E-Text Creation as Cottage Industry: The Victorian Women Writers Project

  1. 1. Perry Willett

    Indiana University, Bloomington

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E-Text Creation as Cottage Industry: The Victorian Women Writers Project
Perry Willett
The creation of electronic texts is a labor-intensive process. The amount of effort and skill required to create accurately transcribed and encoded electronic texts is not trivial, and may seem daunting to anyone contemplating such a project. Many projects have large budgets derived from grants, endowments and other sources, to pay for work by students or typing agencies. Such projects generally have a wide scope, looking to create electronic collections from across period or national boundaries.

The Victorian Women Writers Project at Indiana University has operated so far with almost no budget, using a number of creative strategies. By creating undergraduate internships, involving volunteers, finding small university research grants, and drawing from hourly budgets, the Project has been able to create a growing collection of important and scarce works by 19th century British women writers. This approach, closer in spirit to the cottage industries of the period rather than industrial production, draws on enthusiam both for this period and for the WWW.

By focusing only on texts from the Victorian era (1837-1901), the Project has had more impact with its scant resources, albeit on a narrow range of scholars, than if its scope had been broader. There is a large (and seemingly growing) interest in the literature, history, fashion and culture of Victorian England, involving many people both inside and outside of the academy. Their enthusiasm has made the Victorian Women Writers Project site very popular, with almost 20,000 visits in its first year. By drawing on this interest, the Project has included the effort of several volunteers who have donated their time to preserving and making available works by women of this period. Funds have been found in various parts of the library's budget to hire part-time students for the typing and preparation of electronic texts.

The English Department at Indiana University has a strong interest in Victorian Studies, and in support of the Project has created an undergraduate internship, similar to its internships for academic journals. Students who apply for the internship receive credit for creating, editing and proofreading electronic editions, and in the process learn about the World Wide Web, SGML and HTML, and women's writing of the period. One industrious student received a small university research grant for his work during the summer.

The process of creating an electronic edition is time-consuming. Each etext is transcribed, encoded and proofed by either students or volunteers. Some of the participants have been trained in the TEI Guidelines, while others use a simplified encoding scheme. The General Editor then verifies the accuracy of the encoding and transcription by proofing the text again, and creates digital images of title pages and illustrations. Every step of this process can be accomplished using relatively inexpensive or free software available on most university computing networks.

The Project is overseen by an Advisory Board made up of seven prominent Victorianists from universities across the country. They volunteer their time and expertise out of their desire to make literature by women of this period more widely available. Using e-mail as the primary mode of communication, the board has reached decisions concerning general direction as well as specific decisions concerning authors and editions to include. The board plans to meet at conferences, such as the annual Modern Languages Association Convention in December 1997 in Washington D.C.

The General Editor has applied for grants for further expansion, but believes that the model established for this Project can be used by many other librarians and scholars with few available resources.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at Queen's University

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

June 3, 1997 - June 7, 1997

76 works by 119 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ALLC (9), ACH/ICCH (17), ALLC/EADH (24)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

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