Workflow intricacy

Anna is now on parental leave, but I had the amazing opportunity to have her replacement  financed for one year by the German Research Foundation (that is family-friendliness!). It is Julia Doborosky who will help the digital edition move on in Anna’s absence.

Julia belongs to the Boeckh team. She is the one who has gone through all the archival material at the University Archive, at the Academy of Sciences Archive and at the Geheimes Staatsarchiv (don’t know the correct English name for it) and thus generated 1200 entries in our Boeckh platform (which I presented in this earlier post). I also had the possibility to finance her a few months last year to begin the work on Boeckh’s list of his own books. Reconstructing Boeckh’s library is what interests her most, so this will be her primary task during her time in my group.

I find it exciting to be able to implement the change of scale I have been waiting for (by the way: things are moving on on the letters’ side as well!) also on the level of the reconstruction of Boeckh’s book collection. We will soon be able to work on linking our data with that of the Grimm-Zentrum (digitized and OCRed books that used to belong to Boeckh). To this day, Julia has transcribed 700 titles and has been bibliographically informing them. For each entry, she looks for the corresponding book in the library’s stock and if she finds Boeckh’s exemplar (recognizable by its ex-libris) and sees handwritten remarks by Boeckh in the book, she mentions it (we have an extra XML-category for that) and it is set on the digitization list. It is exciting precisely because this is not completely digital edition, not completely repository, but at the junction of both.

Less exciting is the trouble this puts us in in terms of workflow. Things were fairly clear in the last six months. When you encode, make sure no one else is working on the index. Seldom did Anna, Sabine and I had so much time to spend encoding that this would be a problem. But from now on and until the fall at last. Sabine will be preparing her edition of the documents from the philological seminar, while Julia will be working on the Boeckh book cataloge. And if by chance I actually manage to do some encoding, that makes way too many people encoding at the same time. We will definitely have to re-think our workflow. One of the major problems, namely the risk that IDs are being given two or three times, might be solved by attributing to each editor a specific letter or number to begin their IDs with (for instance I would encode my new persons with p1…, Sabine with p2… and Julia with p3…). I wonder what are the chances that we encounter the same person in parallel and then give not 1 ID to 2 persons but 2 IDs to the same person.

Sadly, my brain is not wired properly to deal with that kind of information intricacy: on the very second I suggest an adaptation of the workflow, I imagine a worst-case scenario and immediately see what kind of problems could arise from it. I hope that Alex will come up with a rational solution to this. It will in any way require really good versioning, that is for sure…

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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1 Response

  1. Hei hei Anne,

    the Preußisches Geheimes Staatsarchiv would be translated like this: Prussian Privy State Archives (see also:

    God påske!

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