach to humanities information in the digital age.
In 1994. the report Humanities and Arts on the Information Highways,
produced by the Getty Art history Information Program, American Council
of Learned Societies and Coalition of Networked Information, concluded that
the ability of communities to meet challenges and realise fully their
contribution to the dawning electronic age were being impaired by the
under-capitalisation of an ‘impressive array of exciting projects
underway’ and by technological barriers that required concerted research. It
proposed a national policy to encourage humanities and arts endeavours to
contribute to the US National Information Initiative and enable the scientific
and engineering communities to reap the benefits of research on
humanities-driven technology problems. It advocated the creation of a critical
mass of cultural heritage information in digital form and the development of
standards, tools and services necessary for humanities and arts access. And it
urged the arts and humanities community to build coalitions to ensure its
representation in national and global infrastructure policy forums.
Three years later in 1997, Pavlicak,
Ross and Henry in Information technology in humanities scholarship:
achievements, prospects and challenges – the United States focus,
recommended the establishment of an annual review of arts and humanities
computing, greater support for standardisation requirements, promotion by
scholars, administrators and librarians of the institutional and social change
required for the creation of a hospitable environment for computer supported
arts and humanities, development of shared methods of knowledge
representation; the creation of a significant mass of digitised networked
information and the fostering of further intellectual collaboration.
In the same year, on the other side of the
Atlantic, the need for work on a system architecture for cross domain
discovery was the subject of the Arts and Humanities Data Service workshop Discovering
online resources across the humanities: a practical implementation of the
April 1998, a reference group of the Australian Academy of the Humanities
published a report on Libraries in the Information Infrastructure for
Humanities Scholars in Australia, as part of the series Knowing
Ourselves and Others: the Humanities in Australia in the 21st Century: The
report outlined some of the known patterns of information seeking by scholars
in the humanities and concluded that access to printed texts will remain
important for some time to come. To succeed, ‘mediated services offered by
means of a virtual library require support in the form of enthusiastic
publicity and trouble-shooting services from skilled library staff on-call’.
is now a plethora of bodies and conferences across the globe devoted to the
humanities and digital technology – as well as long-standing bodies and
conferences dealing with specialist interests.
Koch in here presentation Small Voices in Cyberspace: Digitisation Issues
in Research Archives, drew attention to the funding disparities between
Australian and overseas projects, partly reflecting population sizes.
In December 2000, for example, the US Congress
authorised a $US99.8 million dollar appropriation towards developing
digitising standards and a nationwide digitisation strategy centred on the
Library of Congress. Additional
substantial funding is allocated by government bodies like the National
Endowment for the Humanities and private foundations like Kellogg and Getty.
The Digital Opportunity Investment Trust recently promoted the idea of an
$US18 billion investment fund from radio spectrum auctions to support venture
capital projects to enable digitisation of the holdings of non-profit
organisations such as archives.
the United Kingdom, the higher education sector has taken a leading role in
developing well funded digital agendas. Alan Morrison’s conference
presentation described progress by one project, the Arts and Humanities Data
Service, in establishing a gateway and subject groupings, developing
standards and best practice guides and providing advisory services, training
and conferences. In future, AHDS
is likely to extend its scope and strategies into such areas as linguistics,
further education and secondary education, deliver generic workshops and
training, relaunch the AHDS gateway/portal and build relationships with other
notable higher education initiatives, the Distributed National Electronic
Resources and Resource Discovery Network. Curiously, Morrison said the need
for cross-domain searching capability, identified as a priority in 1997, had
declined as an important issue..
In Australia, the National Library of Australia has
played a major role with other national cultural institutions and the higher
education sector, backed by the Department of Communications, Information
Technology and the Arts (DCITA) and other funding bodies such as the
Australian Research Council and Australia Council.
National Library’s Australian Subject Gateways Forum is an important focal
point for bringing together and strengthening the development of subject
access points that are increasingly taking on a more dynamic form.
DCITA recently embarked on a study on Key
Needs of Australian Heritage Collections, including museums, galleries,
libraries, archives and specialist collections. It initiated another inaugural
cross domain computing conference, Ozeculture,
in June 2001 (see Online Currents September 2001) and will be holding
the next conference in May 2002 as part of an ongoing annual commitment.
Thompson, President of the International Association of Music Librarians,
Archives and Documentation Centres, speaking at a separate meeting in Sydney a
week or so before the Computing Arts conference, promoted the need for professional associations to create a digital agenda. In her talk Jargon
Today, Jam Tomorrow: How Joined-up Thinking Put Music Libraries on the Map, she
traced the almost accidental way in which IAML UK has been able to latch
on to funding opportunities because the Follett Report had forced it to go
through a process of considering industry needs and articulating possible
solutions. It was this work in the early 1990s that had placed it in a
position to gain funding for projects like Cantate (Computer Access to
Notation and Text in Music Libraries), Cecilia (Mapping the UK Music Resource), Encore (the UK Catalogue of Sets of Vocal Music In
Libraries), Ensemble (a Distributed national library resource for music) and
Music Libraries Online. Australian
curatorial associations tend to be contributors rather than initiators of
digital projects - to some extent because of the leading role taken by
cultural institutions in which many of its members work and to some extent
because of the primarily social objective and voluntary nature of many groups.
Luther’s paper The Follett Report and its Relevance for Australia
indicated the need for an information framework or strategy for Australian
higher education sector, a
concept that has recently gained wider currency in government and library
Gillies, President of the Australian Academy of Humanities, closed the
conference by announcing the establishment of an Australian e-Humanities
Network as a ARC-funded joint venture by University of Sydney, Australian
Academy of the Humanities and Newcastle University. It will act as a national
clearing house for projects, establish a gateway, produce e-newsletters and
hold a biennial conference, modelled presumably on overseas projects like
Computing Arts conference, the Ozeculture conference and Australian
e-Humanities Network have been notable milestones in 2001. There is a sense, however,
that government, academic, curatorial and business sectors are running on
separate exploratory tracks. The business of the humanities will have matured
when the parties have come closer together and their conferences have become
opportunities for setting agendas as well as forums for comparing notes.
and Arts on the Information Highways.: a profile (1994). Final Report.
A national initiative sponsored by the Getty Arts History Information
Program, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Coalition of
Networked Information. http://www.cni.orf/projects/humartsiway
Graeme, Schauder, Don and Lim, Edward (1998). Libraries in the
Information Infrastructure for Humanities Scholar in Australia. (Knowing
Ourselves and Others: the Humanities in Australia into the 21st Century,
Vol 3, Chapter 8). http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/aah/review/c8_johanson.
Linda (1997). The Follett Report and its relevance to Australia.
Pamela, Ross, Seamus and Henry, Charles (1997). Information Technology
in Humanities Scholarship: Achievements, Prospects and Challenges – the
United States Focus. American Council of Learned Societies, Occasional
Paper no 37. http://www.acls.org/op37