MASTER: Resources to be made

This page was written for the Centre for Technology and the Arts (the predecessor to the Centre for Textual Studies) in 2000 and describes the resources developed for the MASTER project. Many of these--for example the project's Microsoft Access database--have been superseded by more recent technologies, but the core principles established by the project are now embodied in the latest (P5) version of the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), the world's leading standard for encoding literary and historical texts.

MASTER is a European Union funded project to create a single on-line catalogue of medieval manuscripts in European libraries. This project will develop a single standard for computer-readable descriptions of manuscripts. It will create software for making these records, test the standard and the software on at least 2000 manuscript descriptions, and mount the records in a single networked catalogue, available to everyone. The catalogue will also include images of many manuscripts. MASTER is funded under the Framework IV Telematics for Libraries call.

MASTER project is developing two kinds of resources, to help create and implement a standard for making manuscript descriptions in electronic form. The first kind of resource is the standard itself, with supporting documentation:

The second category of resources made by the project consists of software tools designed to make it easier to prepare manuscript descriptions conformant to the standard. We are well aware that SGML encoding is challenging, and that many people are intimidated by it and by the difficulty of many of the most-used SGML tools. Therefore, we have tried in MASTER to prepare tools which permit creation of manuscript records to our SGML standard by cataloguers with very little or no knowledge of SGML:

Associate partners may (on application) join our testing and implementation phases. This commits partners to making trial records using the software and standard, and to send us, every week during the testing phases, a report on the use made of these. We estimate this will take several hours of commitment each week for one person at each associate partner for the periods 1 November 1999 to 29 February 2000 and 1 June to 30 September. In return, partners will gain access to the MASTER discussion list, and have a chance to shape the developing standard and tools. They will also be able to contribute records to the prototype online catalogue which the project will be developing at a later stage.