Archive for March, 2011

Bentham in the Community

By Valerie H Wallace, on 25 March 2011

The Bentham Project is launching an exciting new public engagement initiative – Bentham in the Community – to bring together academic and amateur historians and raise awareness of the life and work of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832).

Funded by a Beacon Bursary from UCL Public Engagement, the project will consist of three events aimed at situating UCL more firmly within the local community. The first two events will be evening information sessions, one held at UCL and the other in Spitalfields near where Bentham was born, and will feature talks by Bentham Project staff and amateur historians. The third event will be a Bentham walk around parts of London. These events will take place in May during the Historical Association’s Local History Month.

Tickets and more information will be available soon!

Six months later…

By Tim Causer, on 8 March 2011

Way back in the mists of time, when Transcribe Bentham was first announced and subsequently launched onto an unsuspecting world, we could never have imagined it to be as successful as it has. Aside from the publicity generated—including articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Boston Globe, Wired magazine, and the The New York Times, a Deutsch Welle World radio feature and dozens of blog pieces—you, our users, have been responsible for editing over 1,000 transcripts during this time. We are sincerely thankful to each and every person who has registered an account and taken the time to transcribe something, whether it was just a few words or several manuscripts; we are particularly grateful to those who have continued to submit transcriptions on a regular basis.

Transcribe Bentham was established under funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s ‘Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact’ Scheme, which provided funding to the project for twelve months. Of this period, several months were set aside at the start for programming and testing of the Transcription Desk, followed by a six-month period in which it would be fully available for users. 8 March 2011 sees the end of that six-month testing period, and the team set about writing up our findings for publication before being assigned to other work.

This means a number of things. As of 9 March, we will no longer be able to man the Transcription Desk on a full-time basis, though the site will be available and fully-functional for the foreseeable future. We will check submissions periodically and update the Benthamometer and progress reports, as well as announcing any new material which might be uploaded to the site. However, we will be unable to acknowledge each submission individually, edit them as thoroughly or offer detailed feedback, as we have been doing. We will still be available to field enquiries and questions via email and the discussion forum, though again, responses will be less regular than usual.

We realise that this will be disappointing to our regular users, who have invested a great deal of their time and effort in making Transcribe Bentham such a success so far. It is equally disappointing for project staff, as we believe this is an important project, in and of itself, and hopefully carries a few lessons for others who might wish to do something similar with their own archival collections. Sadly, this is the way of humanities funding these days! But rest assured: we have explored—and are continuing to explore—ways of returning full staff support to the project, and will keep you updated via this blog and the Facebook page.

We hope this does not dissuade people from transcribing: each and every transcript, no matter its quality, is a contribution to the production of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, and to the preservation of the collection in a digital repository of the Bentham Papers. We believe Bentham would have been thrilled with the project: not merely because people continue to study and read his manuscripts more than 250 years after his birth, but because it has seen collaboration between scholars and the public to widen access to and engagement with the Bentham Papers. To use phraseology from the man himself, users’ efforts (and perhaps pains in some cases) have indeed increased the quotient of happiness within the community. All here at the Bentham Project are very proud of Transcribe Bentham, and of you, the contributors.

This is not a valedictory; we will still be around and checking in and, as stated, the Transcription Desk will remain available in the long-term. Think of this not as the end, but just as the end of the beginning; after all, we still have another 39,000 or so manuscripts to transcribe…

with our best wishes and thanks,

Valerie and Tim

First fruits of Transcribe Bentham

By Tim Causer, on 3 March 2011

Aside from contributing to the production of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, a further aim of Transcribe Bentham is to increase user access to and participation with the Bentham Papers. We intend to have digitised around 12,500 manuscript images which will be made available through UCL’s Digital Collections. At the time of writing, nine boxes worth of Bentham material have been uploaded and more will be progressively added.

Transcripts produced by Transcribe Bentham will also be added to the collection alongside the relevant manuscript images, with the aim of producing a full-text searchable archive of the Bentham Papers which we hope will prove an invaluable resource for students, the general public and researchers alike.

Transcripts generated by Transcribe Bentham users of material from Boxes 2, 27, 70, and 95 have recently been added to the collection and are now available to view. Users of the resource need to scroll down or select a manuscript beside which there is a red ‘XML’  icon, such as beside MS/002/008 in this image; this icon signifies that a transcript has been uploaded and clicking it will display it.

Users might wish to see the transcript alongside the manuscript image, which can be done by first clicking the ‘side-by-side’ view icon in the top-right of the screen. This will initially bring up a second version of the transcript, so click the blue ‘JPG’ icon above the second transcript, followed by the ‘full view’ icon to display the transcript and image correctly.

More images and transcripts will be added to the digital collection in the forthcoming weeks and months. We are hugely grateful to Transcribe Bentham users for providing these transcripts, and hope you enjoy seeing the fruits of your labours preserved and made available for everyone in this way. Users can have a look for themselves here.

(Thanks too to UCL’s Digital Curation team for uploading the transcripts).

More new material available!

By Tim Causer, on 1 March 2011

More manuscript images have been uploaded to the Transcription Desk, this time relating to Bentham’s 1823 publication, Not Paul, but Jesus (this was published under the pseudonym ‘Gamaliel Smith’.

Not Paul, but Jesus sees Bentham compare the teachings of Paul with those of Jesus, and argue that the religion of both men differed significantly. Bentham suggests that Jesus was a hedonist, while Paul was an ascetic who sought to gain control of the emerging Christian movement to gain the power, wealth and reputation he believed it would bring him. Bentham argued that it was owing to Paul that asceticism characterised the teachings of the Christian Church, and that there was nothing in the accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus to support it.

This hugely interesting material is now available for users to read and transcribe!