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Meet a TCP Editor: Sarah Wingo

My name is Sarah Wingo. I am in my second and final year at the University of Michigan’s School of Information (UM-SI) working on my master of science in information, and recently completed my third week as a part-time editor for the Text Creation Partnership (TCP).

TCP is tucked away in a strip of the Hatcher Graduate library‘s third floor north stacks, in what is known as “the cage.” Even if you stumbled across the cage in your search for a book or journal housed in the Asia Library stacks, which share the third floor with TCP, it’s likely you wouldn’t know what we were all up to hard at work over our computers.  I first learned about the University of Michigan’s branch of TCP last summer while doing an internship funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), dealing with digital preservation for MLibrary. My supervisor at the time wanted me to have the opportunity to see the variety of work being done at the library, and on a visit to MPublishing I happened to meet the Text Creation Partnership Project Outreach Librarian Rebecca Welzenbach, who explained the project to me.

My personal interest in TCP stems from my educational background prior to coming to UM-SI. I did an MA in English at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, where I specialized in Shakespeare and other early modern English dramatists.  I then chose to pursue a library science degree because while working towards my MA, I frequently used special collections and became increasingly interested in the stewardship of rare books and manuscripts and in using technology and digital media to create new ways of accessing and interacting with these materials. The TCP is an interesting fit for me because it combines my interest in early English texts with the technological aspects of creating access for the scholarly community that first sparked my interest in librarianship.

I’m still learning the ropes at TCP, but I’ve surprised myself with how much I’m truly enjoying the work.  The job of the TCP editors is vital, but can be tedious, as I had been warned before starting!  It’s true, there is a fair amount of repetition to the tasks to be carried out for each text we edit.  However, what I didn’t anticipate is that each text is like a little puzzle in need of solving, and this is what I enjoy so much about coming into work each day.  There are a total of 111 tags available to editors to use in marking up the structure of each book. Of these 111 tags 79 are specifically for textual markup and 32 for bibliographic information. However, most books only require 15-25 of these, used repeatedly. What is unique for each text is the way in which those tags are organized, labeled, and related to one another. It is our job as editors to determine their appropriate use.

From "Mikrokosmographia: or, A description of the body of man: being a practical anatomy"

The content of the texts is fascinating too. In addition to analyzing the structure of each book, editors are responsible for proofreading the transcriptions supplied by our vendors in order to ensure that they meet the required level of accuracy. We proofread selected samples of each text we’re working on, but from those alone you get a good sense of the books and the views of the people writing them.  Religious texts are probably the most common, which isn’t surprising given the time period (1475-1700), but since starting I have worked on texts covering a variety of different subjects. For example, I recently worked on an anatomy book, translated from Latin into English, which includes images of human figures holding back their skin to show the musculature underneath (shown left).

I know I still have a lot to learn, like how to write regular expressions, which will enable me to create targeted searches for quick editing. But that is part of what excites me the most about this work: everyday I am increasing my knowledge and understanding of early modern English books and early modern printing practices, as well as XML and electronic publications.




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