We Built it. Can They?: Text Encoding and the Humanities Scholar

Hope Greenberg
Academic Computing
University of Vermont
238 Waterman Bldg.
Burlington, VT 05405

The Text Encoding Initiative's "Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange" has had a profound impact on the innovators and early adopters of the electronic text world. Given the technical difficulties associated with creating these documents, it is not surprising that early adopters have tended to be large groups with resources to devote exclusively to these projects.

But is there a compelling pedagogical benefit to individual humanities scholar in creating TEI-encoded electronic texts? Should individual scholars be creators or simply consumers?

The University of Vermont is exploring these questions. With volunteer and student help, the Special Collections Department of the University's Bailey/Howe Library is digitizing their Finding Aids using the EAD DTD and building a page image and transcription collection of selected works using the TEI DTD and Model Editions Partnership (MEP) DTD.

Individual faculty and student projects underway include a page image backed by indexed OCR'd text edition of Godey's Lady's Book, the popular 19th century American magazine, as well as more deeply encoded editions of various works. Faculty workshops and an undergraduate course are also proposed, the resulting projects to be included in the University's electronic text collections.

For these projects the questions kept at the forefront are: can this model be duplicated by individuals or small groups with limited resources while remaining in concert with the broader text encoding world?

The assumption that because early adopters have created electronic texts, a majority of humanities scholars will or should do so, represents a large chasm. Unless the scholarly and pedagogical benefits derived from the creation, rather than just the consumption, of these texts is sufficient to offset the difficulty of undertaking such projects, that chasm may remain unbridgeable.


Chesnutt, David. "The Model Editions Partnership--Towards a National Database." Paper presented at the ACH/ALLC Joint Conference, 1997. Available online: <http://www.qucis.queensu.ca/achallc97/papers/p036.html>

Geoghegan, William H. "Whatever Happened to Instructional Technology?" Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Conference of the International Business Schools Computing Association, Baltimore, MD. 1994.

Moore, Geoffrey A. Crossing the Chasm. New York : HarperBusiness, 1991.

Rogers, Everett M. The Diffusion of Innovations. NY: The Free Press, 1995.

Willett, Perry. "Issues in Project Cooperation II: Markup Issues." Presented at the ACH/ALLC Joint Conference, 1998. Available online: <http://lingua.arts.klte.hu/allcach98/abst/jegyzek.htm

University of Vermont Electronic Text Collections: currently at < and <http://sageunix.uvm.edu:6336/dynaweb. Both moving to <http://etext.uvm.edu> in late spring of 1999.