Thursday, December 11, 2008

SBL Boston, Schmid on the VMR

We have now arrived at Sunday 23 and the morning session IGNTP23-25, a presentation of the International Greek New Testament Project on the theme: New Research on the Text of John's Gospel (D. C. Parker, ITSEE, University of Birmingham, presiding).

Unfortunately I (and Peter Head and Mike Holmes) arrived late, because of a meeting with the editorial board of the TC journal. The funny thing was that this board meeting took place in a boardroom on floor five, but we rushed into the elevator down to "Fairfax A" on the third floor where the session was announced, only to find a sign redirecting us to the fifth floor, to the room opposite to the boardroom we had left a couple of minutes ago. (Similar things happened at other sessions, sometimes there were chainlike redirections.)

The schedule collision meant that I was prevented to hear the initial papers by Hugh Houghton, "New Discoveries for the Old Latin Text of John," and Phlip Burton, "What is an Old Latin Manuscript?" Why did they plan a TC board meeting at the same time as the IGNTP presentation? (some of the boardmembers were actually presenting in that session).

However, PJW has reported on Hugh Houghton's presentation of interesting new discoveries here. (Maybe Pete can say something about the other papers we missed?)

When Peter Head and I rushed in, Klaus Wachtel was just answering questions after a presentation not announced in the program book. I do not dare to say anything about that since we just arrived during the last minute. After that it was time for Ulrich Schmid's presentation of the Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR), which was neither announced in the program, but, nevertheless, very exciting, although I had already received a personal demonstration when I was in Münster for the summer colloquium.

Schmid's presentation was at the same time an invitation to collaboration with people involved in manuscript studies. One important aspect of the VMR is the indexing of manuscripts which is a tedious work. The more people who work to get it ready the quicker it will be ready for use. The plan is to get the first installment of the VMR ready in January. The prototype is already up. (But I can't find it on the public INTF webpage.)

The VMR contains an indexing mask which works online already. You get a login with login name and can use the password "gast". The mask page presents a preconceived database and an URL page of the image of the manuscript, for collaborators to work with according to the VMR standard.

The indexing work is to identify the first word and the last word of the manuscript page of the MS you are working with. Then you can save it, and upload next image. Besides indexing the manuscript images, one can enter bibliographic information, etc.

The images are images available on the web already. Especially scholars who are working on transcriptions already, should do this work in the VMR! (I am sorry that I collated hundreds of MSS in Jude on spot in Münster before the VMR was available).

Initially the tool was conceived for indexing, but now the INTF tends to think of integration and so the actual transcription will be a tandem process. This means e.g., that the whole team in Münster who works on transcribing MSS will also work in the VMR environment. This is a unversal tool for people. There is a module also at the ITSEE in Birmingham with a different set of manuscripts (not necessarily NT MSS). When the work is finished the VMR will be able to list all MSS that contain a certain passage.

Part of this project is to contact holding institutions (this overlaps with the work of CSNTM). For internal use, the INTF/ITSEE use digitized versions of microfilm but only for internal unless they have special permission.

Read a more detailed presentation with nice images of the VMR by Jan Krans of the Amsterdam NT weblog here. Krans is currently working in the VMR with Codex Borelianus. Sadly, Jan did not turn up at the SBL in Boston. He was missed by several friends.

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