Toganoo Collection of Esoteric Buddhism11 Sep 2018
A case study exploring the description and presentation of Japanese classical texts in a TEI / IIIF ecosystem
Below are the slides and text of a short paper co-presented with Tomoko Bialock, Hiroyuki Ikuua, and Kiyonori Nagasaki at the Japanese Association of Digital Humanities (JADH) Conference in Tokyo, September 11, 2018
TEI/IIIF in the Toganoo project context
I’m sure I don’t need to go into the merits of TEI here, but I’ll just give a quick overview of the TEI features that are important in the context of our project:
- Since much of the important data relates not only to the works included in the collection, but also to their history, provenance, and physical evidence thereof, we’ll make heavy use of TEI’s manuscript description module.
- We’ll also use TEI to encode surfaces in order to connect information about the volumes to their digitized images
- TEI also allows us to encode multiple types of information - including contextual information about entities, physical characteristics and evidence, as well as any structural or editorial information
- For all it’s standardization, TEI is flexible and can adapt to meet project needs (this can also be one of it’s downsides, especially when working towards interoperability across many projects)
- And of course, TEI is great for more narrative descriptions when basic bibliographic information isn’t sufficient
So, why IIIF?
- Interoperability! IIIF will help us achieve interoperability with other institutions or collections. It’s important to think about the Toganoo texts as a discrete collection, but equally important to be able to consider these texts in the larger collection of Buddhist texts or early modern Japanese texts too.
- Since IIIF treats hosting and presentation of images separately, IIIF allows us to co-locate the Toganoo texts with other IIIF-hosted materials to remix and reimagine our collection set. Individual scholars will be able to pick and choose which volumes, pages, or even regions of pages to assemble into their own focused collection.
- Also, super zooming and faster loading of hi-res images…
TEI/IIIF: Some challenges and possibilities
There are definitely some challenges ahead – TEI and IIIF compliment one another and together can be powerful way to open up and share collections and their accompanying data, but as far as we can tell approaches to TEI/IIIF interoperability are very project specific right now, like the work that Jeff Witt is doing with the SCTA. There is no standard way to achieve TEI and IIIF integration at this point. There is also currently no place for TEI in the IIIF presentation layer or in the primary IIIF viewers.
We hope the Toganoo collection can serve as a useful case study to help determine use cases and strategies for bringing TEI and IIIF together in a scalable way in the UCLA Digital Library.
Connecting IIIF canvases in TEI:
We need standards for embedding IIIF canvas ids into TEI documents to connect manuscript and witness information to an image. We’ve looked at a few examples of how other have done this and have mocked up a few possibilities for us, but nothing we feel is worth showing at this point. This isn’t a difficult task, but it would be great if we could come up with a uniform way of doing this at the community level.
TEI as source data:
Like many projects, we’re looking at TEI as the canonical data source. We want scholars to be able to direct download the TEI for their research. We can generate the metadata needed for search, browse, and display in our digital library system from the TEI and use the TEI to populate some of the IIIF manifest data. But use of metadata in a IIIF manifest is limited and we prefer to keep the manifest clean and focused on the presentation data. So what do we do with all that great TEI? …and how do we connect it to a users viewing experience in practice?
Unfortunately, current IIIF viewers do not have a place for metadata, especially something as rich as TEI. Right now we can display the TEI in a web page next to an embedded IIIF viewer, or we could convert the TEI to a IIIF-friendly data format, like JSON that we could potentially display in the something like Mirador’s Index panel. Neither of these options really connect the TEI and IIIF layers though; it’s just migrating to other formats and likely flattening much of our detailed descriptions.
To see how we might bridge this gap, we’re working on creating a prototype IIIF viewer with a built-in metadata panel. Ideally, the panel would format TEI or MODS (or another schema) for display. We would also like to see if we can create a plugin for Mirador that would add a TEI tab to the current Index panel.
Working with TEI in the IIIF environment
Another experiment explores how we might work with TEI directly within the IIIF environment. We are working on a module that would allow annotators to generate TEI from the Mirador annotations feature.
Finally, this isn’t something we are working on now, but I hope we can work on a system that will allow us to reference or link back to specific parts of a TEI description using Open Annotation from within the IIIF environment.