American Memory Re-Imagined: A Digital Dialogue

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"American Memory" Re-imagined: Enhancing Scholarship through the Multiple Markup of Digitized Historical Texts

Susan Garfinkel and Jurretta Jordan Heckscher, Library of Congress

"’American Memory’ Re-Imagined" is a demonstration project to present items from the Library of Congress’s American Memory Historical Collections in alternative formats that expand their potential uses for digital scholarship and education. The Library, as it has worked to digitize a vast and rich array of primary materials for ever expanding audiences, has not yet had the luxury to consider scholarly enhancements that move beyond mere access. In particular, LC is only beginning to explore the full potential of XML markup–together with creative use of relational databases or similar back-end programming–as an enhancement to research, interpretation, and educational use of its digitized materials. Custom tags within a document might, for example, flag correspondence to LC subject terms, or allow users to sort the contents of a document by theme or topic–that is, to manipulate documents based on conceptual categories that can’t be retrieved using conventional search strings.

In this presentation we will consider three alternatives for the XML markup of a single digitized source, the Civil War diaries of Horatio Nelson Taft, currently presented on the Web at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/tafthtml/tafthome.html. While exploring the characteristics of these three markup schemes, which we have termed "cultural," "literary," and "library," respectively, we raise both practical and theoretical questions. How do we decide what it is we’re marking? How much markup is too much? Where does markup end and pure interpretation begin? Can we please every audience at once? These questions provide an opportunity to exchange insights at the early stages of a project designed to push the boundaries of humanities research with the innovative tools of new technology.

Contact: Neil Fraistat, Acting Director, MITH (mith@umd.edu, 5-5896).

By | 2017-02-05T21:16:32+00:00 Thu, Nov 3, 2005|Digital Dialogues|