3.245 Center for e-texts, ListServ group, liaisons (157)

Fri, 14 Jul 89 21:14:54 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 245. Friday, 14 Jul 1989.

(1) Date: Thu, 13 Jul 89 23:43:04 -0400 (110 lines)
From: bobh@phoenix.Princeton.EDU (Robert Hollander)
Subject: National Center for Machine-Readable Texts

(2) Date: 14 July 1989 (25 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: liaisons with other discussion groups

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 89 23:43:04 -0400
From: bobh@phoenix.Princeton.EDU (Robert Hollander)
Subject: A proposed U.S. National Center for Machine-Readable Texts
in the Humanities

Brief Description of Project

In 1981 the Council of Library Resources gave start-up funds
in the amount of $10,000 to Rutgers University so that the
Inventory of Machine-Readable Texts might come into existence.
The Mellon Foundation followed with a grant of $30,000 in 1982.
These funds enabled the project, directed by Marianne Gaunt of
the Alexander Library at Rutgers University, to establish itself
as the only organism in the world dedicated to the cataloguing of
all machine-readable texts in the various disciplines of the

In May 1989 NEH offered $30,000 in response to a proposal
made on behalf of a new initiative directed by Marianne Gaunt
(for Rutgers, the Project Director) and Robert Hollander (for
Princeton). What is envisioned is a National Center for Machine-
Readable Texts in the Humanities. NEH has insisted, in response
to the concerns expressed by various reviewers, that this year of
planning include a conference, national in scope and with
international collaborators, to be sure that the leading figures
in this inceasingly important area of humanistic research are
consulted and have a chance to offer advice as Rutgers and
Princeton decide how this project may best be implemented. In
order to have a schedule of work that might become functional
after a year of planning, a good deal of work needs to be done in
preparation. As a result, since the conference itself will cost
approximately $20,000 and the planning activities between $20,000
and $30,000, Rutgers and Princeton are seeking between $10,000
and $20,000 from other sources during the planning year and some
$20,000 in "bridge" funds to keep the project moving until
significantly larger amounts of money may become available from
NEH and other sources in 1991-92 to put the project into fully
operational mode. We have begun seeking help from six other
funding organizations at this time. We hope to be successful
with at least some of these in order to be able to implement as
much as we can as soon as possible.

In May of 1989 nineteen interested parties, five of them not
associated with Princeton or Rutgers (these people have now
become our advisory board), met at Dunwalke, a Princeton
facility, to discuss the nature of the proposed center and the
collaboration envisioned between Princeton and Rutgers and
between the proposed Center and the rest of the universe of
librarians, personnel of computer centers, and academics who have
the most at stake in the existence of such a center. A second
meeting, involving roughly half of those present at Dunwalke,
took place during the large "computer fair" at Toronto in June.
On both occasions the importance and desirability of establishing
such a center were strongly supported by all present. The time
seems ripe (it is perhaps overdue). We should add that Princeton
has now established two "Listservers" for the project, overseen
by Robert Hollander. These are both now operational, the first
for continuing consultation among those who met at Dunwalke, the
second for that group and others who have demonstrated interest
in being aware of our plans and in offering advice for our future
initiatives. All of us involved in this project are gratified by
the enthusiastic response the enterprise has already had. We are
optimistic that the Center will be off the drawing board and in
operation in a year or so. We will shortly be inviting some
fifty experts in this field to a two-day conference early in
March of 1990. In the meantime we are proceeding with our own
studies and plans.

What the Center is intended to accomplish is to bring into
being a mechanism which will facilitate the growth of interest in
the use of technological improvements in the way in which people
consult texts on computers. (We are not announcing the death of
the printed book. On the contrary, all experience indicates that
the existence of computerized texts has the effect of increasing
consultation of printed ones.) Thousands of texts already have
been computerized. What is needed is a central clearing house to
which those interested, scholars and students as well as the
general public, may apply for the following purposes:

1) to know if a particular text has been made machine-

2) to find out how and where to gain access to this

3) if it is not available, to discover how to have such a
text produced for their use.

This is a large undertaking with significant implications for the
future of study in the humanities. As of now it is clear that
the Center will perform the function originally conceived for the
Inventory. In the coming year we will need to consider the
extent to which the Center itself will collect datafiles not
already available in other holdings of these materials, how it
will preserve and disseminate these, and whether it should also
develop the capacity to produce machine-readable texts itself.
We believe that the conjoined resources of two major research
institutions, one public, one private, will not only be
sufficient to the task, but also serve as a model to others in a
time of increasing need for major projects in the humanities and
no visible sign that more resources will be made available for
this need.

Marianne Gaunt and Robert Hollander 29 June 1989

[NB: Those who are interested in becoming members of the ListServ group
should contact Robert Hollander, bobh@phoenix.princeton.edu, who will
also serve as the liaison member between this group and Humanist. See
also the note that follows. --W.M.]
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 14 July 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: liaisons with other discussion groups

Robert Hollander's ListServ seminar for scholars interested in the
(U.S.) National Center for Machine-Readable Texts in the Humanities is a
welcome development. Like TEI-L, a similar group serving the Text
Encoding Initiative, Hollander's seminar will allow interested Humanists
to discuss aspects of his project that would be far too specialized for
our membership. At the same time, Hollander has agreed to watch for
items of general interest in his seminar and submit them to Humanist so
that valuable contributions of a more general nature are not lost to us.

I would like to request somewhat more formally than before that any
Humanist who happens to edit another electronic seminar contact me about
a similar arrangement. Of course, things that appear here can by tacit
agreement be published elsewhere (read your Guide to Humanist), but I
would like to make sure that sharing takes place in a somewhat less
haphazard fashion than may have been the case so far.

I will be more than happy to help anyone interested in setting up a
related ListServ group, mostly with -- caveat computor -- good advice.

Willard McCarty