Building a Mom and Pop Database: the 2000 books in the Milton Quarterly library become a relational database, through community effort

  1. 1. Roy Flannagan

    Department of English - Ohio University

Work text
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Over the course of five years, every book in the Milton Quarterly library, a collection of about 2000 books, most of which dealt with Milton, Renaissance literature, theology, culture, or history; Puritan or English Revolutionary War history or theology; or classical Greek or Roman classical civilization or literature, was entered into a relational database, using the powerful library software ProCite. The database is a dedicated product, designed to be a unique aid for a Renaissance scholar who might want, say, to connect Donne with Calvin, or feminism with Milton. It now finds its ideal distribution through the Milton Quarterly home page on the World Wide Web. Open Text Corporation's Pat software will be used to query the database at the Electronic Text Center of the University of Virginia. The database will be copyrighted so that it cannot be lifted and sold as a unit; access will be limited to academic readers. The proprietary software Pat, developed at the University of Waterloo, will be used through a machine-license at the University of Virginia. ProCite generously supports output in RTF files, so that the Milton Quarterly can afford also to be generous in distributing its property.

Development work on the database gave valuable training to undergraduate apprentices, through the State of Ohio's Program Excellence and through the Honors Tutorial College of Ohio University. Graduates of the program are now in graduate school in English at Ohio State, at Stanford Law School, in teaching on various levels and, in the case of the most recent graduate, in a private business that employs skills learned in database construction. In each case, work on the database has given the student valuable training in scholarly methods and even in Aristotelian methods of collecting and labeling data empirically. Students have been treated as honored apprentices and allowed to be creative within the system. The impression left on them was that of a happy factory, where workers set their own schedules and had a stake in both job description and product-creation.

As administrator of the Milton Quarterly database, the speaker has built a useful and informative set of guidelines:

Go to the strengths of the apprentice compiler (Greek, Latin, Japanese, critical theory, computer programming), and let each apprentice work within his or her circadian rhythms and on a unique schedule.
Build the database using a flexible program that can talk across computer platforms and electronic mail addresses.
When planning a project, bear in mind that a good database never has to end, and is perfectible. Mistakes can in input be forgiven and corrected. Mistakes in procedures can be amended.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.

Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Bergen

Bergen, Norway

June 25, 1996 - June 29, 1996

147 works by 190 authors indexed

Scott Weingart has print abstract book that needs to be scanned; certain abstracts also available on dh-abstracts github page. (

Conference website:

Series: ACH/ICCH (16), ALLC/EADH (23), ACH/ALLC (8)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

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