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Consortium Formed for the Maintenance of the Text Encoding Initiative

April 14, 1999.

A new consortium has been formed for the maintenance and continuing work of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). The TEI is an international project to develop guidelines for the encoding of textual material in electronic form for research purposes; until now, it had been organized as a simple cooperative effort of the three sponsors, and funded solely by grant funds. Now four universities have agreed to serve as hosts for the new consortium, and the three organizations which founded the TEI and have governed it until now have agreed to transfer the responsibility for maintaining and revising the TEI Guidelines to the new consortium.

In the first five-year period of the consortium (2000-2005), the four hosts will be the University of Bergen (Humanities Information Technologies Research Programme), the University of Virginia (Electronic Text Center and Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities), Oxford University (Computing Services), and Brown University (Scholarly Technology Group).

The three original sponsoring organizations (the Association for Computers and the Humanities, the Association for Computational Linguistics, and the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing) will maintain close contact with the consortium in order to ensure a smooth transition to the new governance structure.

Representatives of the sponsoring organizations, the consortium hosts, and the user community expressed optimism that the TEI Consortium will provide a stable, useful organizational structure for the TEI. "If the TEI is to be useful to users in research and teaching," said John Unsworth of Virginia, "there must be a stable base of financial support. The TEI Consortium will make it possible to provide that support, and ensure that the TEI is around for the long term." Lou Burnard, the European Editor of the TEI and representative of one of the new host sites, agreed. "The TEI has always been about taking the long view of data for scholarship. If there were no TEI Consortium to provide for the maintenance of the Guidelines, it would be necessary to invent one. As, indeed, we have just found ourselves forced to do."

Manfred Thaller of the University of Bergen stressed the importance of spreading the word of the TEI in countries and disciplines where it has not yet been successfully disseminated. "For many people less familiar with markup and SGML and XML, the TEI is still a wholly unknown quantity. There are many populations in which it is still necessary to explain why having a widely used common encoding scheme is something people should be interested in, and why it should be in SGML or XML. The TEI Consortium will provide a useful basis for speaking to these communities."

With the rise of XML, some observers predict that the TEI Consortium has a window of opportunity to make TEI a much more widely used method of text encoding than ever before. "Now that common off-the-shelf browsers are beginning to support XML and style sheets," says David Chesnutt (who represents the ACH on the TEI consortium transition team), "we have something to give users that they can use, in their current environments, today. We no longer have to tell them about pie in the sky by and by -- there's software they can use right now. We'll always need more software for scholarly work, sure -- but it is a big improvement to be able to use Internet Explorer or Netscape to look at a historical documentary edition in its SGML form, instead of having to translate it into HTML or use a piece of software people wouldn't otherwise need to get." "When people see what XML and style sheets can do," said Allen Renear of Brown, "who is going to want to continue using HTML? They'll be looking for good DTDs to use -- and the TEI is going to be RIGHT THERE and ready for them."


The Text Encoding Intiative (TEI) is an international project to develop guidelines for the preparation and interchange of electronic texts for scholarly research, and to serve a broad range of purposes for the language industries more generally. During the ten years from 1988 to 1998, the TEI issued two sets of draft guidelines and one 'final' version (TEI P3). During this decade, the TEI has become the most widely used document-type definition for encoding full-text literary and linguistic resources in library collections and scholarly editorial projects.

The TEI's steering committee has been considering a reorganization of the project for some time, and issued calls for proposals last summer. The new consortium was proposed by the University of Virginia and the University of Bergen and was accepted, in February of 1999, by the TEI's three original sponsoring organizations, ACH, ACL, and ALLC.

The basic principles of the new consortium are these:

  • TEI guidelines, other documentation, and the TEI DTD should continue to be free to users

  • Participation in TEI governance should be open (even to non-members) at all levels

  • The TEI will continue to strive to be internationally and interdisciplinarily representative

  • No role with respect to TEI should be without term.

More information about the TEI consortium, membership and members' services, TEI guidelines and their implementation, and other TEI-related events, opportunities, and materials can be found at

The TEI Consortium

In response to a public request for proposals from the three sponsoring organizations that originally formed and supported the TEI, the University of Bergen and the University of Virginia proposed, and the original sponsoring organizations endorsed, a community-based, international, and collective mechanism for the maintenance and development of the Text Encoding Initiative, to take the form of a consortium. This consortium will include four host institutions (with a preference for the broadest possible international representation) who will host TEI meetings (on a rotating basis), commit institutional resources (in the form of cash and services) to building a membership base and to supporting the editorial operations associated with the TEI.

These hosts will recruit other members to the consortium, from library organizations, scholarly societies, and other groups with a proven and acknowledged interest in data standards; these members will pay an annual fee to belong to the consortium, in exchange for which, each will have a vote in the election of the TEI Council, early access to draft revisions and updates to the TEI DTD and its documentation, and discounts on TEI-related services. The TEI Council itself may include individuals who are not themselves from member institutions. A principal purpose of this consortium will be to provide expanded opportunities for representatives of various TEI user communities to participate in the management and direction of TEI, and to formalize the procedures for such participation: the first election of the TEI council and directorate will be held in the spring of 2000.

The consortium will also make it a priority to see that a corrected and updated version of the TEI P3 guidelines is issued as soon as possible, and in connection with that revision, to develop new training materials including practical examples of TEI markup in particular disciplinary contexts.

TEI's History

The TEI began with a planning conference convened by the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) and gathering together thirty-odd experts in the field of electronic texts, representing professional societies, research centers, and text and data archives. The planning conference was funded by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities (an independent federal agency) and took place at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York on 12-13 November 1987.

After two days of intense discussion, the participants in the meeting reached agreement on the desirability and feasibility of creating a common encoding scheme for use both in creating new documents and in exchanging existing documents among text and data archives; the closing statement (the Poughkeepsie Principles) enunciated principles to guide the creation of such a scheme.

Following the planning conference, the task of developing an encoding scheme for use in creating electronic texts for research was undertaken by three Sponsoring Organizations, the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH), the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), and the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC). Each sponsoring organization names representatives to a Steering Committee, which is responsible for the overall direction of the project.

With support from NEH and later from the Commission of the European Communities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the TEI began the task of developing a draft set of Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. Working committees comprising scholars from all over North America and Europe drafted recommendations on various aspects of the problem, which were integrated into a first public draft (document TEI P1), which was published for public comment in June 1990.

After the publication of the first draft, work began immediately on its revision. Fifteen or so specialized work groups were assigned to refine the contents of TEI P1 and to extend it to areas not yet covered. So much work was produced that a bottleneck ensued getting it ready for publication, and the second draft of the Guidelines (TEI P2) was released chapter by chapter from April 1992 through November 1993.

In the spring of 1993, all published chapters were revised yet again, some other necessary materials were added, and the development phase of the TEI came to its conclusion with the publication of the first `official' version of the Guidelines (the first one not labeled a draft) in May 1994.

Since that time, the TEI has concentrated on making the Guidelines more accessible to users, teaching workshops and training users, and on preparing ancillary material like tutorials and introductions.


John Unsworth

Prepared by Robin Cover for the The SGML/XML Web Page archive.

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