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…


Patching Part Three: Standards

(the original post with the title Brave New Canon dates back Sept. 30th, 2011 – I am reading an interesting paper by Geoffrey Rockwell that addresses these issues as well in MLA Journals)

In a paper published in Digital Humanities Quarterly dating back to 2009 (“The Productive Unease of 21st-century Digital Scholarship”), Julia Flanders points out a series of problems our digital edition has to face and, more importantly, reflect upon.

One interesting point is the fact that digital editions and digitization projects give corpora a new importance. Texts that were sofar considered secondary are just as easily available as any other literature. Also, documents that were not easily accessible (mostly for preservation reasons) are now online like other more robust media.

Not so long ago, handwritten material – which  is most of the time unique -, had to be tracked down to the small archive where it is preserved and an adventurous journey had to be organized for you to be able to see and read it. You would reach the archive exhausted and utterly excited, see that it is only opened 3 days a week for 2 hours, stand by the door the very minute it opens, grab your pencil (inkpens being strictly forbidden) and feverishly start transcribing, hoping to be able to decipher each and every letter, spot, stain during the few days of your stay. Once home, you would then start thinking about the content of your transcriptions.

Nowadays, you can search online catalogs after keywords (such as the very complete German kalliope catalogue), see where the documents you are interested in are preserved, fill in an application for digitizations and have those sent home, when they are not online already.

This modifies, as Julia Flanders points out, the relationship between canonical and non-canonical literature. It is true, too, that the digital canon that is arising under our very eyes seems structured by rules that are widely independent from the traditional history of literature.

For scholars used to work on unpublished, handwritten material, it also modifies the relationship to the archives and the objects of scholar desire you can find there. In one click, you can leave behind the closed world of the egoistic discovery (you know what I mean: the manuscript you cannot really believe you actually found, and you are so happy about you almost cry or laugh by yourself in your archive room) and make it known to the whole world.

This affects deeply our relationship to archivists as well. Because they have had, more than us scholars still, to go through a radical evolution of their role as a go-between, from the rooms of a small archive visited only by crazy scholars to a world-exposed position – with probably much more crazy non-scholars.

Think big

Today Gudrun Gersmann, director of the German Historical Institute in Paris (IHA in French, DHI in German) came to us to present what I originally thought was an edition project but turned out to be more archive sorting, digitizing and setting up metadata.

The project deals with an awesome archival fund that was made in local archives in Toulon (France) (Btw there is a a French description of the project and here a German one): 7500 letters by a successful French woman writer named Constance de Salm, documenting the literary and political activity in Paris in the Revolutionary and Napoleonian era, but also retracing the singular path of a French woman who married a German nobleman and spent half of her life in France and half of her life in Germany.

Now here’s the beauty of the project: when they found the letters, they decided not to invest their money in transcribing and commenting what would have been something like a fifth of them. Their aim is to have in the end – if possible – all those letters registered properly. Each of them is being informed with sender, addressee, date, place as well as a couple of keywords (concepts, names, publications). These metadata are then fed in a repository that is in the end supposed to be merged with the kalliope database.  The information sets that will be thus constituted will be linked to the PND and to the digitization of the letters (which are based on a server at the DHI).

One could say, well, then, by the end of the project, nothing is done. No text, no commentary, no context.

But you, my beloved reader, know better than that, I am sure. Once this is done, a lot is done. First, you can have an overview of the most important correspondence partners, of the amount of letters depending on the periods of her life, etc., and thus choose to work on a part of the corpus that is actually defined by precise scholarly questions – and not as “the first bunch in box one”. Second, once you have the metadata and the information related to the persons and the publications evoked in the letter, you can gain a valid overview of the intellectual networks. You can follow the discussion of a precise publication throughout the several parts of the correspondence. You can retrace which persons are evoked in which context. So really, a lot is done.This is the kind of work the whole scholarly community should be endlessly thankful for. (I so wish we would be able to reach something similar with the Boeckh papers in Berlin in the year ahead)!

And finally, if these things are done well – in this case with the help of the FuD in Trier – we should be able, at some point, to put the information gained by the Salm project together with those of our project and those of similar projects and be able to search them all.

And this, my friend, is thinking big.
Only I am not sure which institution will be able to support something that big.