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ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION OF ETHIOPIAN MANUSCRIPT ARCHIVES: WHAT’S INVOLVED? [Abstract ID: 0801-13]
The publication of Ethiopian manuscript archives (EMA) is a collaborative project carried out by historians and philologists working on manuscript documents produced by the Ethiopian Christian kingdom between the tenth and the twentieth centuries. Ethiopian manuscript “archives” is a general term encompassing administrative, juridical and historical texts, which were produced by the Ethiopian political and religious authorities to proclaim their laws, rules and traditions. The term “archives” is to be thought of in a very wide sense and also as standing in juxtaposition to religious and literary texts. The producers of these documents were the royal, and, to a lesser degree, religious administrations. Private acts, often in Amharic, were issued comparatively late, from the beginning of the eighteen century. Several thousands of documents of diverse character constitute a coherent corpus of primary sources so far largely under-exploited . Establishing ways of publishing and analyzing these documents is thus part of an approach, innovative in so far as it draws on digital technologies, and classical by its situation within the tradition of diplomatics. The encoding of texts and the structuring of the data and the metadata adhere to the broadly accepted standards of XML-TEI. The electronic publication of these documents has a number of objectives in mind. First of all, publishing the documents in transcription, in translation and, when it’s possible, as images, will make them accessible. Then the digital environment will allow the manipulation and analysis of the texts, by multiplying research tools. The construction of thematic indexes, including the technical terms belonging to the specific vocabulary of the charters, the ability to search complete texts, and multi-entry search engines all offer points of entry into and the means of navigating within the documents. The encoding of the texts also allows us to bring out the structural elements of the legal documents and to construct tools for analyzing diplomatic discourse. The data processing tools allow the construction of ontological relationships which might, for example, advance prosopographical studies. Yet another advantage of electronic publication is the possibility of continuing to publish documents on-line at any time. Nevertheless, the use of digital tools does not answer all questions, it also raises problems and confront scholars with new choices that this presentation would also like to discuss.