[Mirrored from: http://www.uic.edu/~cmsmcq/mep/acm96mep.html]
David R. Chesnutt, Editor
Laurens Papers Project
University of South Carolina
Department of History
Columbia, SC 29208
C. M. Sperberg-McQueen
University of Illinois at Chicago
Computer Center (M/C 135)
1940 W. Taylor St.
Chicago IL 60612-7352
The Model Editions Partnership is a consortium of seven historical editions which joined forces with leaders from the Text Encoding Initiative and the Center for Electronic Text in the Humanities to develop a foundation for the next generation of historical editions. That generation will consist of electronic editions disseminated via the Internet or on CD-ROM (or its equivalent). Funded by a major grant from the (U.S.) National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the project has the following goals:
As its first major product, the Partnership has developed a "Prospectus for Electronic Historical Editions." In that document, we move toward the Partnership's first goal by identifying the principles which should govern those editions, exploring what electronic historical editions will look like, and outlining an approach to developing an intellectual framework to implement the editions. The `principles' are intended as general guidelines for designing electronic editions of historical documents. The configurations are intended as a series of examples which can be used as convenient ways of thinking about those editions. Specifically, these are the principles and configurations we will use in creating a set of examples which are to be disseminated via CD-ROM and the Internet. These views reflect the consensus among the members of the Partnership; input from the editorial community and other constituencies in the electronic text community; and from a panel of editorial consultants which reviewed the prospectus before it was finalized.
Electronic historical editions must:
Each principle will be discussed in detail with concrete examples. Emphasis will be placed on the difference between creating an `edition' and hanging any old text on the Web and calling it good.
If lighting permits and an LCD pad or projection system is available, we will illustrate some of our points with mock-ups; otherwise we will use transparencies of screen shots.
Historical editions in the electronic environment can be divided into three types:
To insure continued access to existing scholarship, a fourth model may also be appropriate:
During the current phase of the Partnership's work (January-June, 1996), we will move toward the project's second goal of developing a generalized model for the process of preparing and delivering electronic editions. Our central task is to create a set of "Markup Guidelines for Electronic Historical Editions" based on the TEI Guidelines. Document analysis sessions were held last fall and small samples from each of the Partner projects have been encoded using TEI Lite in a series of mock-ups. The samples and the results from the document analysis sessions will guide the development of a subset of the TEI markup as well as extensions to the TEI markup designed specifically for electronic historical editions. Among the technical issues to be addressed are 1) whether to create specialized tags for document collections and for common document types like letters, in order to make the markup more `natural'; 2) whether to simplify the markup by using a single generalized structure for all types of historical documents; and 3) whether to make other changes to simplify processing of texts. Because the Partnership is committed to open standards, no change will be made which would bring texts out of TEI conformance.
Screen shots will be used to show alternate markup schemes of the same document done in Author/Editor.
Indexing the editions is a critical element in providing users with the same kind of intellectual access now provided by back-of-the-book indexes. We have developed a referencing scheme for SGML text and are now experimenting with the adaptation of NLCindex as an engine for the electronic presentation of manually produced indices to electronic text.
Automated processing for converting legacy data in another area we will be exploring in this second phase. For example, we will experiment with the Rainbow DTD and the Rainbow Makers available for word processing files commonly created by editorial projects in the States. We will also evaluate the SGML add-ons for Microsoft Word and the SGML version of WordPerfect.
The Model Editions Partnership will provide some concrete reference points for the construction of historical editions in electronic form; it will thus prepare the way for further efforts toward the construction of an entire database of historical editions available in electronic form with a consistent interface. A plausible next step, after the Partnership, would be a pilot project to create a small but intellectually meaningful and useful collection of related material, based on current historical editorial projects, and make it available to scholars in electronic form. Such a pilot project would address problems of intellectual property rights, delivery of the electronic editions, and provision of revenue for the ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the electronic form of the data, as well as providing a more extended example of historical editions in electronic form. The pilot project would in turn prepare the way for a concerted effort to construct a unified database of historical editions on a national level; at this point discussions of the details of such a national database are merely speculative, but we will give our best guesses as to its salient points.