background image
16
rather than of isolated undertakings. By encouraging users to think in terms of shared data, the
Web promoted an environment in which the creation of common open standards became a pri-
ority. As a result, many of the technical problems that had characterized the first phase ceased to
be problematic early in the second phrase.Where multiple graphics standards had competed for
users' attention, for example, soon the Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) and JPEG standards -
the latter being in effect embedded in the former - came to predominate where bitmapped
graphics were concerned.
15
In similar fashion, many of the other obstacles that had stood in the way of effective collabo-
ration among emblem scholars with an interest in digitization were also dissipated during the
1990s.The development and implementation of Extensible Markup Language (XML), for exam-
ple, provided a common standard both more flexible and more manageable than the full SGML
implementation.The adoption of ICONCLASS, first developed for iconographic classification
but adaptable to other systems of image keyword tagging,
16
provided a standardized controlled
vocabulary that was to a large extent already suitable for the description of emblematic images in
a way that had previously been impossible: early efforts like the "Macintosh Emblem Project" had
been bedeviled by precisely this lack of a controlled keyword set that would enable scholars to
describe images in predictable and standard ways.
17
These common standards shared one key characteristic: they were both platform- and vendor-
independent to a very high degree.This convergence towards open standards with implementa-
tions on multiple hardware and software platforms, together with the development of the
high-speed networks and transfer protocols that made effective distributed computing possible
across great distances and made possible the first meetings of scholars to discuss the possibility of
sharing digitization efforts in order to avoid duplication and share technical advances.The first of
these meetings was organized in Glasgow by Alison Adams in June 2001, with subsequent meet-
ings in Mallorca and A Coruña, Spain (organized respectively by Antonio Bernat-Vistarini and
Sagrario López-Poza and their respective research teams) and the Herzog August Bibliothek,
organized by Mara Wade and Thomas Stäcker. It is a significant index of the will to develop com-
mon approaches that each of these meetings was organized by a group from a different national
background with significantly differing technical philosophies and scholarly interests.
The result of this extremely important second phase of emblem digitization has been sub-
stantial agreement on a number of key basic principles.These include the need to agree on shared
and largely open standards, the importance of sharing the actual labor of digitization, which can
be costly in terms of the hours required to scan the images, enter and proof the texts, and tag
both; and growing awareness of the significance of reaching agreement on intellectual property
issues.This last element is vitally important because of what has been, outside of purely techni-
cal advances, the most significant advance of the past decade, namely the decision of the great
emblem libraries to join the work of digitization.Without the participation of the libraries in
whose stacks are to be found the most important collections of emblem books, no collective
efforts towards digitizing the European emblem could hope to succeed.
The situation, then, at the close of the first two decades of work in the field of emblem digi-
tization, is as follows.We have reached broad agreement on the need to employ standards as shared
and as open as possible for storage and markup of graphics and text; we agree that the actual work
of digitization must be spread among as large a group of participating scholars and institutions as
possible.We have a consensus that the intellectual property rights of the individuals and institu-
tions who own the actual copies to be digitized must be respected; it is our common view that
the corpus should be displayed through the world-wide network rather than distributed on phys-
ical media; finally, we agree that where possible, the digitized emblem corpus must be made freely
available to scholars and others with an interest in it, and that wherever possible, commercial con-
15
See http://www.scarse.org/docs/
tiff/tiff6.pdf for the TIFF specifica-
tion, dating from June 1992.
16
See http://www.iconclass.nl/
texts/history05.htm#systematic.
17
I and my student research assis-
tants had, in fact, spent a good deal
of time developing a tagging vocabu-
lary for emblematic images that was
much less satisfactory in the end than
ICONCLASS would have been, if
only we had known about it and it
had been available in a usable elec-
tronic form. Peter Daly and his team
developed a systematic vocabulary
for describing emblematic images
rather than tagging them, and used it
extensively in the Index Emblemati-
cus project.
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