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At Last: Our Publicly Accessible Portal to Search, Browse, and Read ECCO-TCP

In April 2011, we announced that restrictions had been lifted from around 2,200 TCP texts from Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). Within hours, we heard from many folks who were frustrated that our announcement didn’t seem to have any teeth: Although we could (and did!) distribute the raw encoded text files to anyone who asked, there was no publicly available site for users to interact with the texts through a web browser.

I’m delighted to report that this is no longer the case: the University of Michigan-based implementation of the ECCO-TCP texts can now be fully explored by the general public: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/ecco/.

This took awhile to implement because of how the site was set up years ago: the TCP’s transcriptions link to page images from the ECCO database. These are called dynamically from servers at Gale Cengage Learning when a user clicks on a link. Previously, only ECCO-TCP partner institutions had access to any of this content, so the whole site required authentication. All authorized users could move seamlessly from text to image views.

When the texts were released to the public, this changed: we had to make sure that everyone could access the texts, but only authorized viewers could see these images, which belong to Gale, and which we don’t have the right to distribute. This required some custom development of our platform, DLXS, which is home to dozens of University of Michigan digital collections and publications.

Here’s how it works: all text-based functionality (search, browse, view full text) is available to the public.

Full text view of an excerpt from "Mrs. Taylor's Family Companion" (c. 1795)

When you click on a hyperlinked page number (such as “Page 6,” above), you are automatically directed to the DLXS “pageviewer,” and the middleware checks to see whether you are coming from within the IP range of an authorized ECCO-TCP partner institution. If so, you will see the page image by default—in other words, the site will appear to behave as it always has:

Users at original ECCO-TCP partner institutions automatically see the page image

If you are not from an ECCO-TCP partner institution, you will also land in the pageviewer interface, but you’ll only see a plain text view of the content that occurs on that page. You won’t be able to get to the page image:

Other users see a plain text view of the page they requested

Our publicly available version of the ECCO-TCP texts joins a handful of other access methods that have sprung up independently–just as we hoped they would–in the last nine months. Among them are:

I’m really excited that we now truly offer public web access to the ECCO-TCP texts, laying the groundwork for how we’ll support this functionality when the first of the EEBO-TCP texts are released in a few years. I hope you’ll test this out, and welcome your questions and feedback!

This post has been edited to correct the link to the Oxford Text Archive, as requested in the first comment below. 

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