Iain Emsley

Submitted Entry for 2015 Competition


This year is the 200th anniversary of Ada Lovelace’s birth. Considered to have written the world’s first computer programme, she entered into a long correspondence with Charles Babbage. She translated Luigi Menebrea’s article on the Analytical Engine with her own notes. There are several letters between Lovelace and Babbage that discuss the editing history and the changes to the notes. Editions of this text exist on the World Wide Web.

In the residency at the British Library, I would like to create a contextual critical edition of the Notes enriched by the correspondence to give it a sense of the editorial effort and the time spent creating the document. Inversely, the text can be embedded into the letters to link the discussions to the final text, or any variants of the text that might exist in the library.

My aim would be to provide a prototype by the end of the residency and a contextual, critical edition of the text and relevant letters. Using hypermedia and transclusion allows the texts to be enriched and made relevant to a range of users.

Assessment Criteria

The research question / problem you are trying to answer

Please focus on the clarity and quality of the research question / problem posed:

Letters and ephemera are a vital part of the creative and editorial process. In this work, I want to focus on the use of letters to provide context for the text in questions. Conversely the text may provide context for the letters and the decisions made.

This work will also explore the use of transclusion to create critical editions using these underlying contexts. Rather than just link to the page, the underlying ideas in transclusion and hypermedia are worth re-exploring to promote new ways of publishing content across collections. Rather than just using metadata, re-using and embedding data challenges developers to consider new methods of publishing rather than just using content management systems or redirecting users to other links. Through exploring and embedding the text into the letters, we can provide textual context to the abstract conversations about the translation and also discuss some of the mathematical ideas being discussed.

Please explain the ways your idea will showcase British Library digital collections

Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at http://labs.bl.uk/Digital+Collections

Although focussed on one document, this project aims to build a contextual edition of texts embedded with their ephemera. Using the anniversary of her birth, the Lovelace translation of the Menebrea article on the Analytical Engine provides a view of an important person and text which might be considered niche.

This idea will enrich the Babbage letter collection by combining it with an open text that it is being discussed in some of his letters with Ada Lovelace.

This will enrich with the collections by providing context of the texts discussed as well as any other metadata which might be mined from the letters. Using an open source of the text, the letters show the print and editorial conversations used to create it and place it into text history. The letters are enriched as the document could be used and embedded into them to show the final changes.

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods / techniques / processes involved

Indicate and describe any research methods / processes / techniques and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc.

The main text would ideally be converted into a suitable format, such as TEI or plain text, with the data and the metadata. Text mining would be used to identify the positions of the text to be pulled across the edition to be shown to the user.

The Xanadu project uses link documents to set up the links and this would be the initial approach. Performance and access requirements may determine the changes to this, as would requirements for non-technical users to create the documents.

Please provide evidence of how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the Labs team

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

I have embedded TEI into HTML (https://github.com/austgate/firstfolio-tei ) for the First Folio released by the Bodleian.

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis

Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first).

The texts will need to be converted into a suitable format to show the structures. If ideas are taken from the Xanadu project, then a link document and parsing engine will need to be developed. I may need some help with identifying and creating queries from internal interfaces. Technical advice about other approaches would be very helpful. I believe that byte ranges can be used to embed other documents into the main presentation.

Curatorial expertise may be required to help identify and collate the data sources and to identify the correct outputs and formats. Also expertise in finding other data and sources would be useful.

Using open texts, I would hope that I would not require help with licensing or other legal issues. However this may need to change if other data sets are identified.

Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your project idea by working with the Labs team

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning project idea between June 2015 - October 2015.

June 2015
Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
BL: Provide the Babbage letter data.
BL: Identify the potential contexts.
IE: Identify open sources of the Menebrea text.
IE: Convert the texts into the agreed source.

July 2015 - September 2015
Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
IE: Convert the texts into the agreed format.
IE: Create the link document.
IE: Create the initial prototypes for both texts and letters.
BL & IE: Look at ways of creating a user interface to create the links.

Ideally during this period, there will be the opportunity to demonstrate the current work and discuss any issues with curators and technical staff.

September 2015
IE: Be in a position to demonstrate the prototype.
IE and appropriate BL staff - write paper on the aims and methodology.

October 2015
Activity described here (e.g. what, when and by who)
Although October is for tidying up, I do anticipate using it for any tidying up or slippage should this happen.
IE: Packaging the software.
IE: Write up the documentation.
IE: Look at using the software for other collections and projects.