17.707 the remarkable story

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Mar 16 2004 - 02:39:53 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 707.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 07:33:16 +0000
         From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Re: 17.705 a remarkable story


When I first saw your posting about the remarkable story, I as myself:
preservation... the documentary evidence or the practices of a discursive

Textual criticism meets museumology.

I am not the first to note that it is perhaps ironic that the modes of
textual inscription involving various vegetable matter lend themselves
better to experiential reproduction than those involving a particular
hardware. Better, in the sense of available to more people at different
times and places. For example, how many Classic Macs can Simon Fraser
University make availble to a class wanting to study the files of bp nicol
through the interface in which they were authored?

Preservation seems to have both a conservation and curatorial aspect.

> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 705.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
> www.princeton.edu/humanist/
> Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu
> [1] From: Andrew Brook <abrook@ccs.carleton.ca> (17)
> >
> [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
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
> --
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> > and interpret the Tibetan canon (becoming in time perhaps the greatest
> > Western scholar of Tibetan literature). Sometime later the lama
> > 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
> > and comprising the largest collection in the West if not the world.
> > 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,
> 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
> > perishable manuscripts and block-printed books, on strips of
> > paper, bound together by straps of cloth. The centuries have taken
> > 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
> > 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
> as
> > the Tibetan canon. "If all that exists in Tibetan literature is
online and
> > downloadable, it becomes virtually indestructible -- unlike the
> > 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
> > 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
> Willard,
> <snip>
> >The author of the article, Cynthia Haven, stresses the importance of
> >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
> --
> 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!

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