Our digital edition moving on without me doing a thing (almost)

Having returned from a week in a continuous snowstorm in a beautiful mountain setting where one might, in other circumstances, have been able to actually ski, I found my self in another kind of storm – one where one might, in other circumstances, be able to actually work. No mountains there though, just flat Brandenburg.

Instead of working on, say, some encoding, or the next volume to be directed, or some new archival material – or even, let me dream some, on the book that has been awaiting to be completed for the last nine months -, instead of all that, I spent the last three days thinking about proposals and tweeting about applications, and began writing said proposals and applications (and taking care of replacements for my people on maternity leave). Half a week has now elapsed, no palpable work has been done, and I am not sure any more why I am doing that. If what I want is to reach a tenured position – preferably an interesting one, too -, how can I imagine that such activity fragmentation can be, if not the shortest, at least the surest way to do so? What is interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, connecting work really worth, career-wise?

These moments where I lack inner guidance make me immensely grateful towards my group. While I fight some kind of windmills, they keep moving on and doing what we have settled on. The organization of the November conference (“Brief um 1800 – Zur Medialität von Generationen” – I realize now that I have no conference page to link to, will take care of it before the week is over) is moving on with interesting answers to our Call for Papers on H-Germanistik – please, send in more of those! We want to get to know original and exciting research projects dealing with the configuration letters + generation + around 1800!

Our digital edition of the Peter Schlemihl should be publishable in 2 or 3 weeks (almost 200 manuscript pages carefully encoded by Anna and revised by Johanna). The Chamisso letters from the de La Foye corpus are being processed – those from the last course being revised by our intern Sophia Zeil, Anna and Sabine, and those from the new course coming in. It will certainly take another 6 to 9 months before the whole corpus is completed, but the bundling of forces helps things progress. Sabine (and I too, two weeks ago) has been working on the index of persons as well as on our new joy of life: the index of groups of persons.

I have refused to introduce such an index for a long time, considering it was not economical enough for our project. I still think it is so when it comes to naming “my kids” or “my nephews”: we are better off with a note in this case. But with Boeckh, everything changed.

Indeed, the one that has done a great deal for the digital edition lately is certainly Alex. First, he put together EAD and XML datasets to create our Boeckh platform – a repository containing short descriptions and localisations of all of Boeckh’s manuscripts (not complete yet, of course, but already fairly large considering we could import the kalliope-datasets). The data from this “platform” (still looking for a better name) are connected to our digital edition through the 3 index of persons,  places and works. Which is why the work on Boeckh’s book collection will, in the end, be a major piece of that puzzle. But let’s not rush ahead. Right now, we are still busy connecting the persons. Sabine and I created about 100 entries in the index of persons (additionally to the about 200 we could gain from kalliope via the GND numbers – long live normdata!): all of Boeckh’s family, closest colleagues, major actors at the University, students from the Philological Seminar. Then, we created groups of those – the deans at the University in the academic year 1811-1812, the students from the Philological Seminar in the academic year 1812-1813, and so forth. That is tedious, but comparatively, a piece of cake. What made me sweat most was the the group “Members of the Philosophical Faculty”. There, too, I divided the group after the academic years, but it is not very satisfactory considering that those professors who die suddenly mostly do so in the middle of the year. The aim of constituting these groups as entities is to be able to work with rich metadata sets coming from the Archive of the University, that contain requests often addressed to “the Professors of the Philosophical Faculty”. This is one of the corpora I would want to edit “next” (after Tieck, Beausobre, the Friday Society, the Classical Philology Lecture Notes… sigh). And of course, it will be of help for Sabine’s edition of the reports from the Philological Seminar (which she, contrarily to me, will actually manage to do this year, since she does not have 8 other things to do, but 2: the Chamisso corpus and her dissertation).

Alex also worked on the collation – in December, and none of us managed to look into it seriously. He collated our transcription of the Sandmann with the DTA’s version. The result shows so many differences that we have to think of a way to bring some hierarchy in the collation. Apart from the technical aspects, it also means that we have to define what our version of record should be and how we can merge XML-files while making the part originating from us and the part originating from the DTA visible.

And he worked on a generic version of our TEI2PDF – one that would not just be conceived for Boeckh’s Encyclopädie, but would fit to all of our corpora. As ever, it is an almost impossible task considering the variety of  layout in the original texts. But the pdf version is a reading version that does not aim at reproducing the manuscript, so that some of the layout specificities of the subcorpora are being ignored. I appreciate this little detour through TeX, it reminds me of my dissertation time (said dissertation in now online on  TEL at long last before the end of the week: you can find it here).

Did I mention already how great my team is? We have a meeting tomorrow afternoon, I am sure they will surprise me again with their enthusiasm and good ideas. Maybe I don’t really need to do some real work myself, after all…

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