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Mellon Foundation Awards UC Riverside $48,500


Mellon Foundation Awards UC Riverside $48,500

The grant will lead to greater usability of a database containing records of every known publication printed in the English-speaking world before 1800.

(March 14, 2011)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded UC Riverside a $48,500 planning grant to redesign the English Short Title Catalog, a searchable database of every known publication in the English-speaking world from the birth of the printing press in 1473 to 1800.

The grant will enable the university, which hosts the online archive, to outline a plan allowing users to help curate the expanding database and simplify how researchers harvest information from it.

The English Short-Title Catalog (ESTC), lists more than 500,000 items, including books, handbills, fliers, pamphlets and warrants. The catalog is a joint effort of UCR’s Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research, the British Library and the American Antiquarian Society.

“In order to remain the preeminent catalog of early-modern print, and to develop into an electronic hub for digitization efforts, the ESTC must address questions about how to provide for varied and numerous kinds of user curation and data harvesting while at the same time protecting the project’s renowned authority and integrity,” said Brian Geiger, director of the UC Riverside Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research.

Researchers are no longer content to simply search for and download records, he said. They now want to both edit and comment on catalog data. At the same time, the center has accumulated hundreds of thousands of records from contributing libraries and an expanding metadata collection from online archives that need to be matched against the catalog, “a number that is prohibitively expensive to process with the traditional means of student matchers and professional catalogers.”

“There is a highly engaged and committed community of librarians and scholars who are eager for a tool that will allow for the collaborative refinement of bibliographical information,” Geiger said. “The ESTC proposes to harness the considerable intellectual effort that such users put into their work and to propagate bibliographical corrections and new discoveries more rapidly and more universally than ever before. “

Development of the catalog began more than 30 years ago, and it has become known worldwide as an exemplar scholarly research tool, Geiger said.

Work on the plan will begin May 1 and is due to be completed by April 30, 2012. It will bring together a group of early modern and digital humanities scholars, rare books librarians, and representatives from related bibliographical projects, Geiger explained.

“The group will assess the needs of various user communities, discuss how to provide users access to bibliographical data, determine how best to share data across projects and platforms, and evaluate existing software options,” he said. “The Mellon Foundation’s support of this planning stage will help to ensure that the ESTC meets the changing needs of its users and partners and, by harnessing their energy and enthusiasm, continues to grow in size and accuracy and remains the central organizing tool of the printed history of the early modern era.”

The English Short Title Catalog has relied entirely on grant funding, most notably from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In July 2010 the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research received a grant from Google to match pre-1801 items in Google Books to catalog records.

The recent grant from Google illustrates some of the challenges the ESTC faces in the coming years, Geiger said.

“Increasing numbers of physical copies of pre-1801 works are being digitized and made available online. Google Books and the Internet Archive are two of the largest such projects, but there are also many other, smaller collections,” he said, noting, for example, that the Missouri Botanical Gardens has digitized hundreds of 18th century botanical works.

Other projects of the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research are: the California Newspaper Project , a part of the United States Newspaper Project run by the Library of Congress and funded by the NEH; Catálogo Colectivo de Impresos Latinoamericanos hasta 1851, a union catalog and bibliography, modeled on the ESTC, of everything printed in Latin America before 1851; and the California Digital Newspaper Collection, a fully searchable online repository of California newspapers, and the California Newspaper Microfilm Archive (CNMA), a collection of some 100,000 reels of master negative microfilm.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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