17.705 a remarkable story

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Mar 15 2004 - 03:53:21 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 705.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

   [1] From: Andrew Brook <abrook@ccs.carleton.ca> (17)
         Subject: Re: 17.703 a remarkable story

   [2] From: "jkirk" <jkirk@spro.net> (89)
         Subject: Re: 17.703 a remarkable story (fwd)

   [3] From: Patrick Durusau <Patrick.Durusau@sbl-site.org> (55)
         Subject: Re: 17.703 a remarkable story

         Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 08:23:26 +0000
         From: Andrew Brook <abrook@ccs.carleton.ca>
         Subject: Re: 17.703 a remarkable story

A remarkable story indeed! Perhaps the work is now financially OK but
clearly it was done on the thinnest of shoestrings for years. If it is
still financially tight, this would be a wonderful project for
computer-using humanists who have a bit of extra money to rally around. I
for one would be glad to kick in some money, indeed a few hundred of the
appropriate bits of money. Gene Smith is a candidate for sainthood. Is
there some big (and preferably rich) UN or other award for which he could
be nominated?



Andrew Brook, Professor of Philosophy Past-president, Canadian Philosophical Association Member, Canadian Psychoanalytic Society 2217 Dunton Tower, Carleton University Ottawa ON, Canada K1S 5B6 Ph: 613 520-3597 Fax: 613 520-3985 Web: www.carleton.ca/~abrook

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 08:23:11 +0000 From: "jkirk" <jkirk@spro.net> Subject: Re: 17.703 a remarkable story (fwd)

Dear Dr. McCarty,

This is fantastically good news. As a producer of an electronic document (a CDROM based on many years of research), I just want to respond briefly on the electronics question since you asked for comment. As you are at a computer center, you probably already know all this and much more, but I'll proceed anyway, for what it is or is not worth.

Internet databases are only as safe as the systems maintaining them, which can be downed by a variety of incidents: hackers, loss of electric power for one reason or another, and transient difficulties with a server to name the main issues. I would recommend that all digitised material also be put on DVDs or CDs for backup storage. In other words, all databases must have backup systems in place. This however requires annual checkups of the disks, as material on disks can get corrupted for unknown reasons. If these are also electronic, these have to be carefully maintained; and also organised to be re-done due to changes/updates in software unless the central facility agrees to maintain the software versions used for the disks indefinitely. Many important libraries are wrestling with these questions today. I view putting this database on the web as helpful to scholars but not as a necessarily improved method of preservation. Sincerely Joanna Kirkpatrick ====================================================

> Date: Sat, 13 Mar 2004 10:05:33 +0000 > From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> > > > The most remarkable story of E. Gene Smith's preservation of Tibetan > literature is told in the latest Times Literary Supplement, no. 5267 for 12 > March 2004, in the Commentary column, p. 13. Smith, a Utah-born Mormon who > traces his lineage back to the brother of the prophet Joseph Smith, was > converted to Buddhism by a Tibetan scholar and lama Deshung Rinpoche on his > visit to the U.S. in 1960. Smith then began the studies necessary to read > and interpret the Tibetan canon (becoming in time perhaps the greatest > Western scholar of Tibetan literature). Sometime later the lama suggested > he go to India to locate and publish most important works of Tibetan > literature before they were lost forever. This became his life's work. He > eventually collected over 12,000 books of poetry, medicine, history, > biography and principally Buddhist religious texts, spanning 10 centuries > and comprising the largest collection in the West if not the world. Until > 2001 this collection was housed in his 6-room duplex in Cambridge, > Massachusetts, the books covering every surface and floor in every room but > the kitchen; his bed was wedged between bookshelves. Then in 2001, after 40 > years of collecting, he found two angels, Shelley and Donald Rubin, who > have founded perhaps the largest museum of Himalayan art in the West and > have allotted ample space to Smith's Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. > > Tibet is a land with an extraordinary scholarly tradition dating back to > the 7th century. Much of the literature exists only in the form of highly > perishable manuscripts and block-printed books, on strips of mulberry-husk > paper, bound together by straps of cloth. The centuries have taken their > toll; so also did the Chinese invasion. Without Smith's efforts much of not > all of what is now in safe hands would have been lost completely. Smith > estimates that scholars now have about 10% of what once existed, 80% of > what was well known. Little of this has been translated, so the culture > remains largely inaccessible to the West. Given the importance of this > literature not only in itself but for the transmission of Buddhism from > India through China to Japan, and from Japan to the West, much already of > great interest to many people is to be learned from this collection. > > The collection is going digital, at www.tbrc.org, where over 7,000 authors > and 20,000 book titles are already to be found. The ambition is to put all > of Tibetan literature online. > > The author of the article, Cynthia Haven, stresses the importance of online > publication for the rescuing and preservation of cultural treasures such as > the Tibetan canon. "If all that exists in Tibetan literature is online and > downloadable, it becomes virtually indestructible -- unlike the fragile, > ethereal tangkas that line the walls around Smith's offices, where > electronic reproduction can give only a whiff of the original." I hope she > is right about this virtual indestructibility. > > Comments? > > Yours, > WM > > [Note: If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours please > resend.] > Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the > Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20 > 7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk > www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/ > >

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 08:23:49 +0000 From: Patrick Durusau <Patrick.Durusau@sbl-site.org> Subject: Re: 17.703 a remarkable story


<snip> >The author of the article, Cynthia Haven, stresses the importance of online >publication for the rescuing and preservation of cultural treasures such as >the Tibetan canon. "If all that exists in Tibetan literature is online and >downloadable, it becomes virtually indestructible -- unlike the fragile, >ethereal tangkas that line the walls around Smith's offices, where >electronic reproduction can give only a whiff of the original." I hope she >is right about this virtual indestructibility. >Comments?

I don't think that a single electronic copy provides any "virtual indestructibility" at all.

A program similar to LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), http://lockss.standford.edu, last noted on this list, Humanist Vol.13: 13.0449, does. LOCKSS is highly automated software that assists libraries in archiving web based journals. LOCKSS creates a cache of content that is validated against other caches to monitor local corruption and correction if it does occur.

Developing a LOCKSS program for images of biblical manuscripts and electronic texts based upon those images (substitute other digital content of your choice) would require serious re-thinking of ownership, access, cost of maintenance, coordination and other issues.

But, if images of manuscripts and electronic texts based thereon are to survive, not just for 20 years, or 100 years, but for spans over which "stable" governments rise and fall, something similar to LOCKSS is going to be a necessity. It makes only a little sense to have textual witnesses preserved in just a few complete film copies. Any number of natural or artificial disasters could easily destroy both the originals and all extant copies.

On the other hand, if all of the textual witnesses to the Bible were imaged and transcribed into electronic form and that content was mirrored by a program like LOCKSS by libraries, research institutions, individual scholars (probably only parts of interest), the probable survival rate of those materials would increase greatly. Still no absolute certainty of preservation but a far better chance of survival than such materials have at present.

A variety of projects are exploring preservation of digital content, Stanford Digital Library Technologies, http://www-diglib.stanford.edu/, Cedars: curl exemplars in digital archives, http://www.leeds.ac.uk/cedars/(ended in 2002), and I am certain there are others. The Cedars project demonstrated with its access control to resources, we are a long way from the seamless replication of digital resources represented by LOCKSS. What is required now is organizational leadership to address the harder social questions of ownership, access, privilege and similar issues, which currently impede the use of preservation strategies such as LOCKSS.

Hope you are having a great day!


-- Patrick Durusau Director of Research and Development Society of Biblical Literature Patrick.Durusau@sbl-site.org Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model

Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work! </x-flowed>

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