Monday, November 3, 2008


NINES is the acronym for Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship, a ground-breaking digital project hosted by the University of Virginia. NINES aggregates a large collection of digital projects devoted to the 'long nineteenth century' by indexing their content and providing a comprehensive searching and authoring facility through the NINES interface. From the beginning of 2009, NINES will also support an 'exhibit builder', enabling users to arrange and publish the items they discover in annotated bibliographies, course syllabi and illustrated essays.

The NINES Collex Interface offers an excellent model for the development of Aus-e-Lit. The initial federation of selected databases in the Aus-e-Lit Project could be presented to users in a way similar to that employed by NINES, but the FRBR bibliographic model employed by AustLit will remain the foundation for the records of individual works. So, too, the new interface will be built on AustLit foundations. For example, to see how AustLit currently represents Patrick White's Voss click here. AustLit users can get to such records through Quick, Guided and Advanced Searches, producing a result that will look something like this. Aus-e-Lit programmers are currently working with the current AustLit interface and the selected databases to provide the best interface for the display of federated data. The first versions will be tested in December and trialled throughout 2009.

The Aus-e-Lit team is looking forward to the appearance of the new version of Collex which will include an 'exhibit builder'. Example exhibits have been mounted on the NINES web-site, providing a preview of what the exhibit builder can do, but it will be informative to see how the collection of exhibits grows after the tool is released. The collaboration or interaction of the NINES community is essential for the growth and enrichment of metadata that links and describes digital items from the many contributing projects. The collection and organisation of digital objects combined with the enrichment of keywords and annotations will build an increasingly rich infrastructure of data for present and future researchers of nineteenth century literature and culture. With its origins in the 'long nineteenth century', Australian literature has a lot to contribute to knowledge of the period. The current stage of development will make it difficult to offer the stability required by NINES to function within its aggregated community, but a future partnership could be considered, providing Australian literature a stronger position in digital communities devoted to the study of nineteenth century literature and culture.

With its ability to collect, describe and publish digital objects from a wide variety of peer-reviewed projects, NINES is one of the most significant examples for the development of tools for the study of literature in a digital environment. The technical and conceptual foundations of the project that are outlined in a collection of 'Related Readings' offer an important grounding in the future of literary studies in a digital world. As a base for the 'promotion of new modes of criticism and scholarship promised by digital tools' such as Collex, Juxta (the project's text collation program) and Ivanhoe (an online play-space for textual interpretation), NINES is an essential book-mark for any browser.