Lost in the Archives, Found in Digital Collections

  1. 1. Natalia (Natasha) Smith

    University Libraries - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  2. 2. Dongqing Xie

    University Libraries - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  3. 3. Elizabeth McAulay

    University Libraries - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  4. 4. Todd Cooper

    University Libraries - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  5. 5. Adrienne M. MacKay

    University Libraries - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Work text
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The proliferation of digital collections on the web has
dramatically expanded access to content that would
remain otherwise underutilized or undiscovered. Organizations
that have been actively involved in large scale
digitization—through Google, the Open Content Alliance
(OCA), or other means—most often limit the scope of these
projects to digital replication of materials. Not surprisingly,
given the size and extent of many collections selected for
digitization, the costs of applying extensive research and
scholarship to primary documents are often prohibitive, if such
actions are even considered by project staff. Digital scholarly
editions offer many research advantages that exceed the
limitations of traditional and linear print publications. Their
potential has been already instantiated by a few prominent
projects, among them Rotunda by the University of Virginia
Press and the Perseus Digital Library. 1 Encouraged by these
exemplars, Documenting the American South (DocSouth),
UNC-Chapel Hill Library’s digital publishing program, sought
to create two online scholarly documentary histories: a
collection of documents related to antebellum student life at the University of North Carolina and a collection of documents
about the institutional development of the university during the
same period. Through careful planning and analysis,
collaboration with research scholars and subject librarians, and
the application of open-source technology and international
standards, DocSouth's "True and Candid Compositions: The
Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University
of North Carolina" and "The First Century of the First State
University" 2 represent rare examples of scholarly publications
with annotations and interpretive essays that include both color
facsimile and transcription access to unique primary documents.
Documenting the American South has ten years of experience
encoding printed materials using TEI guidelines; however,
creating online documentary histories required a more complex
approach than had previously been employed with our
collections. "True and Candid Compositions", for example,
was originally conceived as a monograph including diplomatic
transcription of manuscript documents; textual, biographical,
and interpretive annotations; several scholarly essays; and an
extensive index—all prepared by Dr. Erika Lindemann,
professor of composition at the UNC-Chapel Hill. In presenting
Lindemann's project on the web, we strove to include all of the
features of her project, plus features only possible through and
valuable for an online publication. [See Figure 1 and Figure 2
for screenshots.]
Figure 1: Screenshot of True and Candid index page
Figure 2: Screenshot of document with image of manuscript
Application of Technologies
In both online publications, we wanted to provide users with
several options to fully explore and discover content in
these unique collections. We offer several "browse by" indices
that were compiled by extracting information from the
TEI-XML files. For "True and Candid Compositions" and for
"The First Century," a total of 500 transcribed manuscript
documents and over 20 scholarly essays were encoded by
graduate students from the English Department and School of
Information and Library Science using "TEI in the Libraries"
recommendations for level 5 of encoding.3 All personal, place,
and organization names were disambiguated by scholars and
assigned a unique id number, a regularized name, and one of
three type descriptors (i.e., person, place, organization). This
information was then encoded within <name> elements with
relevant attributes as part of each document XML file. Images
of all manuscript pages were scanned and saved in TIFF and
JPEG formats.
The XML and image files became input for a publishing
mechanism comprised of two distinct parts: (1) conversion of
XML to XHTML and (2) generation of search and browse
functionality in XHTML pages on the web. [See Figure 3:
Document Processing Workflow.] First, we extracted metadata from each XML file (one XML
file per document) and then converted the XML files to
XHTML. The resulting XHTML files have the distinctive
DocSouth format and include links to images and biographical
annotations, both of which open in separate windows (pop-ups).
This step is accomplished with the use of the XSLT technology,
available from the <teiPublisher> software4, which we modified
to meet our project needs. We used <teiPublisher> with locally
customized XSLT files to transform manuscript and essay XML
files into XHTML files. Our customizations included:
displaying the TEIHeader under tabbed buttons; highlighting
names for which regularized names are viewable as a
mouseover; adding icons to personal names to indicate that
biographical essays are available in pop-up window, and adding
URL links to scanned page images in separate XHTML files.
Second, we generated indices with a custom Java program and
our primary MySQL database, using JAXP/JDBC/XPath
technologies. "XML is a good match for Java. It pairs Java’s
code portability feature with its data portability…"5 The Java
programming language has a number of proven APIs for
working with XML, including the Java API for XML Processing
(JAXP). In concert with XPath and JDBC (Java API for
database interactions), the language is a powerful tool for
performing a variety of operations with XML documents.
Additionally, Java is platform agnostic and secure. We designed
this program to perform a wide range of operations, including:
reporting errors in XML files for quality control; retrieving a
variety of data from XML files; exporting data into the MySQL
database; generating an XHTML file for every page image of
each document; and extracting data from the database to create
indices of personal names, geographic names, organization
names, authors, genres, and topics.
This Java program extracted rich metadata from the XML files,
specifically from the <teiHeader> and from the key, reg,
and type attributes of the <name> element. These varied data
were stored in the primary DocSouth MySQL database, which
contains all the metadata for all DocSouth online collections.
In processing, the Java program extracted all encoded names
and recorded their regularized names, types, and occurrence
locations in the XML files to the database. In a similar process,
biographical information contained in an additional XML file
was processed and stored in the same database. A number of
scholars and subject librarians wrote this expansive biographical
information for hundreds of identified and researched proper
names, which has served to add valuable contextual richness
to the collection.
We also designed our Java program to generate two types of
"browse by" indices—proper name indices and document
indices. The program generated proper name indices by type;
these indices are hyperlinked to a PHP program that searches
the database and provides a list of documents in which the name
appears. Each linked document displays a document page
highlighting the selected name. Finally, the program uses
available metadata to generate document indices that offer other
chapter-level "browse by" options, including: documents listed
by chapter, topic, genre, and author. As a result of this Java
processing, these two online documentary histories have 2,340
personal names, 170 organization names, and 420 place names
in indices generated from the XML files.
DocSouth's "True and Candid Compositions" and "First
Century" collections represent exciting additions to our digital
library. More than just collections of digitized manuscripts,
these online histories benefit from collaboration with scholars
and DocSouth's considerable experience and technical expertise.
The confluence of unique primary documents, scholarship, and
judicious application of open-source technology solutions
allowed us to develop two online scholarly documentary
histories that far exceed the limitations of traditional print
publications. No longer lost in the archives, these enhanced
digitized primary source materials are readily available to
enthusiasts, scholars, and learners everywhere.
1. <http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/ind
ex.php?page_id=About > and
2. "True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of
Antebellum Students of the University of North Carolina."
Documenting the American South Ed. Erika Lindeman. (University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries). <http://docs
outh.unc.edu/true/>"The Carolina at Chapel Hill
3. The TEI Consortium, "TEI Text Encoding in Libraries. Guidelines
for Best Encoding Practices" <http://www.diglib.or
4. <http://sourceforge.net/projects/teipub
5. Akmal B. Chaudhri, XML Data Management: Native XML and
XML-Enabled Database Systems (Boston: Addison-Wesley, 2003)
p. 342.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2007

Hosted at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, United States

June 2, 2007 - June 8, 2007

106 works by 213 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (2)

Organizers: ADHO

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