Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Marquette Project

Left to right: Ed Sanchez, head of Marquette's Library IT; 

myself (John D. Rateliff), Tolkien scholar; 

Erik Mueller-Harder, software developer and Tolkien scholar;

 William Fliss, curator of Marquette's Tolkien Collection.

 So, for the past four years* I've been coming to Marquette twice a year to work on an ongoing project. I was finally able to share it as a work in progress at the Tolkien day gathering at Kalamazoo's Medieval Congress (the last time they had an in-person gathering --2019?). Now it's been officially announced. Here's yesterday's announcement on Facebook:


J R R Tolkien Collection - Marquette University Libraries


New posts on this page are infrequent, but that doesn’t mean we’re not busy at Marquette!! This has been an incredible month as we work on the system for digitally reprocessing the manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings. Here is the core team: Ed Sanchez, head of Library IT, John Rateliff, Tolkien scholar extraordinaire, Erik Mueller-Harder, software developer and Tolkien scholar, and Bill Fliss, curator of Marquette’s Tolkien Collection. After years of mapping the collection, we are finally designing the system for navigating the virtual collection. It will make life so much easier for scholars who visit Marquette to study the manuscripts. (Copyright prevents us from just sharing the system, with its 10,000+ images, online.) The project has been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Meetings have been intense but productive as we work through known obstacles and anticipate future challenges. Truly, “There shall be counsels taken / Stronger than Morgul-spells.”

--I'm really looking forward to sharing news about this project as it moves from creating a 'map of the manuscripts' (my contribution to the project), a graphic representation** to quickly guide researchers to a specific draft of a specific chapter of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, a framework that will provide the basis for an electronic database that will use this 'map' to quickly access a high-quality scan of any page out of the thousands in the collection.***

I think this project, when fully realized, will build on Christopher Tolkien and Taum Santoski's work in the late eighties to make it far easier for visiting scholars using the collection to track a specific scene or passage or motif's first appearance within the story. It'll be a particularly valuable tool for those who use it in conjunction with the relevant HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH volumes built upon that work.

  Exciting times. And the next stage of a long-simmering project nearing culmination.



*except the plague year, 2020, when travel and research were alike impossible.

**think of the London Underground 'map' as an example

***including any text on the back of a page, such as pages from student essays

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