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About the Founding Era platform

About the American Founding Era Platform

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Rotunda’s first two publications in our American Founding Era collection, the Dolley Madison Digital Edition (2004) and the Papers of George Washington Digital Edition (2007), had very different origins. DMDE was a born-digital project from the start, with transcriptions created in XML richly tagged for information about people and places. PGWDE was created by digitizing 52 existing letterpress volumes, converting them to XML in a way that preserves the integrity of the printed volumes while also enabling each individual documentary object (letter, diary entry, invoice, etc.) to be treated as a separate item for purposes of searching and display. Each publication was designed and programmed to be “standalone,” with different interfaces and no way to integrate their respective contents for uniform searching and display.

As Rotunda committed its resources to a growing Founding Era collection that would add completed and in-progress documentary editions from many editorial projects—the papers of Jefferson, Madison, and the Adamses; the documentary history of the ratification of the Constitution; and more—we realized the importance of building a new “Founders platform,” a programming framework that would allow us to add publications in such a way that they would become components of a single overarching interface. Readers should be able to search and retrieve documents from any or all publications from a single place, and seamlessly navigate through the results. Chronological navigation within the Founding Era—accessing documents by browsing from decade through year to month and day—should permit readers to find in one place all the documents from all publications for a given date (such as July 4, 1776).

Accordingly, nearly as soon as work was completed on the original PGWDE in mid-2007, we began designing and coding a completely new platform as a container for our Founders material. The goal was to produce a modular framework that would allow the American Founding Era to perform as a single publication in many respects, while also enabling publication-specific features where desired. This was a major undertaking: searching, rendering, map generation, and other back-end functions needed to be recoded, usually from scratch. In addition, we redesigned the navigation area, streamlining the compass and breadcrumb trail display. The beta release of the new Founders platform in November 2008 represents arrival at our first milestone after 18 months of work.

Beta Features and Planned Improvements

The November 2008 beta release incorporates our two existing Founding Era publications and adds one new one:

Dolley Madison Digital Edition
All document content is included in the Founders version, but several features of the standalone edition are not: annotation, “glossary” information about people and places, text from document envelopes. As many features of the DMDE are unique, it will always exist as a standalone publication with its own interface. A DMDE document in the Founders platform will always be accompanied by a link to the same document in the standalone edition so that readers can take advantage of the additional material there.
Papers of George Washington Digital Edition
All document content from the standalone PGWDE is present in the Founders version, including all annotation and other editorial matter. Missing in this first release is the consolidated index. Once we have added index navigation to the Founders platform and have verified that all functionality and display is identical to that of the standalone version, the Founders version of PGWDE will replace the original standalone one.
Adams Papers Digital Edition
The Rotunda edition of the Adams Papers represents a collaboration between the University of Virginia Press and the Massachusetts Historical Society. MHS took charge of the digitization, XML conversion, and initial proofreading of the 30 volumes represented in the initial release. UVa Press has integrated the digital files into our Founders platform, and is performing a second (ongoing as of November 2008) round of proofreading and correction. As with PGWDE, work on the consolidated index remains to be completed.

Among the improvements to the Founding Era platform that we plan to incorporate over the next few months are:

Rotunda staff