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8 Future Plans

8 Future Plans

The `Checklist' of over 500 manuscripts described above is to be made available on-line as soon as is practically possible; a prototype interface may currently be seen at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/mssnew.tcl. Whatever its weaknesses, it is to be hoped that the provision of minimal information will be of more use than the provision of no information; any faults and omissions can be rectified with relative ease in due course. Once the automated system is fully operational, the newly encoded versions of the old `Typescript' descriptions and the new detailed catalogue entries may be added to the online catalogue one by one, as each is completed, thus making the new information available on the internet at the earliest possible moment. The Checklist can also be used to indicate which manuscripts are in the process of being catalogued, and therefore provide users with an indication of which ones will be appearing as detailed descriptions in the near future. It is also hoped that by providing the Checklist and Typescript descriptions online, new awareness and interest in the manuscripts covered will be generated, and thus the cataloguing effort will benefit from feedback, which can be incorporated into the new detailed descriptions.

It is planned that the printed version of the detailed catalogue descriptions will initially be made available in a series of fascicules: rather than wait until the completion of the entire Project, it is thought that it will be more beneficial to make groups of catalogue entries available in printed form as and when they are completed. Thus, the collection of about twenty-five medieval illuminated manuscripts collected by T. R. Buchanan was chosen as the first group to be tackled, since it has a certain homogeneity of content and provenance, and has provided a suitable test-group with which to develop the cataloguing methods and the automated system; this will be followed by the larger group of liturgical manuscripts from all other sources; and so on. Once all the manuscripts are published in this form, it may be desirable to reprint the descriptions as a single volume, with addenda and corrigenda, and cumulative indexes.

The user interface is likely to be subject to major revision once the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) becomes established, and new WWW browsers will be able to view XML marked-up texts directly. Instead of converting to HTML, the interface will rely on stylesheets based on XML-conformant DSSSL (Document Style Semantics and Specification Language), which should prove faster, more elegant, and thus easier to maintain than the current, complicated Tcl-based scripts. It is hoped to incorporate digitised images into the system shortly: both the EAD and TEI provide facilities to link to image files, and it should prove relatively simple to include in-line images and pointers to external files. Inline images may be useful for collation diagrams, for instance, while links to external files would allow us to use our catalogue records as the core of a digital archive of manuscript images. The first such links may possibly be to the high-resolution images produced by the Celtic Manuscripts Project ( Oxford University 1997), currently underway at Oxford.


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