The Italian Academies 1530-1650: a Themed Collection Database.
Issue 2. January 2007
Since the first issue the AHRC funded project has made excellent progress. The Project Management Group has forged excellent working patterns for the day-to-day development of the project and has continued to meet on a monthly basis to review progress and plot the next stage of development. At our December meeting we were delighted to note that the development of the web pages for the database was very much on schedule. As this is the essential first step and one which obviously has to be right this is excellent, and as Principal Investigator I reiterate my most sincere thanks to the eIS team in the BL and their enthusiasm and input. Simon Woolf has produced a Highlight report listing the major areas on which work has been completed or is nearing completion and outlining the remaining areas on which some work still remains to be done which includes some non-technical work. This part of the project is very much on schedule and in some areas well ahead: a very pleasant situation. One topic on which readers of the bulletin may be able to assist is in the selection of images for the web pages. We need some images of places and people connected with our 4 centres (Bologna, Naples, Padua and Siena). As these will be relatively small on the screen, clearly defined images, with not too much detail to distract are what we are looking for. Any suggestions will be most gratefully received by any member of the Project team.
The first meeting of the Advisory Panel took place in late November in the impressive setting of the BL boardroom. From the point of view of the Project Management Group this was an extremely useful meeting. It is very encouraging to feel so well supported by a panel of interested experts. Members of the Advisory Panel from both within and outside the BL raised a number of important points. Their questions for clarification about the project and its aims will help with the design for example of the Help and About pages of the database, and with formulating presentations of the project to outside audiences. BL staff stressed the need to monitor progress from the point of view of the many BL departments involved and we shall endeavour to do this throughout the life of the project. Advisory Panel members have also agreed to act a testers or guinea pigs when we are ready to launch the catalogue and provide important user feedback.
Collaboration between institutions
The project involves collaboration between Royal Holloway University of London and the BL. Although there is a consortium agreement in place between the two institutions, in order to run our project it is necessary to establish a sub-contract between the two. This will safeguard the interests of both institutions, and permit the transfer of funds to the BL for input into the project as set out in the application to the AHRC. The issue of the sub-contract has been more complicated than originally envisaged (at least by the PI) since it was important to clarify and agree the matter of Intellectual Property rights in this case. The document is now ready for signing. Collaboration at all levels is proving an interesting and useful learning process for all involved. Hopefully our pioneering of such a collaboration will make future joint projects run by our two institutions even easier. Certainly we hope that there will be more projects of this kind linking the BL and RHUL, especially now that the BL has Academic Analogue status.
Networking and publicity
In addition to the web based themed collection which will naturally provide the core mechanism for publicising the project once it is fully launched, the team have been seeking ways to draw the project to the attention of scholars, and especially librarians in the UK and beyond. The PI has spoken to colleagues in Padua and Florence, and will shortly be spreading the word in Rome and Milan. The Co-I has also been in touch with fellow librarians and reports great interest whenever the project is described. An item fully describing the project will appear on the Home page of Royal Holloway in January ( HYPERLINK “http://www.rhul.ac.uk” http://www.rhul.ac.uk); a paragraph on the project has already appeared in the RHUL alumni bulletin The Higher, and another will shortly appear in the staff newsletter. The project team proposed a panel session to the forthcoming Society for Italian Studies biennial conference, to be held next July, and this has been accepted.
One aspect on which we have not made as much progress as we would like concerns the addition of images to the database. Many of the books surveyed contain images of academicians, of their academy emblems and mottoes, and of the Academies themselves. We feel that it would significantly enhance the database if we could scan in these images, but this was not part of our application to the AHRC and consequently is not part of the present funding. The addition of such images would certainly promote the usefulness of the Themed Collection to art historians as envisaged in our application. We are currently therefore considering approaches to other funding sources to cover this discrete part of the project. Any suggestions for possible sources of funding will be most welcome.
At the end of the first three months of this three-year project, as PI I feel extremely positive about progress. I must also once again reiterate my warmest thanks to all who have been closely involved in getting the project to this stage: the extent of interest and enthusiasm, commitment and hard work is really amazing – thanks to all. I had hoped to circulate this before Christmas, but that proved impossible. So this comes also with best wishes for a Happy New Year to all our readers. Do let us have comments and views, even please contributions.