“Digitising the Diaries of Aloys Fleischmann: a prototype for novices” is a thesis project undertaken by Róisín O’Brien, with the collaboration of the Fleischmann family and under the guidance of practitioners, as part of a Masters in Digital Arts and Humanities at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland.
The project involved the digitisation of the 1926 and 1927 diaries of the late German-born Irish composer, Aloys Fleischmann (1910 – 1992). In addition to digital preservation, the aim of the Fleischmann Diaries project was to create a freely available digitisation prototype for scholars and non-practitioners, providing them with a reproducible model. The project focused on digital photography and the online publication of the digitised archive. Future expansion will consist of metadata development, which will transform the site into an enhanced scholarly resource. A supporting dissertation, documenting the technical process and establishing a theoretical basis, will be issued as an Open Access publication at the Cork Open Research Archive in November 2013.
This wonderful project came to me via one of the JISCmail archives mailing lists recently, and caught my attention right away.
I have a great interest in diaries, archives, and the digitisation thereof. I’m interested in why diaries are kept, and how, and I am often more interested in the format than the identity of the author. This latter often takes over from the former, however, as I live vicariously, leafing my way through their life in their own words.
Roisin O’Brien’s thesis and website, above, is a fantastic example of the ‘historic diary as website’ form. She combines expertly transcribed text with scans of the original pages, side by side. This combination allows the reader to reap the benefits of a hyperlinked set of text entries at the same time as understanding the original context of the diary itself and any other non-text artefacts included, such as press cuttings.
I’m also really pleased to see that O’Brien is keen to share her findings from her own specific approach to what is a challenging and fiddly project. I’ve seen numerous projects in which historians and biographers have attempted to present diaries in an online format. Some are more successful than others.
She breaks down the process here, and I look forward to reading the associated dissertation which goes into further detail.
O’Brien’s research gives me hope that as each of these projects surface, we get one step closer to a one-size-fits-all standard format for projects of this type.