Towards a dynamic, scalable digital library of pre-modern Chinese

Paper to be presented at the 7th International Conference of Digital Archives and Digital Humanities, December 2016, National Taiwan University

This paper contrasts two radically different approaches to full-text digital library design and implementation: firstly, the “static database approach”, in which materials are firstly created, edited, and manually reviewed before being added to a generally static database system; secondly, dynamic approaches in which incompletely reviewed materials are imported into a dynamic system providing similar functionality, but within which significant further editing is intended to take place. To illustrate the technical challenges, benefits, and practical consequences of these two design approaches as reflected in a large-scale digital system, specific examples are drawn from the Chinese Text Project digital library, which initially began as a primarily static database system, and has over time evolved into a primarily dynamic platform. This change has been motivated in particular by a desire to achieve a scalable, sustainable platform for the curation of textual data and metadata, to which new material can be easily added as well as improved over time, while requiring minimal administrative overhead. This paper argues that while there are technical challenges to a dynamic approach, the increase in scalability dynamic approaches offer can have significant advantages, including potential access to a “long tail” of data which might otherwise in practice be overlooked.

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