Symposium Celebrates NEH-funded "Reading the First Books” Project
LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections will host a day-long digital scholarship symposium on May 30, 2017, titled “Reading the First Books: Colonial Documents in the Digital Age.” The event is free and open to the public, with registration at Reading the First Books.
The symposium celebrates the culmination of “Reading the First Books: Multilingual, Early-Modern OCR for Primeros Libros,” a two-year effort to develop tools for the automatic transcription of early modern, multilingual printed books that involved a collaboration between students, faculty, and staff at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. The project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities.
The May 30 symposium will bring together invited scholars, librarians, software developers, and students for a day-long conversation on the themes of digital scholarship, colonial and early modern history, and Latin American studies. Two keynote speakers will address the symposium: Brook Danielle Lillehaugen, Department of Linguistics, Haverford College, and Taylor Berg-Kirkpatrick, Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University.
“Reading the First Books" has extended Ocular, a tool for the automatic transcription of early modern printed books, to work across multiple languages and orthographies and to automatically generate both diplomatic and normalized transcriptions. It has applied Ocular to the Primeros Libros de las Américas, a multilingual collection of books printed in the Americas prior to 1601, to produce a newly corpus of machine-readable text in Huastec, Latin, Mixtec, Nahuatl, Otomi, Spanish, Tarascan (Purépecha), and Zapotec. The University of Texas Libraries and the Benson Latin American Collection are partners in the multinational Primeros Libros project along with over a dozen other institutions.
Primeros Libros is a unique reflection of the range of textual production in early colonial America by both European and indigenous intellectuals. This includes, for example, the only Nahuatl grammar from the period written by a native speaker of the language. The newly transcribed corpora will create new possibilities for scholarship and increase discoverability for users such as the approximately 1.5 million Nahuatl speakers living in Mexico and the United States today. This corpus will also carry with it new, implicitly learned statistical information about the documents, including patterns in language use as well as patterns in printing processes.
The project manager of “Reading the First Books" is Hannah Alpert-Abrams (PhD candidate, comparative literature, UT Austin), who worked in collaboration with the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A&M University. The project has been supported by faculty director Sergio Romero (assistant professor, LLILAS and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese), Kent Norsworthy (former Digital Scholarship Coordinator, LLILAS Benson), and Albert A. Palacios (Digital Scholarship Coordinator, LLILAS Benson).
For more information about the May 30 symposium, please contact Albert A. Palacios at firstname.lastname@example.org.