Zachary Fischer completes two digital projects in summer 2012: SMID and Alice E. Kober correspondence

Zachary Fischer, a graduate student in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, completed two valuable digitization projects in summer of 2012: making pdfs of the PASP-produced volumes of SMID and making available images of the correspondence of Alice E. Kober.  He describes these projects here below.

Report of Zachary Fischer on SMID and the letters of Alice E. Kober:

During the summer of 2012 I had the opportunity to work with the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP) at the University of Texas at Austin. I conducted two digital projects: Studies in Mycenaean Inscriptions and Dialect (SMID) (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16096) and the Alice E. Kober Papers–Correspondence (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/15875). Each project was unique, both in terms of technical challenges and intellectual content; however, the primary goal was the same: to provide free, persistent access to the materials in the University of Texas Digital Repository (UTDR).

All items, including the journals and individual letters, were scanned to scale and transformed into PDFs. When appropriate, optical character recognition (OCR) features were added to the PDFs to enhance the discoverability of the text and allow direct copying of text. The PDFs were accompanied by a Dublin Core record in the UTDR. The records contain metadata information such as title, date, creator, descriptions of the content, keyword subjects, Library of Congress subject headings, and more. Each piece of metadata enhances the ability for research and for search engines, such as Google, to retrieve the records. Furthermore, the metadata and the UTDR software provide researchers multiple points of access. The UTDR provides persistent access to the materials, and if the UTDR changes software, the metadata can be easily transferred to the new software without the loss of information.

Since the records in the UTDR are persistent, a researcher does not have to worry about broken links or information disappearing. Instead, the researcher can focus on the information. For instance, the Kober letters evoke a multitude of questions not only about the decipherment of Linear B but also the broader social practices of the mid-20th century. One letter I found interesting was from Franklin Edgerton (Dec. 5, 1947; https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16597) that mentions the prejudice against women in academia, which is also stated in other letters. The letters also provide a direct means to Kober’s thoughts (such as May 22, 1942; https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16851). It is difficult to read a letter and not ask questions, such as ‘where were the tablets stored’ (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16014) or ‘how can this account help us understand scholars in post-WWII Italy’ (https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16666).

The two digital projects, SMID and Alice E. Kober Papers–Correspondence, are just a fraction of the information available in the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP). The materials not only help answer questions but also provide the fodder for new questions and new approaches. I hope these two digital projects act as gateways to the unique information available at PASP and encourage others to continue to create more digital projects for PASP and for other institutions around the globe.

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