EpiDoc training workshop, Rome

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

At the beginning of October I ran a pre-conference tutorial on EpiDoc markup and tools at the TEI members’ meeting in Rome, co-taught with Ryan Baumann of Duke University. (Tutorial abstract on conference site.) We were hosted in the brand spanking new Vetreria Sciarra building of La Sapienza, on Via dei Volsci.

The first day of the tutorial was focused on EpiDoc recommendations for TEI encoding of epigraphic and papyrological texts. In the morning we gave a brief history of the EpiDoc community, introduced the Leiden Conventions, and the resources for learning the EpiDoc equivalents to the concepts therein (in particular the EpiDoc Guidelines, Cheatsheet, and SoSOL helper). Most of the day was set aside for participants to practice encoding text transcriptions or object description and history, using their own texts or inscriptions selected from online publications. (As noted below, however, at least one student would have found more practice valuable, especially basic exercises in markup.) In the afternoon we also presented the EpiDoc Example Stylesheets, showed students how to transform their EpiDoc files into simple HTML for testing, and discussed several options for parameterizing or customising the XSLT. Students were more keen to learn about transformation and customization than I had expected, based on experience from week-long EpiDoc summer schools taught over the past several years.

The second day, taught primarily by Ryan, with video appearance by Henriette Roued-Cunliffe, presented the participants with some strategies for converting large bodies of data in other formats into EpiDoc. Tools such as CHET-C (which is driven by regular expressions) and Leiden+ (the XSugar grammar for lossless converstion between XML and plain text) were described in some detail, and we thought about ways to incorporate both into a workflow for new projects. None of the students had brought along any epigraphic or other data that we could experiment with, so the discussion remained theoretical rather than practical. Ryan then gave an overview of Linked Open Data, and ways in which entities in EpiDoc editions (especially geographical references) can be linked to external authorities such as Pleiades. We talked about ways to generate RDF from encoded EpiDoc texts, but again without any data from the students to play with, this discussion remained theoretical. (In future events such as this, as suggested by one participant, we might bring along some texts of our own for people to play with in these sorts of ways.) The afternoon concluded with a general discussion of the future of EpiDoc, and of ways in which future workshops or meetings might take the work we had done in these two days further.

Clean slates ready to have EpiDoc inscribed on them

Students were from a range of backgrounds, including classicists with a general interest in markup, people working on digital encoding and cataloguing projects, developers looking to support TEI projects, and people working on major EpiDoc projects needing to learn more about the encoding, tooling, and project management workflows available. Discussions were very lively and at a higher level both technically and conceptually than I have engaged in with almost any other audience that has engaged with EpiDoc. Several new ideas arose which will make their way into the EpiDoc Guidelines and other tools, and I shouldn’t be at all surprised if a new collaborative project or two arose out of the conversations at this session.

Here follows a handful of testimonials from the participants themselves.

As a relative newcomer to TEI, I found the Epidoc workshop an extremely useful introduction to a part of TEI which is of great relevance to the materials in my library’s collections and the workshop provided plenty of inspiration for future project proposals around manuscript encoding. I found Gabriel Bodard’s level of knowledge to be very impressive and he was also very helpful in addressing questions I had.

James Treacy
Digital Infrastructure Services (DIS)
Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen, Denmark

(James was a developer with neither XML nor Greek and Latin experience, so was one of those with more interest in the theory behind EpiDoc encoding, with deployment and conversation strategies, rather than on the minutiae of encoding inscriptions or papyri.)

The main goal for visiting the hands-on tutorial was to get more familiar with the philological work with the EpiDoc module and with the technical infrastructure around, e.g. the html visualization. This is important for the customization of the functionalities of our open access online LAUDATIO-Repository for historical corpora. We did start to address the repository to linguists and will widen the scope of user scenarios to humanists dealing with historical research data. Therefore, it was really important to understand how for example EpiDoc is used for encoding historical data and which problems arise regarding different research questions and to understand the concepts of primary and secondary data of the research field. Additionally, to research goal – the html visualization of encoded data – which was presented in the tutorial will influence the further developments of our repository.

Thomas Krause und Carolin Odebrecht
Institut für deutsche Sprache und Linguistik, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

(Carolin and Thomas engaged very usefully both with the theoretical and the specific markup questions we discussed at the tutorial. They also brought a very specific library perspective to the discussions, which was valuable for everyone.)

What I have missed or, respectively, expected in your workshop yesterday and today was a more intensive and concrete step by step instruction for the digital working with inscription material. (–> less discussion/brainstorming parts and more exercise parts!)

Celia Krause
Technische Universität Darmstadt

(Celia was perhaps the person most interested in detailed markup and encoding minutiae, and so was less well-served by the very general discussions we ended up holding to cater for the varied and mixed group. We have however discussed the possibility of her attending more traditional EpiDoc training next time we have the opportunity to run a workshop.)

Before attending the tutorial I knew TEI (P5) and I had little knowledge of EpiDoc; I had just practiced a little with your Guidelines, but I still had many problems in encoding. In order to learn more about it, to learn how to encode ancient sources, to develop new skills in working with EpiDoc, I chose your tutorial in Rome and it was actually very useful for me. Furthermore, I found extremely valuable the experience we’ve done, within the tutorial, with the editing of EpiDoc.

In particular I appreciated your working method, making us learning by doing, by direct experience. It was very important to me our talk about databases and tools available online, too, so useful for people who work with ancient sources, especially when fragmentary. Finally I have to thank you for making me know SoSOL, that was totally new for me, and in effect important for our kind of studies. I think this tutorial represented an extraordinary opportunity of growth for me, and offered me the chance to know interesting people, experts and friendly.

Angela Lacitignola
PhD student in Classics
University of Bari, Italy

(The most traditional classicist in the group, Angela is very much the kind of student we’re used to seeing in our EpiDoc workshops, and she brought both traditional philological questions and interest in digital resources from a user’s perspective.)

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