The Oxford Text Archive at 40

The Oxford Text Archive (OTA) was founded by  Lou Burnard in 1976, and has been in continuous operation at the University of Oxford ever since.

Oxford Text Archive

Oxford Text Archive at 40

2016 is therefore our fortieth anniversary. Ten years ago we organized a one-day event to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary, and to look back and forwards. A summary of the day can be found one the OTA Thirtieth Birthday page.

The OTA is a repository for digital texts. The collection includes large numbers of digital editions, language corpora, and some more complex digital collections, such as databases, collections of data from websites, and images and audio data. Most of the items are the outputs of academic research projects, and one of the main roles of the OTA is to offer a route for digital outputs to be preserved, shared and reused beyond the end of fixed-term projects.

The OTA offers long-term preservation for its collections with secure storage in an HFS archive account. Accession of new items to the collection continues, although the OTA does not currently actively seek new accessions. Funded research projects from any institution are welcome to get in touch to discuss deposit of new works.

The OTA continues to participate in a number of collaborations. It is a centre in the CLARIN European Research Infrastructure Consortium, and is home to the coordination of CLARIN-UK. One of the results of this is that resources in the OTA can be discovered via the CLARIN Virtual Language Observatory. Users of the OTA can explore many of the texts online by clicking on the link to explore the text in Voyant Tools. Since all of the unrestricted resources are made available with stable and position URIs, other services can be used to process individual texts or batches of them.

Standards-conformant texts encoded in XML can be accessed in a variety of formats thanks to the OxGarage document conversion service – see for example this edition of Twelfth Night.

Below is a brief timeline of some of the key milestones in the past forty years:

  • 1976 Start of the Oxford Text Archive, based in Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS)
  • 1978 Oxford Concordance Programme launched by Susan Hockey
  • 1979 Kurzweil data entry machine (KDEM) installed in OUCS
  • 1987 Start of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)
  • 1989 Start of the project to build the British National Corpus
  • 1989 Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) Centre for Textual Studies
  • 1994 Launch of British National Corpus
  • 1995 First publication of TEI Guidelines
  • 1995 Humanities Computing Unit formed in OUCS
  • 1996 Start of Arts and Humanities Data Service
  • 2008 Start of Common Languages Resources and Technology Infrastructure (CLARIN)
  • 2008 End of Arts and Humanities Data Service
  • 2015 EEBO TCP texts available via OTA

Read more

Burnard, Lou (1988), ‘Report of Workshop on Text Encoding Guidelines’, Literary and Linguistic Computing 3: 131–3.

Burnard, Lou, and Harold Short (1996), An Arts and Humanities Data Service, JISC [http://www.ahds.ac.uk/about/documents/ahds-feasibility-study.pdf]

Burnard, Lou (undated), ‘Humanities Computing in Oxford: a Retrospective’ [http://users.ox.ac.uk/~lou/wip/hcu-obit.txt]

Hockey, Susan (2004), ‘The History of Humanities Computing’, in A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, [http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companion/]

Proud, Judith K. (1989). The Oxford Text Archive. London: British Library Research and Development Report.

Pajares Tosca, Susana  (2000), Report on the Humanities Computing Unit,[https://pendientedemigracion.ucm.es/info/especulo/hipertul/HCUreport/HCUeng.htm]

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