By Rebecca Laroche
Since mid-February, those who have been using the Folger Shakespeare Library’s digital archive LUNA, may have noticed an exciting change. In the left-hand column on the home page now appears an item “LUNA: Folger Manuscripts Transcriptions Collection.” For those who have clicked on it, out of curiosity or with the news in hand, and then submitted a search for “borage,” for example, the results are quite thrilling: more than a dozen recipe manuscript pages appear! And when one of those pages is then clicked on, its vetted transcription appears at the bottom of the data on the left of the enlarged image of the manuscript!
Through LUNA, Emily Wahl, Metadata Specialist, and Michael Poston, Data Architect, both at the Folger Shakespeare Library have made this effort to make transcriptions quickly available to users through keyword searching. There are newly vetted semi-diplomatic transcriptions of 2731 manuscript images equaling thousands more recipes from 43 different Folger collections, letters, and individual leaves. Of these, EMROC contributed to 10 manuscripts, including the longest (Cromwell V.a.8), together constituting 1051 images, well over 1/3 of images. The Folger manuscripts searchable in LUNA right now that have been a part of EMROC transcribathons or connected classrooms include V.a.20 (Hall), V.a.430 (Granville), V.a.450 (Pudsey), V.a.456 (Baumfylde), V.a.600 (Castleton), V.a.619 (Baker), W.b.653 (Anonymous), V.a.8 (Cromwell), V.b.366 (Winch), and X.d.24 (Cruso). The vetting labor has largely been undertaken by “Dromio Wrangler” Sarah Powell with help from a grant given to the Folger. What is more, Elisa Tersigni, a three-year digital postdoc on the Mellon “Before ‘Farm-to-Table'” team is tasked with strategizing on what of/how the Folger is going to share the corpus beyond the LUNA collection.
Therefore, this is not an endpoint, but rather a rousing development in the ongoing EMROC-Folger collaborative endeavor. For one, several other completely keyed manuscripts, including the Margaret Turner and Jane Dawson manuscripts finished during the 2019 transcribathon, are currently in the vetting queue and will soon be added to the LUNA collection. Within the LUNA transcriptions, there are also notable limits that the next phase of transcription sharing will seek to correct. In LUNA, italics and superscripts, i.e., brevigraphs in general, are not able to be noted in the transcriptions. Also, transcriber notes appear simply as “Notes:”, deletions are denoted in square brackets, and metadata is limited. Of course, given the difficulty and many-layers of the task, there will still be plenty of errors, and users are encouraged to contact Elisa (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any they may find, which can then be forwarded on to the LUNA directors and updated in DROMIO and the XML files directly.
Again, the searchability of the texts is of the original spelling, thus users will have to try several variations and anticipate orthographic quirkiness. Returning to the example above, “borage” yields fourteen images in the collection, but “borrage” opens up six others; if the user, however, did not anticipate the variations “burrage” (16) and “burage” (9), they would miss out on 25 more. LUNA does have an Advanced Search (accessed through downward arrow in the search window; see image) that can help with such variants through the “find any of these words” (borrage borage burrage burage) option.
For those recipe researchers who have not yet used LUNA to its fullest capacity, this new development adds a helpful tool to their workbench in creating a LUNA account and with it accessing the Media Groups capability. Within an imagined account, we can click on “Create” then “Media Groups.”
If we were to create a group called “Borage,” we would then make sure that it was the active group by toggling along the bottom of the screen, and then we could conduct a search for the variants above. Having done so, we could click on the plus sign up at the right and have all images deposited in that group for later analysis or we could add individual images as we sorted through them. The possibilities are endless.
In an email with the author, Heather Wolfe, Folger Curator of Manuscripts, wrote that “The LUNA collection doesn’t preclude a searchable corpus, which is what Elisa and Meaghan Brown [Digital Production Editor] are thinking through right now. We welcome all suggestions and feedback” (feedback may also be sent to ETersigni@folger.edi). For those of us in the EMROC Steering Committee two limitations of the LUNA transcription collection stand out, and the hope is that these will soon be redressed. Without downloadable files, data analysis, for which there is so much potential in recipes work, is limited. Most significantly, however, transcription attributions are not yet possible as was promised through the DROMIO platform. EMROC will, in the meantime work to maintain an up-to-date transcribers list. If you have had a connected classroom and its members need to be added to the website or if you yourself have contributed to a transcribathon and do not find your name in the list of transcribers, please let EMROC know at email@example.com; with last year’s push, it has been difficult to keep up with the transcription activity given the many hats of the those on the steering committee. Know that it is the main purpose of this site to record the work of the collective that is making these research breakthroughs possible. Do also keep an eye to this page for updates as manuscripts are added and other advancements occur.