British Women Romantic Poets, 1789-1832: 2000-2002 Project Update

The past two years have been fruitful ones. We have launched many new texts, and will soon be mounting our 80th text. We have continued to focus our efforts on the production of accurately transcribed and carefully coded literary texts. We continue to produce our texts using SGML for our digital-archival version. Last but not least, we have benefitted greatly from the skills of Electronic Resources cataloger Jared Campbell, who is advising us as we prepare MARC records for our texts and make these available to the library community. Jared is also helping us integrate BWRP texts into the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service's OAIster Search Interface. These efforts will make our texts more broadly available to researchers and students.

Early in 2001, we began exploring the possibility of converting our texts from SGML to XML. We are now able to do this, and we await eagerly the availability of an XML user interface architecture that will allow us to provide more sophisticated functionality. We hope to work with the California Digital Library or with another repository, to make our repository part of a larger digital collection. Meanwhile we continue to scan, encode, edit, and mount in SGML and HTML formats Kohler texts by women in the Romantic Period, and we continue to have faith that a user interface will someday be available that will allow users to search our texts.

BWRP continues to attract over 5000 users per month to our home site, and each individual text is accessed between 50 and 350 times each month. We know that users are finding our site through many sources: our library catalog, the Internet Public Library, Britannica Online, Literature Online, U. Penn.'s "A Celebration of Women Writers" website, and many others. We know that graduate students are using our texts as the basis for further editorial projects and simply as a source for rare texts. We know the site continues to draw a large general, non-academic audience.

Early in 2000, the project was approached by electronic publisher Alexander Street Press, who wished to work with us to create an online archive/anthology of poetry by Scottish Women in the Romantic Period. I worked with Professor Stephen Behrendt of Nebraska (a member of our Editorial Advisory Board), to choose texts, supply bibliographic and biographical contextual material, and solicit essays on the poets from other members of the BWRP advisory board and from other scholars. The result has been an electronic publication, "Scottish Women Poets of the Romantic Period" (Alexander Street Press, 2002). While this is a commercial product, the texts contributed by BWRP remain freely accessible through the BWRP website.

In 1998, we wrote that we believed there was a large group of scholars who would benefit by greater access to poetic texts by British women poets in the Kohler Collection. Our experience has shown this to be true, and has taught us as well that making literary texts available on the web brings them into the realm of students and readers who are not associated with the academic research community. In some ways, this has been the most gratifying result of our work.

What are the challenges for the future? There are three: finding a way to encode the remaining 200 texts before THIS millenium ends. Second, finding a preservation repository for the texts we've created, and providing metadata that will ensure that these texts will be available for future generations. Third, we'd like our texts to be part of a digital infrastructure that encourages students to use them in as many ways as possible. We hope that the California Digital Library can work with us to create this level of access.

Meanwhile, if we can simply preserve our encoded texts, and I believe we can, they will be there waiting for builders of search interfaces and portals. That's where we're focussing our energies.

Nancy Kushigian
General Editor
July 2002.

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This page updated 7/3/02.