TELOTA - the Electronic Life of the Academy. New Approaches for the Digitization of Long Term Projects in the Humanities

  1. 1. Alexander Czmiel

    Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (BBAW) (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities)

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The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science and Humanities (BBAW) [1] is an international and
interdisciplinary association of excellent scholars with a
distinctive humanities profile. The Academy hosts about 30 long term projects in the humanities with a project runtime often longer than 100 years. Examples of these projects include work on academic dictionaries, printed and manuscript editions, documentations, bibliographies,
archival and publishing projects and more. These project
groups have access to information and data made by
outstanding scientists like Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant, Albert
Einstein, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Alexander von Humboldt and many more who were members of the Academy during the last 300 years. Throughout its
history the Society could rank 76 Nobel Laureates among its members.
According to the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access in the Sciences and Humanities” [2], which was signed by the President of the Academy, an initiative was founded to provide a sustainable, interactive and transparent way to inspire activities in supporting research, communication and presentation with electronic media or in other words to “electrify” the long term humanities projects hosted by the Academy. This initiative is called “TELOTA – the electronic life of the academy”. [3]
One part of TELOTA is the so called “Project of the Month” (POM) [4] working group which started work in January 2005. The main task of this working group is to provide solutions for the mentioned issues which are cost efficient, future proven (especially to be independent from commercial vendors) and freely extensible. Every
month the data of a selected academy project is
processed, (re-)structured and presented on the web to give researchers in the humanities, scholars and the
interested public a new view in the extensive knowledge
inventory of the academy. To identify and process
information from the long term projects is one of the
central tasks for POM. Further goals are:
1. To replace older, cost-intensive proprietary tools which are often not very suitable for presentations in the World Wide Web:
• Improve the unification of the developed
solutions for the different projects with respect for already existing solutions and open standards as well as concentration on third party open source software.
• Production of reusable software modules.
2. To offer to the interested public an overview and provide an insight into the work done by the projects hosted by the academy:
• To make new information and resources available on the World Wide Web.
• Adaptation, unification and customization of existing data to offer a new point of view on a
certain project.
• Give access to the raw data which can be queried by arbitrary applications using XQuery. [5]
3. To benefit each humanities project hosted by the academy:
• The projects should be able to access and
administrate the data they produce on their own for a gradual extension of their web presence and
research material.
• Guarantee of long term accessibility and
preservation as a result of consistent data and
coherent administration.
• Real time accessibility to the projects’ results in the World Wide Web.
• Support of the project’s work flow with tools
especially developed for their needs.
All the applied technologies and third party tools are reused, like all the gained experience is transferred from one project to the next. In addition new technologies are adopted to the working group’s portfolio so it is able to react properly to the monthly changing requirements.
This paper will introduce the work of the “Project of the Month” working group and exemplary present two
systems for humanities projects from the viewpoint of an “in-house” working group. It shows the possibilities of developing electronic resources of long term projects in a very short time period. Additionally it demonstrates a way how the mentioned technologies can be combined as flexible as possible.
The first system, the “scalable architecture for electronic editions”, uses the opportunities of web services applied
on critical text editions and was developed while
processing prominent projects such as the “Corpus Medicorum Graecorum/Latinorum” or the “Marx-
Engels Gesamtausgabe”. The main component is a
native XML-Database [6] which is able to interpret XQuery-scripts to form the web application. The user, according to his needs, dynamically decides on the view of the presented texts and translations and the information
which is displayed like line numbers or links to the
apparatus. So he can customize the electronic edition
depending on his scientific position or interests. If possible,
facsimiles are linked to text, translation and apparatus
and if needed it is possible to search the electronic
edition in different scripts, like ancient Greek.
The second system, an approach for digital dictionaries, shows the development stages of an interactive on-line dictionary which currently is work in progress and could contain the digital versions of dictionary projects of the academy in the future. Such a system is necessary for the real time digital presentation of dictionary project results. Examples are the “Dictionary of contemporary German language”, the “Dictionary of Goethe” or the “German Dictionary of Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm”. One main feature besides arbitrary querying the database
using XQuery is the possibility to add and edit own
dictionary articles, if the user is authorized to do so. The search results than can be displayed in HTML or PDF.
Both systems are conceptually designed with a general attempt but currently serve as sample applications. The use of a more technically matured version of this systems should not be limited to one project or just the academy long term projects rather than potentially be open to any kind of critical text edition or dictionary.

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Conference Info



Hosted at Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV (Paris-Sorbonne University)

Paris, France

July 5, 2006 - July 9, 2006

151 works by 245 authors indexed

The effort to establish ADHO began in Tuebingen, at the ALLC/ACH conference in 2002: a Steering Committee was appointed at the ALLC/ACH meeting in 2004, in Gothenburg, Sweden. At the 2005 meeting in Victoria, the executive committees of the ACH and ALLC approved the governance and conference protocols and nominated their first representatives to the ‘official’ ADHO Steering Committee and various ADHO standing committees. The 2006 conference was the first Digital Humanities conference.

Conference website:

Series: ACH/ICCH (26), ACH/ALLC (18), ALLC/EADH (33), ADHO (1)

Organizers: ACH, ADHO, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None