Development of this site

This page details our progress and future plans for development of this resource. You can see the gory day-to-day record of our work on the project blog, and you can also follow the details of our work through the following RSS feeds:

Structure & organization of the site

The Colonial Correspondence site is based on a large eXist XML database, which contains all of the documents in the collection, marked up in TEI XML (P5). Other parts of the site (such as this page) are also encoded in XML (sometimes XHTML). The site is managed and rendered using Apache Cocoon, a web application framework which runs on top of the Apache Tomcat servlet container. The entire application stack is based on open-source software, and can run on Linux, OSX, Windows, or any other operating system with a Java virtual machine. We have even been able to run it on a netbook, to do demonstrations of the site where Internet connections are not available.

Documents are retrieved from the collection using XQuery queries sent to the eXist database engine, which then returns the results in the form of XML fragments or documents; these results are then processed using XSLT to create XHTML web pages, which are sent to the browser. Styling is all done with CSS, and interactive components such as pop-up biographies and footnotes, are handled using ECMAScript (JavaScript). This diagram shows a simple version of the application structure:

XML Web application framework

These are the main components of the site, including those which are planned but not yet implemented (those in italics):

Progress so far

Reliability of transcriptions

The early years (1846-1855) have been proofed and corrected against the original page-images, and we consider them reliable. Subsequent years have not been proofed, although many have been enhanced with additional markup. Unproofed documents carry a warning at the top of the page. If you are working with an unproofed document, you can usually check the transcription against the original page-images by clicking on the appropriate thumbnail in the margin of the document. We would encourage you to do this whenever practical. If you encounter any transcription errors, please let us know.

Upcoming tasks

The 1846-1855 documents currently represent the ideal towards which we are working; we're now re-editing documents from 1856 onwards. These are the main tasks we're currently working on:

Our encoding guidelines

Our encoding practices are constantly evolving, of course, but we have a detailed set of guidelines, written and maintained by Kim Shortreed-Webb and Gordon Lyall, which we periodically turn into a PDF and post on the site. If you're interested in the fine details of how our project works, please take a look.

Martin Holmes
University of Victoria Humanities Computing and Media Centre