The Cynic Sang: The (Un)Official Blog of the William Blake Archive

October 12, 2012

Day of Digital Archives: Ashley Reed, Project Manager

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley @ 9:00 am

[This is my contribution to the Day of Digital Archives event. Since it's meant to serve as both an introduction to the Blake Archive and a description of some of the work I do in support of the Archive, it may seem  redundant to regular readers of this blog.]

My name is Ashley Reed and I’m the Project Manager of the William Blake Archive. The Blake Archive is a digital archive in perhaps the purest sense of the word: we provide high-quality digital editions of Blake’s works, accompanied by critical and scholarly tools to assist students, teachers, and researchers in their study of this multimedia artist. The site is publicly available, requiring no login and charging no subscription fees. Our most recent publications include digital editions of Blake’s Songs of Innocence copy G and Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy N.

The Blake Archive is published at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the majority of our staff are located, but we have collaborators at the University of Rochester (one of our co-sponsors, along with UNC), the University of California-Riverside, Kansas State University, and Duke University. The Archive’s founders and co-editors are Joseph Viscomi (UNC Chapel Hill), Morris Eaves (University of Rochester) and Robert Essick (University of California-Riverside).

I say the Blake Archive is digital “in the purest sense” because we are not the digital arm of a print archive; none of the Blake works that appear in the WBA are owned by the Archive (or by the universities that support us). Instead, we collaborate with the museums, galleries, and private collectors that own Blake’s works; they provide high-resolution digital images (or, in some cases, transparencies for scanning) that become part of our digital editions. (The copyright to the digital images remains with the owning institutions.)

As Project Manager of the Blake Archive my primary duty is overseeing the workflows that make our digital editions possible. This includes cataloguing incoming images (renaming them according to Blake Archive protocols and adding them to our internal tracking sheets); creating the Blake Archive Documents (BADs) that provide the XML scaffolding for our digital editions; overseeing assistants as they complete the tasks of image color correction, textual transcription, and illustration markup that optimize image quality and make our editions searchable by users; and collaborating with our Technical Editor Will Shaw and our technical consultant Joe Ryan to implement necessary changes to the Archive’s DTD and to our XSL transformations. Joe Fletcher, the Archive’s Project Manager-in-training, assists with many of these tasks, particularly image cataloguing.

In the spirit of the Day of Digital Archives, here’s a representative sample of the tasks I worked on this week:

  • Consulted with Joe Ryan, Joe Fletcher, and Will Shaw as we work to implement a technical improvement to the Archive: a viewer that will enable users to see the XML BADs behind our digital editions directly in their browser windows.
  • Uploaded to our internal development site the completed BADs for three of Blake’s water color drawings illustrating the Bible. These three drawings are part of a group of works to be published later this year; they can now be spot-checked by the editors and staff in preparation for publication.
  • Taught one of the assistants, Adair Rispoli, how to add new XML documents to the eXist database that supports our development site. The Archive will soon begin making back issues of Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly available (free of charge) to users, and Adair is completing the XML tagging that will make these editions viewable and searchable. She is also replacing the black-and-white images that appeared in print issues of BIQ with links to the full-color images featured in the Blake Archive.
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