William Blake Archive
The Andrew Blake (1757-1827) Archive in North Carlolina, USA, is "not a physical repository of Blake's collected works, nor is it a clearinghouse through which users can obtain reproductions of those works. [...]" It is "an online hypermedia environment that allows its users to access high-quality electronic reproductions of a growing portion of Blake's work. These reproductions have been prepared according to the highest technical and scholarly standards, with the cooperation of a number of the major museum, library, and private collections. By eventually incorporating as much of Blake's pictorial and literary canon as possible—with both images and texts organized, interlinked, and searchable in ways that only hypermedia systems will allow—the Archive will for the first time give scholars and students access to the major intersections between the illuminated books and Blake's other creative and commercial works. [...] Though "archive" is the term we have fallen back on, in fact we envision a unique resource unlike any other currently available for the study of Blake—a hybrid all-in-one edition, catalogue, database, and set of scholarly tools capable of taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by new information technology." "Through intensive collaboration, initially between the editors and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) and now between the editors and the Carolina Digital Library and Archives (CDLA), the Archive has been able to achieve exceptionally high standards of site construction, digital representation, and electronic editing that are, we believe, models of their kind. Advanced principles of design allow the Blake Archive to integrate editions, catalogues, databases, and scholarly tools into one electronic archival resource. We supply reproductions that are more accurate in color, detail, and scale than the finest commercially published photomechanical reproductions and texts that are more faithful to Blake's own than any collected edition has provided. To accomplish this with equally high standards, we publish works in Standard Mode and Preview Mode. For fully published works in the Archive, we supply a wealth of contextual information, which includes full and accurate bibliographical details and meticulous descriptions of the content of each image. Works published in our Preview Mode lack descriptions of Blake's pictorial designs and image-search capabilities but offer all the other features of fully published works. Finally, users of the Archive can attain a new degree of access to these works through the combination of powerful text-searching and (for the first time in any medium) advanced image-searching tools that are made possible by the editors' controlled vocabulary, detailed image descriptions, and innovative software, including two custom-designed Java applets. Although we have designed the Archive to serve scholars and the general public within the limits of existing systems, we have built in considerable allowance for future improvements in hardware and software.[...] The Archive now contains fully searchable and scalable electronic editions of many copies of all of Blake's 19 illuminated works in the context of full, up-to-date bibliographic information about each image, scrupulous "diplomatic" transcriptions of all texts, detailed descriptions of all images, extensive bibliographies, a searchable electronic version of the standard printed edition, and other essential scholarly information, plus a steadily growing representation of Blake's works in other artistic media. This extended Archive aims to set a new standard of accessibility to a vast array of visual and textual materials that are central to an adequate grasp of the British art and literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. [...] In 2005, the Archive completed a major conversion from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and DynaWeb software to eXtensible Markup Language (XML) and eXtensible Stylesheet Language: Transformations (XSLT) in order to help realize this vision. By making this shift in markup and technical standards, the Archive positioned itself squarely in the field of current electronic humanities projects. Our new technical standards will help to make the Archive more powerful and flexible as a tool for scholarship, as well as to ensure the availability of these resources well into the future. And as we moved our old materials from SGML to XML, we also used the opportunity to revise the Archive's structure and presentation of Blake's materials—eliminating "Non-Illuminated Materials" as a single, all-encompassing method of grouping what is a vast body of pictorial and textual materials—as well as to streamline some of the Archive's features. From this stronger foundation, we are continuing to prepare a wealth of Blake's works in different media for publication as part of the XML Archive. The collaborative procedures we are developing, which we hope will become useful prototypes of "distance editing," depend upon intensive day-to-day teamwork among the three editors and the staff of CDLA to integrate the textual, art-historical, critical, and technical expertise necessary for the construction of a scholarly resource as complex as this one. We see the products of our collaboration as similarly prototypical: in facing new technical and editorial challenges, the Blake project will leave future archivers, editors, and cataloguers the benefits of new tools. The Document Type Definition (DTD) developed by the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) has become the default standard for encoding text-based projects in the humanities. The Blake Archive DTD, however, was originally designed to encode both text data and image data. Our DTD has much in common with the TEI DTD, but the BAD DTD is still more suitable for the Archive's needs. In addition, software developed by IATH, such as our Java applets Inote and ImageSizer, is adaptable to virtually any project in which images are important."

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Saturday, 17 March 2012 - 10:26pm
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