Follow-Up on PSL Internship at ISAW Library

By Fanny Mézard

This summer the ISAW Library hosted Fanny Mézard as a digital publications intern in collaboration with the École nationale des chartes at the PSL University in Paris. Fanny contributed to the development of new features to our open-content scholarly journal, ISAW Papers, specifically looking into expanding the kinds of digital formats supported by the journal and exploring alternative presentations of the journal’s content. She documented this experience in her Masters thesis, Proposer de nouveaux usages pour les publications numeriques : l’exemple d’ISAW Papers. We are happy to report that in the intervening months Fanny successfully defended her thesis and received her Masters from the École nationale des chartes. In addition, she recently took a job developing a digital collection for Italian Studies at the Library of the University of Grenoble.

With my internship at the ISAW Library coming to a close, it is a good time to publish an update about the exciting projects I was lucky enough to work on with Patrick Burns during the second half of my internship, bringing ISAW Papers into the world of linked open data. As some of you may already know from my last post, I completed this internship while finishing a Masters in Technologies Numériques Appliquées à l'Histoire (Digital Technologies for History) at the École nationale des chartes at the PSL University in Paris. I worked with ISAW Papers from the very start of this internship and my first project with Sebastian Heath was to create ebooks for each of the articles. If you are curious, they can be found here. The ePub format makes it easy to download the individual Papers and read them either on an ebook reader or directly on a computer.

During the second part of my internship, I worked on improving the discoverability of the Papers and creating new ways of using and reusing the journal contents as a data source. Patrick and I decided to create several types of academic indexes—such as an index locorum, an index verborum, etc.—for the articles, an Index Indicum or “Index of Indexes,” if you will. The idea is to create new access points for the readers of ISAW Papers. The challenge was that we wanted to generate these indexes dynamically, so that they can scale automatically as new issues of ISAW Papers are added. We also wanted these new access points to be attractive and intuitive, so we developed a small web application with a page for each index, with all of those pages linked to the papers.

Some of the indexes are quite basic, little more than a proof of concept for the project, presenting a reader with a simple list of articles and their authors. But other indexes are more involved and genuinely capitalize of the idea of journal-as-data. For example, an “index” is a map of all the places that are referred to in the Papers that have corresponding entries in the Pleiades, the online gazetteer of the ancient world. Using this map, you can explore the articles geographically, taking in at once all of the places that are cited either in ISAW Papers as a whole or in a defined subset of them. From this map you can link through to both the Pleiades page for the specific place and the paragraph of ISAW Papers where the place is cited. You can also display text from the articles referring to these places directly under the map.

Other indexes are little more than experiments at the moment. I used a word-ranking formula to extract lists of significant words in a given article. Here are the lists—I will let you decide if you think that those lists are representatives of the general contents of the articles. (And please send feedback to !) Lots of room for improvement, but also a good step forward in thinking of how to reimagine the academic journal article as a dataset and develop innovative scholarly apparatus from this data.

I hope that these features represent new and useful ways of exploring the content of the Papers. There are still many other indexes and other types of access points one could build, so expect this project to continue to grow and evolve. I was really happy to play a role in its initial development and I learned a great deal from working of this project. Thank you and au revoir!