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Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services

Future of Editing

This term we are fortunate to be welcoming six expert editors to Oxford to share their knowledge of editing. Their practical experience in a variety of fields of academic editing embrace text from different periods and genres, in manuscript and in print, as well as editing scholarly contributions to a co-authored monograph. You can download the event flyer or learn more about the programme below.

All seminars will be held at 12.00, in the Access Grid Room, Oxford e-Research Centre, 7 Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3QG.
They are free and open to all. A sandwich lunch will be provided after each seminar: please join us to continue the conversation!

Professor Ian Gadd, Bath Spa University
“Aren’t you rather young to be an editor?”: editing the History of Oxford University Press
Thursday 6 November

Dr Nicole Pohl, Oxford Brookes University
“An Editor’s duty is indeed that of most danger” (Piozzi): editing Sarah Robinson Scott
Monday 10 November

Dr Philip Carter, Oxford University Press
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s Online Evolution: recent past and not too distant future
Thursday 13 November

Professor James Loxley, University of Edinburgh
On the Road with Ben Jonson, or, How Do You Edit a Walk?
Thursday 20 November

Professor Joanne Shattock, University of Leicester
Editing a Prolific Author: Margaret Oliphant
Thursday 27 November

Professor Scott McCracken, Keele University
Editing Stream of Consciousness: the Dorothy Richardson Editions
Thursday 4 December

The seminars are part of the Future of Editing series and are generously supported by the John Fell Fund.

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BDLSS has begun producing a termly newsletter to provide information and updates on our projects and services. The Michaelmas 2014 issue of the newsletter is now online, and it features news about several of our exciting current projects, as well as a staff profile of our Digital Research Facilitator, Matthew Kimberley.

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The Oxford University Research Archive (ORA) is undergoing a great deal of enhancement and improvement. A key BDLSS service and an integral part of the University’s Open Access Programme and the Bodleian Libraries’ Strategic Plan, ORA is working with the University to support the new HEFCE policy and the incoming research data mandate of EPSRC. ORA will launch a data service during Michaelmas term, which will complement the University’s existing support for research data management.

Please see this presentation for a look at ORA in its current incarnation.

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illumination from MS. Barocci 31

An image from one of the Bodleian's digitized manuscripts, MS. Barocci 31

For the past two years, members of BDLSS and the Bodleian’s Imaging Services department have been hard at work digitizing books and manuscripts for the Polonsky Foundation Digitization Project. This project is a collaboration between the Bodleian Library and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, with the aim of digitizing 1.5 million pages of ancient and medieval materials. More information can be found on the project website, which was launched in December 2013, and which features blog posts, video content, and detailed information about a few featured books and manuscripts, including the Bodleian and Vatican copies of the Gutenberg Bible.

At this point, six months after the site launch, a wealth of new material is online. The Vatican has digitized almost 200 15th-century printed books, and the Bodleian has digitized 60 Greek manuscripts and is rapidly adding to that number. Dozens of academic libraries have incorporated the site into their lists of electronic resources for students of history, art and classics, and we have also heard from a scholar who is working on a font that mimics the text of the Gutenberg Bible.

You can learn more about the details of digitization (including a few things that have been more difficult than we expected!) by reading our blog posts. You can also get news of the project and see images of the manuscripts by following us on Twitter (@BDLSS).

Stories from the Desktop

(aka The Dog Ate My Homework):

editing Reviews in History

We’re excited to be hosting the next seminar in our series on the Future of Editing this week. Whether you are writing a blog about your research, incubating plans for a new digital journal, or submitting work for online publication, this seminar is for you!

Who: Danny Millum (Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study at the University of London) is the Deputy Editor of Reviews in History.

When: 12 noon, Friday 14 March, 2014

Where: Conference Room, Oxford eResearch Centre, 7 Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3QG

Are you involved in online academic publication? Would you like to engage new audiences in your field?

Danny Millum is the Deputy Editor of the online journal Reviews in History, published by the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research, He will discuss his experiences coaxing copy from contributors and kindling scholarly debate in the digital world.

An early adopter of the Open Access model, Reviews in History has been publishing respected academic book reviews online for nearly two decades. Reviews are sourced from researchers worldwide and cover all subjects and periods of post-Classical history. Danny joined the team in 2008, and has extensive experience in commissioning, editing and publishing, contributions to the journal.

Reviews in History has championed academic debate, encouraging its authors to engage with their online audiences since its inception. Come and join the conversation!

This event is free to attend, and no registration is required. You can download a poster for this seminar.

We are grateful to the John Fell Fund for the grant to run our Future of Editing seminar series.

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It gives us great pleasure to announce our first seminar co-hosted with colleagues at the Oxford e-Research Centre.

Who: Professor J. Stephen Downie

What: Unlocking the Secrets of 3 Billion Pages: Introducing the HathiTrust Research Center

When: 13.30, Wednesday 22 January, 2014

Where: Oxford e-Research Centre, Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3QG

The HathiTrust is a partnership of over eighty major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future.

Over 10 million volumes have been ingested into the HathiTrust digital archive from sources including Google Books, member university libraries, the Internet Archive, and numerous private collections. The HathiTrust Research Center is dedicated to facilitating scholarship using this enormous corpus through enabling access to the corpus, developing research tools, fostering research projects and communities, and providing additional resources such as enhanced metadata and indices that will assist scholars to more easily exploit the HathiTrust corpus.

This briefing will outline the mission and goals of the HTRC. It will also introduce current and planned projects, including its work on enabling the non-consumptive analyses of copyrighted materials. It will conclude with a discussion of the ways in which scholars can work with and through the HTRC.

Stephen Downie is Associate Dean for Research and a Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Illinois Co-Director of the HathiTrust Research Center.

You can download a flyer for this event.

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We are delighted to announce seminars by Dr Brett D. Hirsch (University of Western Australia) and Professor Greg Walker (University of Edinburgh), our first speakers in a new, interdisciplinary series on the future of editing.

The seminars are free, and open to all. Please join us for drinks afterwards.

You can download a poster [PDF] for the seminars.


photo of Dr Brett D. Hirsch

Electronically Editing Fair Em: Comedy, Computers, Canons, and Collaborators

Dr Brett D. Hirsch

5pm, Friday 8 November 2013
Room 3, Taylor Institution, St Giles’, OX1 3NA

Brett D. Hirsch is ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow and Research Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. He is the coordinating editor of the Digital Renaissance Editions, general editor of The Bibliography of Editions of Early English Drama, and an editor of the journal Shakespeare.

In 2013, Dr Hirsch is a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Fellow at De Montfort University’s Centre for Textual Studies. His current research includes computational studies of early modern dramatic style, authorship attribution, and electronic scholarly editions.


photo of Professor Greg Walker
Performance as Research: Performing the Three Estates

Professor Greg Walker

5pm, Friday 22 November 2013
Room 2, Taylor Institution, St Giles’, OX1 3NA

Greg is Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature, having previously been the Masson Professor of English at Edinburgh. Before that he was Professor of Early-Modern Literature and Culture and Director of the Medieval Research Centre at the University of Leicester.

Greg has written widely on late-medieval drama and poetry, Renaissance literature, the history of the stage in the period before the building of the professional playhouses, and the cultural consequences of the Henrician Reformation. He has also published on the early films of Alexander Korda and popular music in the 1970s.

He is currently Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded Staging and Representing the Scottish Renaissance Court project, with Professor Thomas Betteridge (Brunel University) and colleagues in Edinburgh, Southampton and Glasgow Universities, which, in collaboration with Historic Scotland and theatre professionals, staged productions of Sir David Lyndsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis in Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle in June 2013.


Editing is at the heart of text-based humanities research. Oxford has long been a home of scholarly and critical editing, thanks to its academics, its University Press, and its library collections. For over 12 years, the Bodleian Libraries has housed a team of digital editors, now part of BDLSS, making rare books and special collections available online.

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Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing inspiring stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

I have recently started work on getting metadata into Early Modern Letters Online, part of the Cultures of Knowledge project. Amongst the exciting women in science unearthed by this project are the Lister sisters, Susanna and Anna, who created scientific illustrations for Martin Lister’s natural history of shells, the Historiae Conchyliorum (1685-92). Elizabeth of Bohemia used cryptography and steganography to disguise the contents of her letters, many of which were about politics and military affairs. She also corresponded with Descartes.

On previous Ada Days, I have blogged about Wendy Hall (in 2009), Anita Borg (in 2010), Caroline Arms (in 2012), as well as Cecilia Payne Gaposhkin and Hedy Lamarr (on my personal blogs).

Katherine Jones

Another important woman in the EMLO collection is Katherine Jones, the sister of Robert Boyle. She was a scientist in her own right. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, she was the “leading woman intellectual of her generation, actively involved in contemporary politics, and deeply interested in educational, ethical, religious, and scientific matters”. She was a proponent of religious toleration, an active supporter of educational reform in Ireland, and a prominent member of the Hartlib Circle.

For the last thirty years of her life, Robert Boyle lived at her house in Pall Mall, and she commissioned Robert Hooke to build a laboratory for him, where, according to the ODNB, her involvement in his experiments was ‘not inconsiderable’.

One of her letters to Samuel Hartlib (dated 5 April 1659) was about ‘the life of  ”the famed Butler of Irel.” a physician and alchemist’. A transcript of this letter is available from the University of Sheffield.

Republic of Women: Rethinking the Republic of Letters in the Seventeenth Century by Carol Pal states that, on arriving in London in 1642, fleeing from the uprising in Ireland that had led to her home being besieged, she was already in touch with old friends from Ireland, several of whom were members of the Hartlib Circle. Several of these Anglo-Irish exiles met at her home to discuss philosophy, especially natural philosophy (which is what we now term ’science’). Her house may have been the meeting place of the “Invisible College“, one of the groups which went on to form the Royal Society. She also probably introduced her younger brother, Robert Boyle, to members of this group, and communicated with them about the progress of their experiments. She also practised medicine, and was involved in the politics of the day.

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We are delighted to announce a free workshop for teachers, led by Dr Emma Smith, whose research inspired our First Folio project.

You can download a flyer [PDF] for this event. Please help spread the word!

This workshop is focused around the publically funded digitized copy of the Bodleian Library’s First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays. The aim is to help teachers devise teaching resources using the digitized First Folio, by sharing ideas with colleagues, and drawing upon the expertise of the University.

Where: Hertford College, Oxford OX1 3BW

When: 11.00—15.30, Saturday, 22 June 2013

More info at the Sprint for Shakespeare website

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by Alexander Huber, Metadata Librarian

Digital Preservation Coalition workshop, 23rd April 2013, Pullman Hotel, London

Popular demand, from a variety of institutions and bodies, for a preservation metadata workshop has prompted the event. Preservation is an important field, and PREMIS and METS are the digital library standards in the field, which will be the focus of the day. The workshop’s Twitter hashtag is #dpc_metadata.

Preservation metadata: an overview – Richard Gartner, King’s College London

Richard Gartner offered an introduction to metadata, its uses and applications with a particular focus on preservation. Division of metadata into three areas: descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata. Focus here is on administrative metadata, preservation metadata is a special type of administrative metadata. Preservation metadata ensures the availability, identity, persistence, renderability, understandability, and authenticity of data. Preservation Metadata establishes a context around a digital object: provenance, preservation activities, technical and interpretative environment. PREMIS is the key metadata standard in this field, it’s been designed for the particular purpose of preservation. It is one of several digital library standards that define the digital library field, among them EAD, MARC, METS, and MODS. The core part of PREMIS is a data dictionary of core metadata elements. It is syntax-independent, however, an XML schema has been developed for it. The PREMIS data model revolves around five entities: rights, agents, events, objects, and intellectual entities. The object entity contains technical properties that are applicable to most formats (format, size, fixity, etc.); the events entity sets up an audit trail for the object resulting in a complete list of what has been done (digital provenance: capture, migration, compression, deaccession, virus check); the agents entity records any actors that have a role in events and rights statements, these agents may be humans, organizations, or software products; the rights entity records copyright and license information. It is useful to have a packaging standard to tie several metadata standards together, including descriptive and structural metadata. METS is the key standard for this purpose, the LoC is the host for this standard and its Website has information on implementation and uses of the standards, including tools for both PREMIS and METS. These facilitate the semi-automatic creation of metadata, offer integration of external tools such as JHOVE or the automatic creation of PREMIS events. There has been considerable uptake of PREMIS in recent years, the PREMIS implementation registry gives an overview of the adopters and their uses of the standard.

Digital Preservation Metadata: hands-on exercise – Angela Dappert, dpc

A methodological approach to the identification of needs and selection of appropriate metadata standards is key to the efficient implementation of a digital preservation strategy. In this hands-on exercise the example scenario is the taking in of e-journals from an academic publisher to be included in a library’s digital library infrastructure. Goals are the storage of all available metadata and ensuring the long-term availability of the content. The first step is the creation of a metadata profile that fits the objects that are to be described: what are the objects, what metadata do we need, which standards fulfil this purpose, and finally how do we go about implementation? A metadata profile for e-journals will need to take into account the concepts of the original domain (academic publisher), the sources of both objects and metadata, must understand the technical properties of the local library repository, and must successfully fulfill the requirements of a number of use cases, particularly any functions of the storage and delivery systems that must be supported and overall workflow integration. The exercise involved answering a set of questions about a file/folder structure of a submitted journal article. Steps highlighted included: identification of digital objects; relationships/dependencies/hierarchies between objects; any available metadata (types, sources, and formats, employed dictionaries, definitions need to be obtained form the publisher where unclear); ensuring fixity, authenticity and integrity; any available rights information, allowed uses of the content.

PREMIS Deep Dive: Personal view – Robert Sharpe, Tessella

PREMIS is available in a number of documentation formats for different types of users. PREMIS is an information model that helps to describe a repository’s infrastructure in support of digital preservation. PREMIS is used to describe hierarchical information of intellectual entities in a set of objects (e.g. collection, sub-collection, record, sub-record). Structural metadata is used to store this information about objects. PREMIS supports key information about the files and their entities, but also about different representations of the object (e.g. Word vs PDF/A) at various stages in the object’s history. Key information to capture are: identifier, category (representation, file, bitstream), preservation level, significant properties (types, value), characteristics (fixity, size, format, creating application and application version), original name, a link to the storage facility, environments (software, hardware), digital signature, relationships, linked events, linked intellectual entities, and linked rights statements that might be outside of the PREMIS environment. The concept of PREMIS conformance is designed to be independent of archiving system, preservation strategy, and metadata management process: there is a PREMIS XML Schema but you do not have to use it to be conformant. Conformance implies the implementation of the semantics of PREMIS, to use the names in the data dictionary, or to map to those where different ones are used, ability to add constraints but not to remove any. Conformance can be internal or external, i.e. within the repository or as a conformant output. Presenter explained implementation of PREMIS in the product SDB developed by the company. Company does not use the XML Schema as its use of preservation metadata predates PREMIS, it also needs to adapt quickly (add new features), needs more entities, and cuts out duplicated information (e.g. use of PRONOM PUIDs implies the registry for every format), holds storage separate from immutable metadata. However, there will always be an option to export to the PREMIS XML schema thus making implicit information explicit. PREMIS is “self-governed” by the community and is currently preparing version 3 of the standard, which will add the concept of an intellectual entity, adds environments, and allows for less verbosity.

METS is the answer (What was the question?) – Dave Thompson, Wellcome Library

Presenter gave an overview of the use of METS in the Wellcome Library. METS is ubiquitous these days, it exists in a variety of implementations as it is a fairly loose standard. We need to be very clear about the use and application of METS, and about which systems and applications are going to use and read it. METS is not designed for humans, it is a machine-to-machine transport mechanism. To be really useful, METS will not stand on its own, it will incorporate a number of other standards. METS in the Wellcome Library is not used for preservation, it is used to manage access, to amalgamate metadata from different systems, to carry metadata across systems, and to provide granular access to content. Goobi is used as the main METS tool, it provides a graphical interface to METS editor, is easy to use, allows for a mix of user input and automated metadata import, and supports the automated creation of METS files. On ingest of content into the repository (SDB), administrative metadata is created in Goobi, and descriptive metadata is imported from Sierra. METS allows for easy setting of default values based on either collections, projects, or the entire repository, which can be easily overridden on lower levels if necessary. Access management is the key function of the METS container in the Wellcome, which is achieved with very little metadata. METS is the Wellcome’s answer to diversity on various levels: diverse sources, diverse types of metadata, different purposes, different systems, and different formats. METS brings order into this diversity, it offers a single portable framework, which is able to provide communication between all the involved parties and systems.

METS in daily use by intrada – Steffen Hankiewicz, intrada GmbH

Intrada is a German company working with libraries on digitization projects and uses METS in that context. METS is used mainly in libraries, web portals, and digitization workflow providers. Libraries digitize a lot of materials all the time, good tools are now available to support this effort. METS can be made available publicly and shared via OAI-PMH, METS is now also required by the DFG for all funding applications. Intrada produces a lot of METS, Goobi is used for this purpose, also a universal capturing client that is driving digitization workflows produces METS, and in addition METS is imported from other sources via OAI-PMH. METS powers the intrada viewer software for digital objects and is used to deliver content to aggregators. Goobi is the central administration tool in the digitization workflow, the digitization software allows for easy creation of structural metadata including a detailed automatically OCR’d table of contents. METS is used for all types of materials, not just books, but museum items, video, photographs, etc. ALTO is used for OCR content. METS is also used to deliver any parts of digital object as requested, e.g. a chapter instead of the whole PDF. METS also records the dimensions of objects, so detailed user-centric zooming and panning can be provided. METS is offered to end users although access to the digital objects is not always available to end users. Challenges in the use of METS include: complex development (difficult to code software, different import formats, lots of mapping possibilities, multiple METS profiles, huge XML files); creation of METS during scanning not always trivial; assigning metadata to coordinates or sections of images or video; assigning metadata to time ranges; single file materials; use of MIX and PREMIS; yet to be developed strategy for long term preservation. Storage of user-contributed content is also a challenge, this is valuable information that needs to be recorded in a preservation infrastructure.

METS in the Cambridge Digital Library – Huw Jones, Cambridge University Library

METS powers the entire Cambridge Digital Library (CDL), behind every object in the CDL is a METS file. The METS files are not currently available, but will be made available in due course. CDL offers a means to aggregate, relate and structure digital objects, but does not do preservation metadata at the moment. CDL is pulling in information from different sources, e.g. transcriptions and translations of content, but there are sustainability and preservation issues in this model. METS is created with functionality at the centre: image viewer, metadata display, bibliographic library metadata, parallel display of images and transcriptions (imported on the fly) are prominent components of the CDL, administrative and rights metadata are activated when the user triggers certain events, e.g. requests to download a digital object. VIAF and LCSH are used as a means to link out to the Linked Data world. Relying on external services is a major concern for sustaining the functionalities in any digital library. In an increasingly closely knitted digital world, there are all sorts of issues with versioning, reliability, dependencies, resolving conflicting information, and achieving sustainability.

PREMIS, METS and preservation metadata: emerging trends and future directions – Eld Zierau, The Royal Library, Denmark

Eld Zierau concluded the workshop by drawing on developments at the Royal Library to highlight some of the directions for preservation metadata. Practices, challenges, and types of preservation levels will be discussed. Preservation strategy at the Royal Library includes migration, emulation and technology preservation, as well as bit preservation. The metadata standards chosen for the purpose of digital preservation are METS, MODS, PREMIS, MIX, AES, and possibly a few others. METS is used as a metadata container that wraps up all the other parts of the digital preservation infrastructure. PREMIS does not do it all, there are important technical metadata standards that are worth having a look at. The aim is to not re-invent, but use what is appropriate for the purpose of digital preservation. Sustainability and the community of implementers are important aspects of the bigger picture. Preservation, dissemination, and digital object management are closely interlinked, but are very different activities, preservation is often inward-looking and ideally static, dissemination is end-user centred and ideally dynamic. The required and/or desired representations of the digital objects need to be at the core of all considerations. The community also needs to think about the preservation of preservation metadata, preservation levels must be clearly expressed and communicated, and intellectual entities need to be sufficiently and effectively modelled. Bit-level preservation is a risky strategy, it requires lots of cross-checking and verification of integrity and independence of the preserved objects. Risks are on the technical, human, organizational, confidentiality, and accessibility levels. Bit safety, accessibility, and confidentiality are the key pillars for a long-lasting preservation strategy.

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