British Women Romantic Poets Project, University Library, University of California, Davis.
History of the British Women Romantic Poets Project
In January of 1997, librarians at the Shields Library began a pilot with the library's Kohler Collection, to see whether it was feasible to convert these texts to electronic formats, thus making them accessible to students and scholars over the internet. Projects at Indiana and Brown pointed to the usefulness of such E-Texts, particularly when encoded with attention to structure and accurate transcription.
Our own UC, Davis academic community reaffirmed our belief that such a collection would be useful. There was significant interest on the Davis campus in British women writers. Monica Kearney, Jane King, Kari Lokke, and Adriana Craciun, students and faculty at Davis, all presented papers based on Kohler Collection research at the Sixth Annual Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers Conference, held on the Davis Campus in March 1997. Their work and interest in the Kohler, were, we believed, indicative of a larger group of scholars who would benefit by greater access to poetic texts by British women poets.
While the Victorian Women Writers Project at Indiana and the Brown Women Writers' Project have generated interest in the academic community, as yet there had at that time been no systematic attempt to gather a specialized collection of E-texts by British women poets of the Romantic period. This project endeavored to meet that goal.
As of January, 2000 we had tagged fifty texts, using Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) according to Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines. In the summer of 1997, we established styles, standard conventions, and procedures. Two LAUC-D Research grants have allowed us to purchase copies of Author/Editor sofware and to hire several student taggers. Other staffing is provided by volunteer interns. In the early stages of the project, some programming support was provided by the University Library Systems Department. Since 1999, all technical work has been provided by volunteers and project editors.
In the spring of 1998, we began work with the library cataloging department to standardize our header data so it conforms to MARC guidelines, and developed a perl program routine that converts our TEI headers to MARC records. The library is continuing to work on automating the process for cataloging project texts. In 1998 as well we began scanning and mounting illustrations and title pages. In 1999 we mounted these images in our SGML texts.
The past two years have been fruitful ones. We have launched many new texts, and will soon be mounting our 80th text. We have continued to focus our efforts on the production of accurately transcribed and carefully coded literary texts. We continue to produce our texts using SGML for our digital-archival version. Last but not least, we have benefitted greatly from the skills of Electronic Resources cataloger Jared Campbell, who is advising us as we prepare MARC records for our texts and make these available to the library community. Jared is also helping us integrate BWRP texts into the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service's OAIster Search Interface. These efforts will make our texts more broadly available to researchers and students.
Early in 2001, we began exploring the possibility of converting our texts from SGML to XML. We are now able to do this, and we await eagerly the availability of an XML user interface architecture that will allow us to provide more sophisticated functionality. We hope to work with the California Digital Library or with another repository, to make our repository part of a larger digital collection. Meanwhile we continue to scan, encode, edit, and mount in SGML and HTML formats Kohler texts by women in the Romantic Period, and we continue to have faith that a user interface will someday be available that will allow users to search our texts.
BWRP continues to attract over 5000 users per month to our home site, and each individual text is accessed between 50 and 350 times each month. We know that users are finding our site through many sources: our library catalog, the Internet Public Library, Britannica Online, Literature Online, U. Penn.'s "A Celebration of Women Writers" website, and many others. We know that graduate students are using our texts as the basis for further editorial projects and simply as a source for rare texts. We know the site continues to draw a large general, non-academic audience.
In 2001, the project was approached by electronic publisher Alexander Street Press, who wished to work with us to create an online archive/anthology of poetry by Scottish Women in the Romantic Period. I worked with Professor Stephen Behrendt of Nebraska (a member of our Editorial Advisory Board), to choose texts, supply bibliographic and biographical contextual material, and solicit essays on the poets from other members of the BWRP advisory board and from other scholars. The result has been an electronic publication, "Scottish Women Poets of the Romantic Period" (Alexander Street Press, 2002). While this is a commercial product, the texts contributed by BWRP remain freely accessible through the BWRP website.
In 1998, we wrote that we believed there was a large group of scholars who would benefit by greater access to poetic texts by British women poets in the Kohler Collection. Our experience has shown this to be true, and has taught us as well that making literary texts available on the web brings them into the realm of students and readers who are not associated with the academic research community. In some ways, this has been the most gratifying result of our work.
What are the challenges for the future? There are three: finding a way to encode the remaining 200 texts before THIS millenium ends. Second, finding a preservation repository for the texts we've created, and providing metadata that will ensure that these texts will be available for future generations. Third, we'd like our texts to be part of a digital infrastructure that encourages students to use them in as many ways as possible.
Nancy Kushigian, Ph.D. MLIS General Editor, September 2002.
Update, June 2003. In recent months we have been working with the California Digital Library to Provide access through the Online Archive of California. This will ensure the texts are preserved with other OAC content. It will also allow the text repository to be searched through text interfaces for TEI currently in development at CDL.
Methodology and Technology
Texts are being selected in consultation with our Editorial Advisory Board, consisting of scholars in the United States and Canada. Our aim is to make complete texts available that are not readily accessible from other sources, many of which are not well known, or who are only beginning to be of interest to the scholarly community. Texts are drawn from the UC, Davis Library's Kohler Collection of British Poetry, housed in the Department of Special Collections.
Texts are scanned on a basic flatbed scanner, then converted to ASCII format using OCR software, which we have found to be accurate in its recognition of archaic and small typefaces. Texts are then proofed initially with the OCR proofing utility, then saved as text files. Finally, they are imported into Author/Editor, where they are tagged. Finally, they undergo a rigorous proofing process. Each text is proofed by Managing Editor, Charlotte Payne, before it is mounted on the BWRP Website.
Nancy Kushigian, Shields Library, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of California, Davis
Charlotte Payne, Shields Library, Preservation Department, University of California, Davis
Editorial Advisory Board
Meena Alexander, Dept. of English, Hunter College
Stephen Behrendt, Dept. of English, University of Nebraska
Betty T. Bennett, Dept. of English, American University
Adriana Craciun, Dept. of English, Loyola University
Harriet Linkin, Dept. of English, New Mexico State University
Kari Lokke, Dept. of Comparative Literature, University of California--Davis
Laura Mandell, Dept. of English, Miami University of Ohio
Anne K. Mellor, Dept. of English, University of California--Los Angeles
David Simpson, Dept. of English, University of California--Davis
Patricia Srebrnik, Dept. of English, University of Calgary
Jared Campbell, Shields Library
Michael Bavister (1997-1999)
Anne Bressler (1996-1999)
Bruce McEachern (1999)
Jim Sylva (1996-1997, 2002)
Bruce Rosenstock (2001-2002)
Miriam Hull (1998-2001)
Farida Khosh (1997-2001)
Andrea Ramirez (1997-1998)
Summer Silveira (1997-1999)
Mary Tomanaga (1998)
Wen-Lin Tsai (summer 1997, summer 1998)
Ophelia Yim (1997-1998)
Edmond Kwok (1999)
Seth Williams (summer 1999)
Leigh Rios (2000-continuing)
Rianna Au (2000-2002)
Janelle Vargas (2000-continuing)
From the guide to the British Women Romantic Poets, 1789-1832, 1997-open, (UC Davis Digital Library Program. Dept. of Preservation)
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