Archivalien im Zeitalter ihrer technischen Reproduzierbarkeit

Ein Tagungsbericht von Johanna Preusse

Das Netzwerk KOOP Litera Deutschland veranstaltet jedes Jahr eine Tagung, die verschiedenen Institutionen, die mit Autographen und Nachlässen arbeiten, einen Austausch ermöglicht. Angesprochen sind also in erster Linie Archive und Bibliotheken, aber ebenso alle anderen Institutionen, Projekte und Personen, für die das Themengebiet Relevanz hat. Die Tagung zum Thema „Archivische Erschließung und wissenschaftliche Edition“ fand im Mai 2015 im Weimarer Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv statt, Continue reading “Archivalien im Zeitalter ihrer technischen Reproduzierbarkeit”

Finding the way to the archive

Preparing my stay at the Literature Archive in Marbach, spending the week there working off mountains of information and then, when I came back. taking care of all that had remained pending didn’t stay clean of collateral damages. I haven’t blogged in a month: it is a shame, really. To make things worse, this infidelity to my blog happens precisely when I am trying to get more active within the editorial board of hypotheses and when I am organizing my first hypotheses workshop. I am not sure about the credibility I will bring to the workshop. “Hello, youngsters, let me give you the right recipe: blogging 6 times a month is a good average”. And then I will proceed explaining it is totally doable. Or so I intended to say a month or so ago – I might consider revising that part of my introduction…

I have missed blogging. Continue reading “Finding the way to the archive”

People who like seeing mice in the subway

Since I have been fairly untrue to this blog over the past week(s), I took a quick look at the keywords that drive most readers here. The quick look turned out to be edifying. “Interesting blogs on digital edition” is the first hit (thank you!), followed by “lettres de paris dans les annees 1800” (don’t have any), “caroline von humboldt prize” (which I received 3 years ago), “facts on intellectuals 1800” (that, we have plenty of), “18th century german script” (probably the most stable hit along time), then “sophia zeil” (new on my team, more info on her here), and I give you the next one: “people who like seeing mice in the subway”.

I really do like observing mice in the subway. Yesterday, I saw one with incredibly dark hair while I was waiting for the U7 at Yorckstrasse. More importantly, I don’t deny that the blog post “N.N.(mouse over) (on the subway tracks)” was worth reading. It dealt with a question still unsolved, the short IP of my edition – should it be called just “”? “berlinerintellekuelle”, just “intellectuals”? I have postponed answering it as long as I don’t have a solution to the long time archiving /accessibility of the edition. This worry is growing bigger along time, for two reasons. First, I don’t know what my affiliation will be in 2, 4, 6 years, and I would like to find a stable hosting solution that guarantees not only that my data stay safe, but also that we will  still be able to display them in 2, 4, 6 – even 12 years. I am considering migrating to the TextGrid Repository to that end. The other reason why the topic is getting hotter is that there have now been 3, 4 persons considering more or less seriously to publish the unedited material they work on in my edition. I can to some extent risk working in a only half stable environment when it is all my responsibility and my team providing for content, but I can’t afford (at least according to my personal work ethics) leaving anything in the blur when it comes to hosting somebody else’s work.

As hot as the topic is, I have not had so much time to deal with it seriously. These have been busy, busy days. Last week, I attended a TextGrid meeting at the MPIWG and this week, I co-organized a workshop at the Centre Marc Bloch (I blogged about it in French, see post 1 and post 2, and if you really want to know what happened, check the hashtag #dhcmb on twitter – my prezi is available as well). We had Wikipedian Marcus Cyron come to the class and talk with us (I will eventually blog about it there). I have had money awarded by the Faculty to go on with the Boeckh project: we can now think about a workflow allowing us to enrich kalliope data and feed it in our platform as well as in kalliope.  We will finally get online with the new layout (hopefully at the beginning of May – the titles look fine now :-)) and Alex has already sent us the info so that we can reshape our headers according to the new architecture, which has new entries for each file  (“type of text” and “topic”) that we had not encoded before.

And the 2 DH-related workshops I am working on are beginning to look good as well. Sophia has prepared a first of the flyer for June, 28th – I will post it as soon as the whole DH-Berlin-circle has agreed on that. Technique and catering are completely organized, I still have to send some invitations for chairing, etc., but our guest speakers are in already. Soon, it will only be about the fun part – exchanging ideas, learning, putting things in perspective. In perspective and on paper, too, as we (the organizers) have planned to meet on the day after the workshop in order to write the results down.

As for the Digital Letter Edition workshop of May 2014, I have finally managed to begin re-writing the accompanying paper with the big ideas and questions., so that I hope to be able to send the last invitations soon.

No time for encoding, but there are only that many fronts I can be active on in parallel…


Spring, disillusion and something like zen

The new semester began yesterday and it already feels like it has been months. I spent those two days struggling to get some actual work done – I succeeded for about 3 hours, which is not so bad. I remember not being able to cope with the distribution of my work time between administrative tasks, meetings, applications, teaching (minimal as I only teach one class) and research (research itself being divided again in archive work, reading, encoding, writing, editing) not a year ago. The disillusion as to what I can hope from my work days has at least achieved that I see my time running between my fingers on a regular basis and don’t freak out about it any more. I can’t make time that I don’t have. So let’s enjoy spring being spring, and proceed step by step with the big plans.

Although somewhat disillusioned, I still have concrete ambitions until the summer. First, our new layout has to go online soon. We have been tiptoeing and arguing about one single feature for the last three weeks, but we need to have a solution by next week and we will have it. We have to get online before the end of the month, this has taken too much time already. After upgrading the layout of the digital edition, we will do so for the Boeckh archive repository (/Boeckh platform / Boeckh papers overview: note to self, settle on a name once a for all!), get said repository officially online and find a clever way to link digital edition and Boeckh repository.

Second: more corpus! Sabine will begin encoding the reports from the Philological Seminar, I will move on on the von Buch/Beausobre letters with the texts I already have in transcription, Julia will publish the first pages of Boeckh’s books catalogue in a beta version. I keep my hopes down concerning the other corpora, but it would be a nice surprise to see them increase in mass too.

Third: better encoding! The already published letters will be reviewed, corrected regarding transcription and enriched in markup and commentary. This is the case for the 23 Tieck letters as well as for the encoding of the Chamisso letters to de La Foye done by the students of our first class.

These three aspects have such a high priority level that I realize while writing this that I have not even thought about what other tasks I could consider on the encoding’s side for the 4 months ahead. Improving the workflow, getting us used to working with SVN, presenting the books catalog nicely, working on the data exchange with the State Library and the PDR – things that feel old already, but need still a great deal of attention – will not leave Alex much time to impulse fresh air and ideas in the collationing or the TEI2PDF.

For the first time, I consider neither short (3 weeks) nor long (1 year) periods to make plans, but more a middle-termed one (4 months). I have a realistic check-list and I even have completely blacked out what will come after that period. In all rationality, I don’t think that this change of perspective will modify the group’s real production but marginally. What it can do, though, is change my perception of it. Not flipping out because I am not able to match goals that were from the beginning irrealistic might turn out to be – not so bad after all.

This feeling of general gravity has to do with my other activities in the mean time. Two of the volumes that I have to direct and have been dragging for years now are still far from being finished, and I think that my brain prepares itself for the final rush (one in May, the other in June-July), prophylactically saving some inner energy for this. Plus, I am teaching, giving talks and organizing conferences again, after a long pause in these activities. Keeping it somewhat down right now is probably the only way to survive, come to think about it. Plus, “after” (after July) will be the time when I have to concentrate on writing my book. I am looking forward to it, but I know already that it will not all be just fun either – and dispersion will not be an option then. At all.

More persons, more data, more persons – more data?

Sabine has been working too much on copyediting and layouting her Boeckh volume (heading to the press by the end of the week by the way). While we were sitting next to each other at the workshop “More persons – more data – more repositories” at the Academy of Sciences this morning, she pointed out to me a typo on the workshop flyer. The paragraph describing the workshop contained not the real title (“more persons – more data – more repositories”), but an obviously wrong one: “more persons –  more data – more persons”.

I don’t think it is a simple typo though. It reflects pretty well my general feeling while hearing the presentations. More and more people coming at us, wanting to be tagged or mapped, wanting to be noticed by us in some form. Coming from the Middle Ages, the Modern Era, the 19th century, coming from all imaginable times, they only have one thing in common: they are relevant for the German speaking area. And they don’t want to go unnoticed.

Most of the projects that were presented dealt with the situation of an existing documentation mass regarding persons relevant to an edition or a database that needed to be turned from a book object to a digital object. I was particularly impressed by the quantity of data as well as the elegance in the Germania Sacra project for instance, and it gives a good illustration of what I mean. The digital version of the person repository compiles data from tens of existing books. Not all of the persons from all of these books can be tagged properly since there would be too many minor clerics involved whom nobody knows much about and who have not been of any noticeable influence, so they settled on rich datasets concerning the persons that are more relevant to the project and to that particular field of history. But for all of its elegance and professionalism, the part of the project that is dedicated to the digital database of these most relevant persons is still small compared to the whole project it is embedded in. And so, the workflow has not massively been modified in order for the information relevant for the concerned persons from the volumes that are yet to come to be more easily transferred into the digital database.

This is a big part of the paradox that emerged from the situation of almost all projects:  yes, they are moving to a digital format and a digital way of thinking, but in many ways, only the technicians behind the projects have gone that step, while the others – the researchers – still work in Word or in Excel, even if it is hidden behind some XML  – more makeup than markup in this case. Do we really have more repositories? For the time being, my feeling would be, we don’t have so much more repositories than we have more persons and more data.

It was only justified that the organizers insisted on the value of tool they have developed to try and solve that problem: the Archive Editor. Hiding the code, it can even be simplified (a light version has been implemented in the Musici project, a very neat one as well, also presented today). And by all simplification, it is open to being enriched and guarantees some persistence in the sense that the general format can be merged with other types of formats.  A fine thing indeed. But how do you merge all of the databases? How can I, in a reasonably short-term future (my project funding is ending in 2 years), have a real database of reference that is more scholarly than GND and BEACON?

The GND, the German authority file system relevant, among other things, regarding persons, is another delicate point. While everybody in the room knew that our only chance to coordinate our scholarly efforts, to get them to go not in thousands, but in more or less one direction, supposes us to work with and for the GND, most of the project strategies seem to rely on the fact that the future generations will do that for us. We don’t have time, we don’t have money, we just use internal IDs (well, of course, but the aim is so different it can’t even compare!), we will do that later. Could not every scholarly project with a funding including a person database in any form be by principle granted some kind of GND-overhead? Should not every of those projects be awarded some money for someone to send in to the GND all the important modifications, refinements, database enlargement that the project has produced?

We are back to one of my favorite themes: cooperations between libraries and research. That will be – well hidden behind a completely different title – the topic of the paper I will be giving next week, also at the Academy of Sciences, at the conference “Klassizität des Urbanen” – and said title is: “‘Der Hauptzweck einer Akademie der Wissenschaften muss dieser sein, Unternehmungen zu machen und Arbeiten zu liefern, welche kein Einzelner leisten kann’ – August Boeckh als Projekt.” Don’t forget to register for the conference!