Guntram Geser and John Pereira
It is with great pleasure and honour to publish alongside our series of DigiCULT Publications
a special edition on the digitization of emblem books.The twelve articles which stem from the
working conference on emblem digitization held in September 2003 at the Herzog August Bib-
liothek,Wolfenbüttel, Germany, allow us to exemplify how scholars in a highly specialised area
of research together with digital librarians have taken advantage of information technologies, stan-
dards, and emerging best practices for the digitization of emblems and emblem books, and the
scholarly work related to them.
The complexity of practises put to good use by the emblem research community is illustrated
by the key issues and methods covered in this DigiCULT Special Publication: establishing meta-
data, using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) standard, indexing emblems (e.g. with Iconclass),
collection-level descriptions, metadata exchange procedures, using the Open Archives Initiative
Metadata Harvesting Protocol (OAI-MHP) for emblem data, federated searching based on
ontologies, and establishment of an emblems portal.
In addition, the issue of how best to serve the requirements of users, be it through new tools
for the emblem scholar, online pathways into the emblematic tradition for students from various
disciplines (such as philosophy, theology, history, literature and the arts), or online presentation
environments for a broader audience, is also approached.
At the policy level the emblem community acknowledges an important aspect DigiCULT
observes over and over again, the importance of consensus building and co-operation on all lev-
els, regional, national, and international. Both demand substantial investment of resources, as well
as the need to accommodate conflicting interests such as, for example, already implemented tech-
nical solutions, project specific goals, etc. But, as a show of success, the emblem research com-
munity has in recent years not only managed to set up several national digitization projects (for
example, Canada, Germany,The Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, USA), but also reached interna-
tional consensus on many key issues.
In particular, the projects that participated in the Wolfenbüttel Conference have agreed to con-
duct their projects in a manner that encourages future interoperability and the sharing of meta-
data, and are considering the Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting Protocol (OAI-MHP)
as a common standard for exchanging emblem metadata. A new group, OpenEmblem, was
formed to work on emblem digitization together, and the emblem community is also close to
realising the first draft of a new metadata schema for emblem books.
Since the Wolfenbüttel Conference, the OpenEmblem Portal has been launched. Hosted by
the Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, it aims to be a resource for
emblem book researchers from around the world, helping them share resources and engage in
As outlined by David Graham from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, these
achievements represent the beginning of a new, third phase of emblem digitization, that started
twenty years ago when emblem scholars in the face of major technical and market breakthroughs
such as the Macintosh computer with its GUI operating system, the first readily available scan-
Transl."Genius lives on; all else is
mortal". See the illustration in R. B.,
Choice emblems, divine and moral,
antient and modern, or, Delights for the
ingenious, in above fifty select emblems...
6th ed. London, Printed for E.
Parker, 1732, Emblem III,
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