PublicHistory Building a Swiss Army Knife: A Panel on DocTracker, a Multi-Tool for Digital Documentary Editions

AHA Session 224
Sunday, January 6, 2013: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Southdown Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Edward G. Lengel, Papers of George Washington and University of Virginia
The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age
DocTracker: A Swiss Army Knife for Digital Editions
Bob Oeste, Johns Hopkins University Press
Creating a Born-Digital Documentary Edition: Dolley Madison Digital Edition
Holly C. Shulman, University of Virginia; Dolley Madison Digital Edition; Documents Compass
The CWG-K: Building an Intelligent Database, Serving Future Scholarship
R. Darrell Meadows, Kentucky Historical Society
Working with the Financial Records of George Washington: Data and Database
Jennifer E. Stertzer, Papers of George Washington and University of Virginia
The Audience

Session Abstract

Documentary Editions in the field of history have long been an important resource for historians.  20th century letterpress documentary editions consist of expertly dated, accurate transcriptions with annotations that frame, contextualize, and explain the documents.  In the 21st century, we are witnessing a transition to electronic editions, the publication of which implicitly raises the question of the impact of medium on content and research, especially of structured data. 

Some of the 20th century print editions are now available on line, such as the Papers of Thomas Jefferson or the Papers of George Washington. Many of these are published by Rotunda, the Electronic Imprint of the University of Virginia Press.  These publications, however, are conceived as print and remain organized by print conventions – although some use digital content management systems for their workflow, such as the Papers of Thomas Jefferson and the Foreign Relations of the United States.[1]  Side by side with these critical projects the publication of born-digital editions began appearing about a decade ago.

This panel will examine questions of process and content for born-digital documentary editions in the field of history.  We will do this through a presentation of a new production system called DocTracker.  We will both demonstrate this tool and ask what structured information can add to documentary editions as resources for the study of history. This panel includes the DocTracker developer and three born-digital project editors, the Dolley Madison Digital Edition, the Papers of George Washington – Financial Series, and the Civil War Governors of Kentucky.  We then hope for extended conversation and participation from the audience.

[1] The first of these uses a system called Pubman, the second a system known as Drupal.

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