Archive for the 'Digitisation' Category

Code for Transcribe Bentham MediaWiki plugins available

By Tim Causer, on 12 July 2011

As regular readers know, the award-winning Transcribe Bentham Transcription Desk was programmed and put together by a highly-talented team at the University of London Computer Centre, led by Richard Davis. Those who are thinking about crowdsourcing their own manuscript collection will no doubt be interested to learn that Richard has recently made available the code for the Transcribe Bentham MediaWiki plugins here. They comprise the transcription toolbar, support for TEI markup, and support for viewing images. There are accompanying instructions on how to make the code work, and details of other plugins used to produce the Transcription Desk.

To use these plugins, you – or someone on your team – must be familiar with the installation and setting up of MediaWiki on a web server. You should also be prepared for the possibility that some settings within the code are specific to Transcribe Bentham, and be able to reconfigure them for your own purposes.

You may wish to consult Richard’s instructions which will no doubt prove far more helpful than this blogpost. We hope the plugins will be of use to those wishing to use them!

(with thanks to Richard and his team for putting this together)

Transcribe Bentham volunteer transcripts in UCL’s digital repository

By Tim Causer, on 16 June 2011

In a previous blog entry, we wrote about how a first batch of volunteer-produced transcripts had been uploaded to UCL’s digital repository, and how they could be viewed alongside the manuscript image.

Almost 600 transcripts produced by Transcribe Bentham volunteers have now been uploaded to the repository, and are viewable. Volunteers may also be interested to note that it is also possible to search for transcripts upon which they have worked. Using the ‘advanced search‘ option, simply select ‘Bentham Collection’ from the drop-down ‘select collection’ menu, type the volunteer’s username or surname into the first text field, click the button to its left, and press ‘go’. Volunteers will then be presented with a list of transcripts in which they have had a hand.

As more transcripts are added and more data can be searched, so the value of this resource grows. The project team are again extremely grateful to volunteers for producing 1,433 transcripts – 1,193 (83%) of which are complete – since the project began last September. We estimate that to date volunteers have cumulatively transcribed – at a conservative estimate – at least 350,000 words.

Volunteer’s efforts are assisting in the production of the new Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham and, through the digital repository, widening access to the collection and ensuring its long-term preservation for all. More transcripts will be added to the repository in due course, so watch this space.

Thanks again to UCL Library’s IT Service team for uploading the transcripts and hosting the collection.

Box 71 now available!

By Valerie H Wallace, on 13 May 2011

New material has been added to the Transcription Desk! Box 71 contains Bentham’s writings on his proposed penal code. He discusses a variety of crimes and their punishments including: adultery, theft, falsehoods, personal injuries, confinement, destruction, fraud, insolvency, desertion, offences against religion, rebellion and treason.

Box 71 was written around 1780 when Bentham was in his early 30s and when his ‘scrawl’, as he called it, was still respectable! Have a go at transcribing his folios!

Exciting New Box Available!

By Valerie H Wallace, on 7 April 2011

Transcribe Bentham may be down, but it is not out! More exciting material is being uploaded to the Transcription Desk and a new box is available now to transcribe.

Box 72 contains interesting and controversial material on animal cruelty, self-mutilation, abortion and paederasty.  Bentham wrote these papers in the 1770s and 1780s when his handwriting was still respectable so even if you are new to transcription, these exciting manuscripts are definitely worth a look!

Visit the Transcription Desk to read what Bentham had to say about these topical issues.

Happy transcribing!

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