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TextGrid, TEXTvre, and DARIAH: Sustainability of Infrastructures for Textual Scholarship

Mark Hedges, Heike Neuroth, Kathleen M. Smith, Tobias Blanke, Laurent Romary, Marc Küster, and Malcolm Illingworth


A variety of initiatives for developing virtual research environments, research infrastructures, and cyberinfrastructures have been funded in recent years. The systems produced vary considerably, but they all face the issue of sustainability, namely how to ensure the continued existence of a resource once the project that created it has finished. This paper addresses the sustainability issues faced by the TextGrid and TEXTvre virtual research environments for textual scholarship, examining the inter-project collaboration and cross-fertilization that took place, and investigating how the projects benefited from this exchange. It also examines how their sustainability is being facilitated by the more general-purpose DARIAH infrastructure, and conversely how their existing collaboration can serve as a model for future collaborations within the DARIAH community.

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1. Introduction

1In recent years, a variety of initiatives have been funded with the aim of producing software tools or environments of a type variously known as virtual research environments, research infrastructures, or cyberinfrastructures. These initiatives vary in their scale, specialization, scope, and level of funding. One issue that they face in common, however, is that of sustainability: how can the continued—and useful—existence of a system or tool be guaranteed, or at least facilitated, once a project's funding has been spent? In this paper, we examine how such sustainability has been enabled, in the particular case of infrastructures for textual scholarship, in the context of three international projects: TextGrid,1 TEXTvre,2 and DARIAH3. Firstly, we will address the inter-project collaboration and cross-fertilization between TextGrid and TEXTvre, including architectural decisions and shared data infrastructures, and investigate how the projects benefited from the exchange. We will then discuss how this existing collaboration can be taken forward by the loosely-coupled and distributed framework being developed by the DARIAH community, and how it can serve as a model for the sort of collaborations that DARIAH plans to enable.

2TextGrid is a longstanding German initiative to establish a virtual research environment for several text-based humanities disciplines. It has been running for many years and its current aims are to achieve a high level of sustainability of its work and to collaborate with international partners to enhance its offerings. The Digilib4 project is one example of a scholarly editing environment within TextGrid. Digilib is noteworthy for its strong focus on an existing community, and it has led to various attempts within other communities to adopt and replicate its methodologies and technologies.

3One of TextGrid's international collaborations has been with the UK-based and JISC-funded TEXTvre project, which aimed to adopt and institutionalize TextGrid's solutions for the well-established community for digital textual scholarship in the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London. To this end, TEXTvre spoke to King's researchers engaged in these activities, analyzed their responses, and enhanced the TextGrid services to suit their needs, for example by integrating better support for automated text analysis.

4The Digital Research Infrastructure in the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH) is building a virtual bridge between different humanities and arts resources across Europe. Initially funded under the ESFRI programme,5 DARIAH combines various national infrastructures—from the Dutch national support infrastructures for e-humanities to the German e-humanities infrastructure TextGrid. It also aims to help other EU countries establish their own arts and humanities e-infrastructures, and to achieve new modes of collaboration between computing and humanities based on existing communities of practice such as the one that has emerged around TextGrid. However, there is no generic way to use a research infrastructure; it needs to be oriented and customized towards the needs of emerging communities. Services in such an infrastructure are useful only if they are built around such communities of practice.

5This paper is structured as follows. In section 2 we describe the TextGrid and TEXTvre projects and examine how they relate to each other. Section 3 discusses their collaboration on tools and services, and section 4 their deeper collaboration on data infrastructure, before we examine in section 5 how these could be further supported within the context of DARIAH. Finally, in section 6 we address ongoing collaborations on sustainability and on tools and services.

2. Background: TextGrid and TEXTvre

6The TextGrid research group, a consortium of ten research institutions in Germany, has developed a virtual research environment (VRE) for researchers in the arts and humanities. It provides services and tools for the digital analysis of text data and supports the curation of research data using grid technologies. Research partners—including libraries and data centers as well as universities and research institutions—are collaborating in a community-driven process that is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). As part of the German Grid Initiative D-Grid,6 TextGrid maintains a common Grid Resource Centre in Göttingen (GoeGrid)7 together with grid projects in physics, medicine, astronomy, and climate research.

7An essential aspect of the TextGrid infrastructure is that all its technical developments have been accompanied by the definition of precise recommendations, most of them based on the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines. These Guidelines, which for example establish precise constraints on stand-off annotation mechanisms or on the basic representation of dictionary entries, have contributed to the propagation of the idea of an infrastructure as comprising both technical and intellectual services. In particular, it provides a range of tools for supporting the production of digital editions based on TEI.

8Currently, TextGrid consists not just of its original communities—textual philology and linguistics—but also many others, for example art history, classical philology, and musicology, all of which have extensive interests in textual editing and annotation. TextGrid was conceptualized as an infrastructure that enabled new communities, together with their tools, to be easily integrated and also to take part in the development process. TextGrid has tried to put these communities first, and thus has only gradually and carefully introduced changes to the technologies and methodologies that it uses in its VRE.

9As detailed by Neuroth, Lohmeier, and Smith (2011), the TextGrid VRE consists of two main components: the TextGrid Lab(oratory), which serves as the entry point for users, and the TextGrid Rep(ository), which provides access to a shared data archive. The TextGridLab provides common functionalities in a sustainable environment in order to increase reuse of data, tools and services, and the TextGridRep enables researchers to publish and share their data in a way that supports long-term availability, interoperability, and reusability.

10TEXTvre built on the success of TextGrid and worked towards an institutionally-focused VRE that addressed the requirements of a wider community of practice of textual scholars and could be integrated with institutional infrastructure. Its approach to this involved engagement with researchers based in and collaborating with staff in the Department of Digital Humanities at King's, exploring their research practices and integrating user tools to support and enhance these practices.

11The Department of Digital Humanities (DDH; formerly known as the Centre for Computing in the Humanities) is an academic department in the School of Arts and Humanities of King's College London and the home of many multidisciplinary research projects in the digital humanities (including many text-based ones) carried out in collaboration with a range of humanities departments, both at King's and elsewhere. TEXTvre's engagement with humanities researchers was mediated through this department and focused on research projects in which DDH was a collaborator.

12One of the main aims of the TEXTvre project was the analysis of existing research practices to identify processes that are typical of an institutional environment for digital humanities. It was expected that there would be significant differences at DDH in comparison with a national infrastructure such as TextGrid. Three case studies, which were considered to be typical of the critical edition projects carried out within the department, were selected:

  1. Early English Laws8 produced new editions and translations, both online and in print, of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced till the Magna Carta in 1215. The project operated in an extremely heterogeneous document environment, and the researchers were distributed across the UK. It also had very specific descriptive, administrative, and technical metadata requirements that weren't then accommodated in TextGrid.

  2. The Gascon Rolls Project9 addressed texts that form a fundamental primary source for the study of the administrative, political, and economic history of the French region of Aquitaine under English rule. The source documents are somewhat inaccessible in the UK's National Archive, so the project developed an online edition with summary translation, high-quality images, and detailed indexes. It worked within a well-developed tradition of editing historical records (at least printed editions) but required the creation and support of an ontological layer.

  3. The Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania10 produced an online edition of the inscriptions, mainly in Latin, from the Roman province of Tripolitania (in modern Libya). There is an established print-based tradition for the editing and publication of inscriptions, and a reasonably well-established extension of this to the digital domain, EpiDoc,11 has grown out of this tradition, in part as the result of work by the IRT team.

13Based on an analysis of these projects, TEXTvre identified the kinds of services and tools that could be reused from the TextGrid environment, as well the gaps in provision.

3. Working Together on Tools

14As discussed above, TextGrid is built on a distributed architecture and offers its users access to an ecosystem of different services and content; these tools will be the focus of this section. TextGridLab, TextGrid's Eclipse-based user interface, integrates a set of interactive tools such as the XML Editor, the Text-Image Link Editor (German "Text-Bild-Link-Editor", TBLE) and the Text-Text Link Editor (discussed in section 6). The XML Editor is one of the core functionalities of TextGridLab, allowing users to switch easily between a more technical view with tags and attributes and a structural view that is oriented towards standard text-editing applications. The Unicode Character Table enables the user to search, copy, and insert symbols from the Unicode character set. The Text-Image Link Editor supports the XML Editor by linking text sequences with image sections in order to create files that contain text elements and topographic descriptions.

15TextGrid offers various utility tools that support the XML annotation process. The Dictionary Search Tool, for instance, provides an integrated search interface to a number of different dictionaries within the TextGrid VRE. The Wörterbuchnetz dictionary network12 at the University of Trier has been integrated into the interface for this purpose. The CollateX13 tool is another utility tool for comparing two or more files encoded in XML (including TEI) and annotating any differences.

16The Text Publisher Web tool, on the other hand, can be used to present project results and publications on a project website. The tool is part of a TextGrid toolkit for web publishing. For more specialized publishing tasks, a module called XML Print14 is integrated into TextGrid to allow printing of scholarly texts with complex typesetting layout requirements based on XML data, with a particular view towards the needs of critical editions and dictionaries. Finally, the Bibliography Tool can import bibliographical data from existing data inventories and be used to capture, process, and administer bibliographies. Users can also export bibliographical data into certain standard formats (for example, TEI and MODS).

17With the addition of new user communities, TextGrid has added new tools and customized existing ones. The Note Editor illustrates MEI15-encoded scores and displays them in a simplified format. Unique features of the Note Editor, such as the visualization of variants, are located in the editorial field. Another new tool is the Gloss Editor, which facilitates the description of specific text structures in gloss comments, the synoptical presentation of different gloss comments regarding the same text, and the synoptical presentation of gloss comments and related digital manuscripts.

18TEXTvre wanted to go beyond these tools and services and interface with tools relevant to the local environment. These included alternatives to standard TextGrid tools, such as the commercial XML editor <oXygen/>, and services for linguistic analysis based on the open source framework GATE (Cunningham, Maynard, and Bontcheva 2011; Cunningham et al. 2002).

  • 16 Note that it is not possible to apply an XSLT transformation to an XML file being edited with the p (...)

19<oXygen/> is the XML editor of preference for DDH projects, so the TEXTvre team considered accommodating this to be an important candidate for TEXTvre. The <oXygen/> Eclipse plugin, which supports all of <oXygen/>'s basic XML editing functionality,16 was integrated into TextGridLab, allowing users to create TEI files with <oXygen/> instead of the TextGrid editor.

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4. Data Infrasrking Together on Tools

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    Blanke, Tobias, Michael Bryant, Mark Hedges, Andreas Aschenbrenner, and Michael Priddy. 2011. "Preparing DARIAH." In Proceedings: 2011 Seventh IEEE International Conference on eScience, 158–65. Los Alamitos, CA; Washington, DC: IEEE. doi:10.1109/eScience.2011.30.

    Constantopoulos, Panos, Costis Dallas, Petern Doorn, Dimitris Gavrilis, A. Groß, and Georgios Stylianou. 2008. "Preparing DARIAH." In Digital Heritage: Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Virtual Systems and MultiMedia, Limassol, Cyprus: Short Papers, 164–66. Budapest: Archaeolingua.

    Cunningham, Hamish, Diana Maynard, and Kalina Bontcheva. 2011. Text Processing with GATE. Sheffield, UK: University of Sheffield Department of Computer Science.

    Cunningham, Hamish, Diana Maynard, Kalina Bontcheva, and Valentin Tablan. 2002. "GATE: An Architecture for Development of Robust HLT Applications." In Proceedings of the 40th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), 168–75. Stroudsburg, PA: Association for Computational Linguistics. doi:10.3115/1073083.1073112.

    Hedges, Mark, Anna Jordanous, Stuart Dunn, Charlotte Roueché, Marc W. Kuster, Thomas Selig, Michael Bittorf, and Waldemar Artes. 2012. "New Models for Collaborative Textual Scholarship." In 2012 6th IEEE International Conference on Digital Ecosystems and Technologies (DEST). Piscataway, NJ: IEEE. doi:10.1109/DEST.2012.6227933.

    Jordanous, Anna, K. Faith Lawrence, Mark Hedges, and Charlotte Tupman. 2012. "Exploring Manuscripts: Sharing Ancient Wisdoms across the Semantic Web." In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Web Intelligence, Mining and Semantics, article no. 44. New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/2254129.2254184.

    Kuster, Marc Wilhelm, Christoph Ludwig, and Andreas Aschenbrenner. 2007. "TextGrid as a Digital Ecosystem." In 2007 Inaugural IEEE International Conference on Digital Ecosystems and Technologies (IEEE DEST 2007), 506–11. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE. doi:10.1109/DEST.2007.372029.

    Lagoze, Carl, Sandy Payette, Edwin Shin, and Chris Wilper. 2006. "Fedora: An Architecture for Complex Objects and Their Relationships." International Journal on Digital Libraries 6(2): 124–38. doi:10.1007/s00799-005-0130-3.

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    List of illustrations

    Caption Figure 1. TextGrid and TEXTvre data infrastructure
    File image/png, 27k
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    Electronic reference

    Mark Hedges, Heike Neuroth, Kathleen M. Smith, Tobias Blanke, Laurent Romary, Marc Küster, and Malcolm Illingworth, « TextGrid, TEXTvre, and DARIAH: Sustainability of Infrastructures for Textual Scholarship », Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative [Online], Issue 5 | June 2013, Online since 25 June 2013, connection on 14 December 2017. URL :

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    About the authors

    Mark Hedges

    Mark Hedges is director of the Centre for e-Research and senior lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London, teaching on a variety of modules in the MA programme in Digital Asset and Media Management. His original academic background was in mathematics and philosophy, and he gained a PhD in mathematics at University College London before starting a 17-year career in the software industry, working on large-scale development projects for industrial and commercial clients. He began his career at King's as technical director of the Arts and Humanities Data Service.

    Heike Neuroth

    Heike Neuroth holds a PhD in Geology and since 1997 she has been working at the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB) in Germany, where she heads the Research and Development Department (RDD). She has been involved in building virtual research environments and research infrastructures for many years. She lectures in information science at the Applied University of Cologne as well as in digital humanities at the University of Würzburg. Additionally, she has been an e-humanities consultant at the Max Planck Digital Library (MPDL) since February 2008.

    Kathleen M. Smith

    Kathleen M. Smith is a research fellow in the Research and Development Department of the Göttingen State and University Library. She holds an MLS and a PhD in Germanic Literatures, and her research focuses on early modern information networks. Kathleen is currently working on the CENDARI project, which is developing a research infrastructure for the fields of medieval and World War I history.

    Tobias Blanke

    Tobias Blanke is a senior lecturer in the Centre for e-Research, Department of Digital Humanities, at King's College London. He is a director of DARIAH, a European research infrastructure for arts, humanities, and cultural heritage data, and leads the joint research work for EHRI, a pan-European consortium to build a European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. He holds PhDs in philosophy and in computer science.

    By this author

    Laurent Romary

    Laurent Romary is directeur de recherche (director of research) at INRIA, Rocquencourt, France, and guest scientist at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. He carries out research on the modeling of semi-structured documents, with a specific emphasis on texts and linguistic resources. He is the chairman of ISO committee TC 37/SC 4 on Language Resource Management, and has been active as member (2001–2007), then chair (2008–2011), of the TEI Council. He currently contributes to the establishment and coordination of the European DARIAH infrastructure.

    By this author

    Marc Küster

    Marc Küster is professor for web services and XML technologies at Fachhochschule Worms, Germany. He has a background in physics, literary studies, and history, and his current research interests include the application of information technology in the humanities, Web services, and digital ecosystems. He has served as keynote speaker, program committee member, workshop chair, technical program chair, and general co-chair for various international conferences, and is active in standardization in the fields of cultural diversity, eBusiness, and eGovernment. Since 2008, he has been on leave for a project at the Publication Office of the EU (central data and metadata management). 

    Malcolm Illingworth

    Malcolm Illingworth is an applications consultant at EPCC, one of the foremost supercomputer centers in the world, established in 1990 as a focus for the University of Edinburgh's work in high-performance computing. He works on facilitating the effective exploitation of advanced computing methods to solve real-world problems in academia, industry, and commerce.

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    TEI Consortium 2013 (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License)

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