University College Cork – XML Assignments for the Boole Library

Welcome to my Day of DH 2010.

This is very much a retrospective view of the day.  As in between I had final year project submission for my new DH course, that pesky XML has had the students focused, enthused, and demented (just a little).

Stack of Scripts

This is a new course funded by NAIRTL – the National Academy for Research, Teaching and Learning – I’ve given a link to their activities on the right.

One of the aims of the course was to introduce the undergraduate students to the reality of research – and it did that- with unexpected results.  The original material that students marked up was the Prof. Ruth Sherry bequest to the Boole Library UCC.  It is as yet uncatalogued and still boxed in the library store, and to provide a gateway to this archival holding we’ve begun with the 3,200 index cards, the scholar’s life’s work,  her bibliography of the local Cork writer, Frank O Connor’s work.  Needless to mention the students were introduced to the scholar’s handwriting, own system of abbreviation, and  all the idiosyncrasies that are the archivist’s delight – NOT!

The night before the DH – I was up until 1.30 answering emails – and trying to read their code.    Until then – I hadn’t realised how personal an individual’s interpretation of the TEI was – and that although I had offered a template – and some had even adhered to it – they did it in their own way.

One of my new aims for next year is to try and get the university to accept online only assessment – as some student’s work has been up to 48 pages in length for one element of the assessment.  I’ve been accused of crimes against ecology!  At least I’ve only asked for one copy – as opposed to the required two – there must be another way!!!  Some were very enthused by the idea of having an online publication, at a permanent URL and to be part of the Frank O Connor holding at UCC – so they wrote a lot… but some have happily volunteered for work through the summer break!  I hope to liaise with the Learning Technologies Unit next year to ensure that the external examiners have access to all the work online.  Still the enthusiasm is encouraging!!

I do not teach on a Thursday this semester so I was free to do that other happy job correcting students’ work.

I’m including a photo of half of the stack from my office at home- I couldn’t physically bring all of them out together!  My job for the day of DH was to stay at home and get through some of them.  Anytime that I thought I might go blind – I switched to trawling through some emails.  There are a lot of emails at this time of the year from students requiring references or a referee so I did two of those in the morning as well.

The most important thing about the coursework, and why it is worthwhile to go through the work  and encourage the students participation, is that it is  ‘real’ work both for the MA, the archive, the library and ultimately for the university.  At present there is no accurate, comprehensive bibliography of Frank O Connor material- this lacuna in the scholarship was identified by our resident Frank O Connor Fellow, Hilary Lennon.  In a joint effort between the teaching faculty, the archivist Carol Quinn and the digital projects officer Stephen Yearl in the Boole Library, together with Peter Flynn in the Electronic Publishing Unit the work is in its infancy.  Since the term began we have managed to get 1000 images captured, and 1000 index cards marked up into XML using the bibl element, and allowing the students freedom particularly within the MA class, to add notes and expansions as they saw fit this means a lot of editing still to come.

Joy and rapture

I have finished looking at the mark up for the bibliography and I am so glad – the hard work paid off!  For the most part, the students ‘got’ it.  There is plenty of hard work and creativity within the framework of the TEI.  There were plenty of good examples of students with particular interests adding relevant notes, comments and tags to the bibliography.  So, work that I was dreading turned out to be valuable and interesting.