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Name: Hannah Alpert-Abrams
Conference name: The Joint Conference of the Association for Documentary Editing and the Society for Textual Scholarship
Location, date: Lincoln, Nebraska, May 2015
Panel title, moderator: Problems in the Editing of Colonial Latin American Texts (Dr. Laura Miele)
Paper title: “Machine Reading in the Mexican Colonial Archive: OCR and the Primeros Libros”
Tell us a little about the conference. What kind of conference is it? Who attends?
The Association for Documentary Editing is an organization for people – mostly but not exclusively non-academics – who work on producing edited editions of manuscripts or historical documents: professional editors who work with presidential collections, for example, or scholars producing edited editions of Whitman or Shakespeare. The Society for Textual Scholarship is an organization for scholars interested in «textual studies, editing and editorial theory, electronic textualities, and issues of textual culture across a wide variety of disciplines.»
The joint conference was a collegial meeting of professional editors and those interested in theorizing editorial processes. Panels switched between practical editorial problems, and discussions about how textual culture can give us insight into history and literature.
What was your panel and paper about? Give an introduction for non-experts.
I was on one of two special panels with a Latin American focus organized by Clayton McCarl. Everyone on my panel was interested in problems of editing colonial texts. Nathan Gordon spoke about problems in transcribing early colonial manuscripts: the challenges of reading historical documents, and the decisions involved in transcribing them. Clayton McCarl spoke about challenges he’s faced while editing a historical bibliography for online production, including misinformation and imaginary books.
My paper was about my work with the LLILAS Benson to automatically transcribe the early colonial printed books in the Primeros Libros collection. In this paper I was interested in whether automatic transcriptions like OCR can be understand as an interpretive process along the lines of ordinary hand transcription.
Was there another panel or talk that you found particularly interesting? Tell us something exciting, unexpected, or new that you learned.
It was great to attend the second Latin American panel, which was organized remotely with scholars from the UNAM: Marina Garone Gravier, María Andrea Giovine, and Aurora Díez-Canedo. They spoke about problems in textual studies that are particular to Latin America: studying early colonial print culture, tracing the discourse around «New Spain» across the Americas, and considering the implications of new digital media in Mexico. It was great to see a successful, digitally mediated transamerican collaboration. María Andrea Giovine also introduced some fascinating digital projects like concretoons, golpe de gracia, still standing, and the centro de cultura digital.
The conference didn’t have a specifically Latin American /Iberian theme. How did your work fit into the conference?
This was mostly successful thanks to the work of Clayton McCarl, who organized two Latin American panels for the conference. The audience seemed genuinely interested in expanding the borders of the conference, and there were other attendees who worked outside of the United States, though not many. There were also enough methodological overlaps between panels that the conference was valuable to attend.
Who would you recommend this conference to?
If you work on documentary editing of any kind, the ADE conference is a great way to meet other editors and discuss editorial challenges. Their summer institute is also a good opportunity to learn basic practices for editorial work.
The STS conference is a great chance to meet other scholars who work on textual history, provenance studies, material culture, circulation, archives, things of that nature. If they continue to have panels focused on Latin American studies, then I would definitely recommend it.