Are We Donne Yet? The Decade Long Project of Converting an Annotated Bibliography from Print to Database
“Do you think we could create a searchable database?” Do questions like this fill you with dread? Or maybe excitement? They can and should do both! This superficially simple question led an inter-institutional team of librarians and scholars on a decade-long project of various stages to convert the four-volume John Donne: An Annotated Bibliography of Modern Criticism into a user-expandable, searchable database. The project started as a two-person project that was later integrated into a larger grant funded team. We will share our experience as an interdisciplinary team implementing a text-base digital humanities project that has become an open-access, fully searchable Drupal database that will soon be available to the public. We will outline some of the challenges we faced taking this from print into electronic and the ways in which the digital format forced a kind of precision and standardization that is not common in humanities resources, and conversely, the challenges of designing a database that could accommodate the ambiguities and vagaries of the materials humanities scholars work with. We’ll also highlight considerations from throughout the project, from early, fundamental questions regarding database and workflow design, to more recent pragmatic problems such as standardizing author, subject, and work indexes from a body of work that spans 4 decades of evolving scholarship.