Featured Abstract: Jan. 26

Each Monday and Thursday, an abstract from one of the symposium participants will be posted to facilitate discussion.  We welcome your comments!

Featured Abstract: “Data modeling for early modern emblems”

Thomas Stäcker, Wolfenbüttel

Emblem studies are unique in a number of respects. First, they do not belong to a single scholarly discipline or academic department, but address a wide range of research areas, be they philological, historical, or art historical. Second, emblems, which ideally consist of a motto, a pictura, and an epigram, constitute intricate combinations of texts and images that appear in a variety of media. Printed emblem books are merely one manifestation of emblems. Emblems can be found in architecture, paintings, manuscripts or majolica. In addition, there are multiple interrelations among these emblem forms. Emblems on paintings may be copied from engravings, or vice versa. Accordingly, emblems can pose challenges for digital humanists.
In order to facilitate data exchange and the capture of emblem data, a common data model was developed by the so called OpenEmblem Group, an international group of scholars with interests in digital humanities, whose aim is not only to improve data exchange and aggregation, but also to develop new ways of conducting research on emblems by taking advantage of the new technologies. In recent years the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, along with the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, began building a portal for emblems in a project funded by a joint initiative of the DFG/NEG. Wolfenbüttel designed a XML schema, the so called Emblem namespace, based on a set of categories describing emblems formally developed by Stephen Rawles at the University of Glasgow (the so called spine of information). Furthermore, Illinois established a registry for a Handle service allowing the unique identification of each emblem worldwide. Iconclass notations–one of the most important art history standards for indexing pictures–were added by experts in Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Marburg (Germany) and delivered via OAI-PMH to Illinois and Wolfenbüttel to enrich their transcriptions of mottos by descriptions of the picturae. Other contributions came from Utrecht (Netherlands) and Munich (Germany).
My statement provides a brief account of the development and components of the data model for emblems and of how the model was made operative. It sketches the outlines of further developments, e.g. the inclusion of SKOS elements for the description of Iconclass notations, and more generally, the adoption of semantic web techniques revolving around issues of persistent and reliable identification and seamless integration of emblem data in different kind of contexts. By the same token it demonstrates how the various projects initiated by the OpenEmblem Group showcase how future collaborative research may be put to work in a distributed web based environment.

Framing Questions

  1. What will be the role of digital humanities in the future? Will it evolve rather into a specialist knowledge existing external to the various disciplines (for instance, a specialist in medical technique needn’t be an expert in curing people) or will it be the case that digital humanities are becoming a constitutive part of the discipline itself?
  2. What role will linked (open) data play for stakeholders in the digital community?
  3. In what cases are RDF techniques reasonable to use, or not use?
  4. Relating to editions: can disciplinary dependent tagging be overcome by stand-off markup?
  5. How are data collections in the humanities to be treated? Is there an analogy to research data in the sciences?
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