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No Time like the Present, For a Timeline

As some readers may know we have been diligently working with students and staff members here at the library to provide transcriptions for handwritten letters. This project was piloted with the Sherman-Thackara collection and the number of letters transcribed continues to grow. At this point those letters are not available for viewing in the Digital Library software but excerpts have occasionally been posted to this blog.

The first long transcription project was completed last March by an undergraduate intern, Brittany Dudas. As a history major here at Villanova University she worked with the digital library on transcription during a for-credit internship. A talented transcriber, she was able to transcribe far more letters than we were able to review at any given time so it was decided that perhaps a longer project was in order.

In 1872-1873 Alexander Montgomery Thackara wrote a diary while out to sea on the USS Nipsic. His tour of duty brought him to the then “West Indies.” Among other places, he visited Key West, Samana Bay, Puerto Plata, Havana, and St. Thomas. His journey lasted roughly six months and resulted in nearly 50 pages of diary entries. This entire diary has been transcribed and reviewed, but is much too long to post here. Instead, I would like to share snippets of the diary as used in a timeline.

Dipity LogoDipity is an emerging software that allows users to create an online, interactive timeline. You can include links from any number of online sources, such as Google books, Wikipedia, Flickr, blogs, and much, much more. Moreover there is a feature that allows you to “map” locations on your timeline. This seemed like the perfect venue to create a resource that would allow users to experience Mont’s Journal in a completely new way.

Most entries are titled with the page upon which the text appeared in the actual diary. Next, the date was added for that entry, and usually a link to either the scanned page from the digital library, or to a Wikipedia article that helps explain the location or subject at hand. A fun addition was linking the book, as scanned in by “Google Books”, that Mont was reading while on this voyage. Locations were also added to most entries so they could be mapped and images were used to brighten things up. Dipity allows users to view timelines in four different ways, as a timeline (the standard way), a list, a flipbook, or as a map. The map feature is especially fun for this project as it allows users to “play events” and view the events as they are listed on the map. In this case it allows users to virtually sail around with Mont.

This was certainly an enjoyable project and something that could be an asset for some of our other long transcription projects. I hope that you will check out the timeline and I would love to hear any feedback you may have.


Blue Electrode column: VU Digital Library news

Falvey’s Special Collections regularly receive e-mails inquiring about specific works in our collections. Recently, such an e-mail came from a medieval scholar at a large German university who asked about a manuscript dating from 1431. The scholar requested specific information about the size, binding, number of pages and other technical information.

We decided that this manuscript should be added to the Villanova University Digital Library, and within two days of receiving his inquiry we were able to reply to the e-mail and announce that the entire digitized manuscript was available for public examination. The German scholar was delighted and surprised to get this information since he was now able to exAugustinian Regulaamine the manuscript in great detail and to retrieve information that otherwise only would have been possible through expensive and time-consuming travel.

The manuscript is an Augustinian Regula (Augustinian Rule or guidelines for life), transcribed by hand in 1431. Although written in Latin, it was then translated into German sentence by sentence. The German text was intended for lay persons who had entered the monastery and whose knowledge of Latin was marginal.

At the end of the manuscript is a note signed by “Johannes decanus.” The German scholar informed us that this person also is known as Johannes Rothuet or Johannes of Indersdorf. Johannes of Indersdorf became the prelate of the Indersdorf Monastery in 1442, and he was an important and influential religious reformer in southern Germany. Indersdorf is located in Bavaria, 20 miles from Munich. The Indersdorf Monastery was founded in 1120 and occupied by Augustinian Canons, or religious clerics, from 1126. Until 1403 it was a double monastery, with a convent next to the monastery. The monastery closed in 1783, but the buildings were later occupied by several female religious orders.

Because the German scholar had online access to the Augustinian manuscript and was able to view it in its entirety, he could identify ‘Johannes decanus,’ providing a historical context for us and greatly enhancing our understanding of the Regula.

Contributed by Bente Polites, Special Collections librarian



Last Modified: July 19, 2007

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