The Stainforth Digital Library Under Construction, for the Arts & Humanities Resource Center “Gear Up” 2015 (Dartmouth 1-22-15)

I was asked to present the Stainforth Digital Library of Women Writers at today’s “Gear Up” DH event, sponsored by the Arts & Humanities Resource Center at Dartmouth. The goal of this event was to educate faculty regarding DH project ideas, processes, opportunities, the people who are involved in them, and what they can produce. The AHRC showcased a wide variety of projects on campus and invited new questions and connections among presenters and visitors. At first I was hesitant to present, I must admit. The invitation cited a desire to display “completed or near-complete” projects. The Stainforth digital library project is in somewhat of an early stage of development, unlike several of its neighbor projects at Gear Up that are in later stages and/or have been released (The Occom Circle Project, The John Milton Reading Room, and The Dante Lab, for example). In fact, the Stainforth Digital Library does not yet exist. We have no published data or visualizations of the library. However, we do have a number of digital products in development that will lead to these outcomes as well as a multi-institutional cross-disciplinary team. The items in this exhibit contain lots of errors, dirty data that has not yet been edited, and in some cases the data is waiting for editorial procedures to finalize before editorial work can begin–so not even the guidelines document is considered done, let alone the editing process. I would even call some of this a well-organized mess: a lot of work done and much work left to do. However, I think digital archives are at their best when they are under construction. Happily, they tend to take a very long time to build and require constant maintenance as well as preparation for their inevitable demise and archiving. When a project’s team members are creating the parts and fixing its problems, the project comes to social, intellectual, artistic, and material life. My guess is that DH projects spend more quality time of their use-lives in states like this–the state of undoneness–than not. This small exhibit that I made for the AHRC “Gear Up” event puts our trove of unedited, unpublished work on direct display. This defies everything I was taught about sharing unpolished scholarly products. (Please note that while I was happy to show these files in person at the event, I cannot leave links to our live Google Drive files published on this blog since they are undergoing editing. I would be happy to give you a tour of our data in Read-Only if you email me a request. I did link to a sample file below and I may include more as I continue to edit this post. Any requests?) I also include a condensed 3-year project plan map. It visualizes some of what I have listed below with an abridged ideal timeline. Undoubtedly it will change as we continue to work, fix things, and change our goals.

Stainforthing 3 Year Plan_3-26-15

Completed and published data-related parts:

Partially complete, we are proud of, as of 1-22-15:

  • Raw (unedited) transcription for the first 504 pages of the library catalog. The raw transcription files are all complete, but they need to be edited, encoded with TEI, and transformed before I can call this segment complete. These transcription files contain the full list of the books that Stainforth held in his library: 504 pages with 24 lines per page of title entries, approximately. We keep each transcribed page saved as its own file in a Google Drive shared folder, along with our Transcription and Editing Guidelines, since multiple people can work on the same file at the same time, if necessary. There are a few other files there that help us organize and plan, as well.
  • MySQL database that gathers all data relating to the entries in Stainforth’s library catalog, including the transcription of each line, as well as authority data for each author and title in the library. This is a huge ongoing project. I predict that we will need at least two more years to finish this aspect of the project.

Yet to start:

  • (Starts 1-22-15) Editing the 504 pages of raw transcription for the acquisitions catalog.
  • TEI encoding of the 504 pages of raw transcription, then XSLT transform to create webpage and text files to publish. Release in Summer 2015.
  • Raw transcription of the “Wants” part of Stainforth’s manuscript catalog. This is a 135-page wish list at the back of the catalog. It lists poetry by British and American authors, plays, and literary annuals that he wanted to add to his library.
  • Editing the “Wants” transcription
  • TEI encoding of Wants transcription, then XSLT to create webpage and text files to publish. Release sometime in Summer 2016.
  • Using the shelf-marks, titles, and authors (all linked) to generate a 3D model of Stainforth’s bookshelves. Multiple pieces of the project have to be complete in order for me to start this part of the project.

Some of Our Tools (nothing fancy here)

  • Basecamp project planning site for our project team, where we keep a calendar, to-do lists, and a wiki.
  • Google Drive: we keep our transcription files here to share. We will likely keep our shared xml files here, too – though they are not shared writing docs the same way Google Docs can be. Our other location for shared xml files would be dropbox.
  • Oxygen XML editor
  • Twitter: to ask questions, think “out loud”, connect with Stainforth and other project team members, advertise talks and other products relating to the Stainforth. We use the #Stainforth hashtag.

Other Parts of the Stainforth Project: side projects, writing projects, etc.

  • The Stainforth biography project. The first short biographical sketch has been recently published on the CU Libraries website. Read it here. This essay is part of a larger biographical project that is underway.
  • Michael Harris (CU-Boulder, University Libraries) has started mapping the locations of the actual Stainforth books as we locate them in libraries worldwide. We verify the provenance of the book with those who have the hard copy by looking for Stainforth’s bookplate.
  • Deborah Hollis has conceptualized a later-phase Stainforth project to use the works in this library to map subscribers to these books. She hopes to learn more about the professional and personal social networks that supported women writers across the centuries.
  • Grant writing
  • Training new team members
  • Conference papers and article drafts
  • Writing training materials and guidelines for all manner of procedures: editing, transcribing, data entry in the database, etc.
  • Collecting feedback on our Basecamp wiki

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