MASTER: The workplan
This description of the MASTER work packages was written for the Centre for Technology and the Arts (the predecessor to the Centre for Textual Studies) in 1999 and shows the responsibilities for various parts of the project, spread across the rare-materials libraries and Digital Humanities research centres of Europe.
The goal of MASTER is to achieve an agreed and tested standard for description of manuscripts in electronic form, implemented in a freely-available on-line manuscript descriptive catalogue. Fundamental to this goal is the establishment of the standard itself. Considerable work has been done towards this standard, by some MASTER partners and the associated American EAMSS project. MASTER will refine this standard, test it fully through two phases, create software to permit efficient input and translation of records, and then mount the records themselves in an on-line catalogue holding at least 5000 manuscript descriptions. MASTER will develop two systems of input: a database system for creation of simple manuscript records, suitable for use by libraries with scarce resources, and an SGML-based system for creation of records of more complexity, suitable for use where greater resources are available. The on-line catalogue itself will be implemented on two different servers, using distinct hardware and software, to demonstrate the interoperability and portability of the records themselves.
The work of the project will fall into three clearly defined phases:
- Months 1-12 (1999): first cycle of standard discussion, application and modification, with development of associated software for efficient input and translation of records; first mounting of the records on restricted-access servers
- Months 13-24 (2000): review of first cycle, followed by second cycle of standard refinement, application and modification, with refinement of associated software for efficient input and translation of records; progressive opening of the mounted records to invited outside observers
- Months 25-30 (2001): creation of project demonstrator, opening the on-line catalogue to free access to all. Project partners will run dissemination workshops to introduce other archives and libraries to the developed standard and associated software. Preparation of a business plan to carry MASTER forward after the project conclusion.
In addition to these three phases of work, concertation, interoperability, and project management activities will run throughout the project.
Workpackage One: Manuscript standards: development and consensus. Leader: Oxford University Humanities Computing Unit The task of this package will be to work in partnership with an international Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) manuscript descriptions workgroup to create a single international standard for machine readable descriptions of manuscripts. MASTER representatives will be present in the workgroup and will collaborate with non-EU representatives on the workgroup. The participants will review previous and existing initiatives, over widely differing bodies of manuscripts, to achieve the broadest applicability of the standard. The definition will be of full descriptions of manuscripts, and will contain recommendations for the creation of first-level manuscript records containing subsets of the full description elements.
Workpackage Two: Standards implementation and evaluation. Leader: Arnamagnaean Institute, Copenhagen The task of this work package is to implement and evaluate the standard in the partner manuscript libraries, in the process of actual making of manuscript records. A specification of the testing process itself must be prepared, with indicators to key criteria of success or otherwise. The making of records will be the major part of the package, and the experience of this will be crucial in shaping the standard in the second phase (2.2). The processes involved must be evaluated (2.3). The complexity of the task and number of partners will require careful supervision (2.4).
Workpackage Three: Software support for direct record creation using SGML. Leader: Oxford University Humanities Computing Unit The task of this work package group is to specify, create, document and support software for direct making of manuscript records using SGML. A specification of the software itself must be prepared, setting out key requirements (3.1). The software and documentation will then created, by tailoring an existing SGML editing package and will then be passed to the project partners for them to use in the making of records (3.2, 3.3). A help desk will provide support to the partners in their use of the software (3.4), and the software will itself receive progressively wider distribution.
Workpackage Four: Software support for first level record creation via database input. Leader: L'Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes (IRHT) The task of this work package is to specify, create, document and support software for direct making of first-level (short) manuscript records using a database system. The partners will agree the first-level elements to be captured in the database. The database structure will be relatively simple, seeking only to capture the information in those elements with no further substructure to the fields. One field will provide links to image information in the database. A specification of the software itself must be prepared, setting out key requirements (4.1). The software and documentation will then created, by tailoring an existing widely-available commercial database package and will then be passed to the project partners for them to use in the making of records (4.2, 4.3). A help desk will provide support to the partners in their use of the software (4.4), and the software will itself receive progressively wider distribution. A further task will create a translation scheme from the exported database records to the MASTER SGML standard format.
Workpackage Five: Interoperability; data exchange and linking to other standards. Leader: Oxford University Humanities Computing Unit The task of this work package group is to research and create appropriate means for exchange of data between the MASTER SGML standard format and other metadata formats widely used in web delivery of resources. Three such metadata formats are targetted in this group of work packages: the Dublin Core system; the Elements for Archival Description format; Z39.50 protocols. The means of exchange with these metadata formats will be based on the MASTER SGML format, with tools for automatic translation of MASTER records to these formats. SGML format lends itself easily for translation by a wide variety of software tools in a web environment, and the tools will be a customisation of PERL and cgi-bin scripts. Attention will be paid to the metadata and Z39.50 work carried out in MALVINE to ensure compatibility of effort.
Workpackage Six: On-line server specification and implementation. Leader: The Centre for Technology and the Arts, De Montfort University This work package group will specify the functionality for the servers for the on-line manuscript union catalogue, implement the servers on two different sites using quite distinct configurations of hardware and software, and test the servers preparatory to the mounting of the demonstrator in WP 7.
Workpackage Seven: Demonstrator online union catalogue. Leader: The Centre for Technology and the Arts, De Montfort University This work package will offer a demonstration of full access to all records, open to all through a Web interface on the Internet, built on the server implementation in WP 6 above. Accordingly, the demonstrator will run on both DMU and OU systems. The demonstrator will include records contributed by non-funded project participants (including EAMSS, etc).
Workpackage Eight: Dissemination. Leader: National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague Each active library partner (and Oxford University) will mount a workshop for other libraries, etc, with manuscripts for which they wish to make electronic records. This will take place in the final phase of the project. Each work shop should include not less than four library and manuscript archives, beside the MASTER partner. Accordingly, the workshops should introduce the MASTER standard and record-making systems to at least twenty other manuscript repositories. Additional, United States, libraries will be introduced to the MASTER standard through EAMMS.
Workpackage Nine: Project management. Leader: The Centre for Technology and the Arts, De Montfort University Internal management of the project.
Workpage Ten: Exploitation plan. Leader: The Centre for Technology and the Arts, De Montfort University This will be a survey of what would be required for continuation of MASTER as a stand-alone service: offering support for the standard, help with software and implementation, and running the on-line catalogue. All MASTER partners, associate institutions, and attendees at workshops (some thirty manuscript holding institutions in total) will participate in this survey. This will be supplemented by an on-line aimed to reach other possible users of the MASTER systems. The survey will aim in the first place to identify which parts of MASTER the manuscript community sees as most valuable and so wishes to see continue: specifically, the on-line union catalogue; the standard itself; and the associated software and processes. The survey will also canvas different charging models, to ascertain how the manuscript community could be prepared to contribute to continuation of MASTER. Each partner will be asked to specify their strategy for the continuation of the MASTER system in their institution. The business plan prepared in this WP will seek to provide means for the partners to achieve this strategy.
Workpackage Eleven: Concertation. Leader: Royal Library, The Hague This task, running throughout the project, will monitor events elsewhere in the manuscript world, and seek active links between MASTER and these. This will involve building on links already current (eg with EAMMS) and building relationships with new projects (eg MALVINE). The associated partner, BFM, will take part in this workpackage, with particular responsibility for coordination with German initiatives.