Thursday, 20 December 2007

New texts for Xmas!

Just in time for Christmas ... the NZETC has added several new texts to our collection. A bit of a mixed bag this time; something for everyone I hope.

In collaboration with the University of Waikato Library we're especially pleased to be able to make the six volumes of John White's 1888 "The Ancient History of the Maori" accessible online. In 2002 the University of Waikato Library created PDF versions on CD-ROM and new print editions of the documents. Earlier this year they generously gave us permission to produce new versions for the web. This is massive!

Botanists are going to love the Plantarum Novarum Ex Herbario Sprengelii Centuriam by Johann Friedrich Theodor Biehler. (Well ... when we say "novarum" ... these plants aren't as new as they were in 1807). Seventeen species and one genus of plants from New Zealand and the South Pacific were first described and named in this Latin text published in 1807. Professor Phil Garnock-Jones from the School of Biology at Victoria University who has written about the significance of this work, reset the text and kindly agreed to allow us to publish it as part of the NZETC collection.

Bird Life on Island and Shore By H. Guthrie-Smith is a good quick read for those interested in NZ bird life - "should be swallowed at a single gulp" according to the author. Some good photos there too.

Another natural history addition is A Leaf from the Natural History of New Zealand by Richard Taylor, from 1848.

Infantry Brigadier by Sir Howard Kippenberger, from 1949, is a worthy addition to our substantial World War II collection.
In 1949 Kippenberger’s own account of the war, Infantry Brigadier, was published to wide acclaim. The book is a detailed and well-written account of his part in the Second World War, and shows much of its author’s modesty, reflectiveness, soundness of judgement, humane concern for his men, and dry sense of humour. It has been translated into seven languages, and is still used as a textbook of infantry tactics.
Harper, Glyn. 'Kippenberger, Howard Karl 1897 - 1957'.
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
, updated 22 June 2007

Aucklanders should find something of interest in Some Interesting Occurrences in Early Auckland By E. Earle Vaile:
In those days anything might happen to folk in the streets. Judge Munro told me that on one occasion he was walking up Queen Street with a “new chum” when a tattooed Maori chief spoke to him. The new chum asked “What does this curious looking old savage want with us?” The Maori asked “What the Pakeha say, e hoa”? Judge Munro replied “He is admiring your tattoo”. The Maori responded by exposing his rump saying “my moko (facial tattoo) is nothing, let him see this”. Maori men were often so closely tattooed from the waist to the knees as to appear clad in knickerbockers.
(from Chapter 11)
Last but not least, the fabulous War Economy Recipe Book will surely provide one or two (perhaps as many as 3) recipes suitable for your Yuletide feasting! In all seriousness, some of the recipes in this book (mostly named after battles and military leaders) are not for the faint-hearted:

A Very Good Home-Made Coffee.

5 cups of bran, 2 cups of treacle.

Put in a piedish and heat in oven, continually stirring. Care must be taken not to leave too long without stirring, as it will burn. Cook till dry—may take an hour—in a moderate oven. When cool put in airtight tin. Similar in flavour to “Instant Postum.”

Oh yeah ... Instant Postum ... look out for that in the shops eh?

Other recipes are definitely worth a try. I've tried and I can recommend the Tripoli Biscuits (you may know them as ANZACs), and I have a 5-year plan to try out Stalin Gingerbread. Because of war-time rationing, many of the recipes are egg-free.

From all of us here at the NZ Electronic Text Centre, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

For those with too many books...

Got so many books on your bookshelves at home that you don't know where to find the one that you're after?
For those bibliophiles who answer "yes" to the above, an interesting article has surfaced by someone who was determined to find the best way to catalogue their home library of 3,500 books.

The original question they asked, and the 300-odd comments / suggestions that it generated are also available.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Australia New Zealand Digital Encyclopedia Group meeting in Sydney

This week Jason, Jamie and Conal (that’s me!) from the NZETC attended the annual meeting of the Australia New Zealand Digital Encyclopedia Group in Sydney. The ANZDEG is a fairly informal gathering of people working on online encyclopedias and similar things in this part of the world.

This year Aotearoa was represented by people from the NZETC, the National Library, and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage (which publishes Te Ara and the Dictionary of NZ Biography, amongst other things).Jason demonstrated a pre-release version of his latest opus, “Remote Writer”; a simple-to-use word-processor application which can be used to edit structured documents over the internet, similarly to a wiki or blogging tool, though additionally it still works even when the user is disconnected from the net. The idea is that organisations like the NZETC can allow remote contributors to produce and maintain structured XML documents using Remote Writer, without them having to learn XML, and without a lot of fuss.

Jamie presented about his new authority control software “Entity Authority Control System” (EATS), which is already in use at the NZETC to keep track of a few tens of thousands of literary works, people, places, and organisations (plus a few odd livestock including a particular dog, a couple of cats, and at least one pet chicken). EATS is a web-accessible database which allows users to maintain the names, unique identifiers, control numbers, and indeed any distinguishing characteristics of a large number of distinct things (”entities”) of whatever type. This is a common requirement of Encyclopedic websites, and also it’s increasingly a requirement that these websites can efficiently maintain links between each of their records and corresponding records on other websites. By storing identifiers from a number of authority files, EATS provides a mechanism to do this. For example, our EATS server has a record for Samuel Marsden, with an NZETC code name-208673 and a DNZB code of 1M16, which is how we include the link from our Samuel Marsden page to the DNZB’s Samuel Marsden page.

Conal gave a short presentation showing how we maintain the hyperlinks from the NZETC website to other sites, using EATS to unambiguously identify each person, book, etc. in those websites, and using TEI documents to describe how those people, books, etc, relate to each other, and to the individual pages of the websites.

The issue of Authority Control came up a lot - in particular the Australians are all hanging out for the upcoming launch of the National Library of Australia’s “People Australia” service, which is going to link together authority records for Australian people and organisations from a number of different sources.Another interesting software demo was “Heurist”, an “academic database” of web bookmarks, citations, and research data, with tagging, searching, and sharing features, developed at the University of Sydney.

A common topic of presentations was the integration of maps and timelines in online exhibits. We saw some beautiful examples of old maps of Sydney changing over the years as landfills ate away at the harbour. Another striking demo showed a map of Australia with a sliding control with which you could go back and forth in time during the last 50 thousand years, and watch the map change as sea levels rose and fell, Australia joining up with Papua New Guinea, its name changing between “Australia” and “Sahul” (as archaeologists call the joint land mass), and archaeological sites fading in and out of existence as environmental conditions for those settlements changed.

Wellington will host the next meeting in December next year. With a bit of luck and some organisation we should be able to get a few more New Zealanders along!