• Nick Thieberger deposited A (cautionary) tale of two texts on Humanities Commons 1 week, 2 days ago

    In this presentation, we reflect on our experiences working on two contrasting manuscripts in an institutional environment where TEI has little uptake. In particular, we explore some of the challenges and tradeoffs we encountered creating digital editions with only limited institutional support for sustainable Digital Humanities research software infrastructure and training. The first manuscript we worked with is a handwritten German text (BL) of some 100,000 words, to which we added a transcript, notes, facsimiles, and a translation. We used the TEI to encode people, places, bibliographical references, and fictional characters. This was published online using TEI Publisher Web Components and required the team (DR, RT) to create a virtual machine, build a Django interface, provision a IIIF server, provision storage for images, and maintain the site over time, all of which incurs significant technical debt and requires specialised skills.

    The second manuscript (NT) comprises 8,000 words of ethnographic notes from Vanuatu in 1914. An HTML version built by NT presents the text and images of the manuscript originals, sometimes up to eleven different page images corresponding to the same text, with decisions required to arrive at a consensus document. It is housed on a site controlled by NT, and is picked up by the Internet Archive. It requires no maintenance and has no dependencies, and NT was able to build the site himself.

    How can we scope projects, understand the workload implications, and manage the expectations of academics who become excited after seeing completed TEI projects and want to apply the technology in their work? What kind of ongoing support is required to keep a site like this going?
    While some institutions have TEI support services that can guarantee ongoing access to encoded texts, what is the best strategy for an academic who does not have access to local TEI support services that can guarantee ongoing access to encoded texts?