It’s been a while since I last wrote about DH in Italy but I’ve been so busy lately writing up my chapter (it’s taking me ages…writer wanted!) that I’ve reluctantly had to postpone further posts on the topic. Until now that is. I’ve just finished writing an application and have finally found some time to show you the first project in the DigItalia series, Dante Online (which, incidentally, also appears in my catalogue of digital editions).
Dante online is a database of manuscript copies of the Divina Commedia recording dates, repositories and occasionally scribes. Some of these manuscripts can also be viewed online thanks to high definition images. The website contains information about Dante’s life, a timeline, as well as searchable texts and a bibliography. In short, this is a comprehensive gateway to the famous philosopher, writer and thinker. With regards to his writings, while presently focusing on the Divina Commedia, the aim of the Società Dantesca Italiana, in charge of the project, is to digitise all existing manuscripts of Dante’s works.
This is an interesting and very ambitious project and, as such, I expect it will require considerable time and effort to complete. Nevertheless, it already boasts useful features, both in terms of manuscript analysis and navigation. For starters, the website is available in both English and Italian, an option we might take for granted but that is often missing. The Latin texts are also translated into English, thus opening up the resource to a non-specialist audience. The search engine offers a good variety of parameters, particularly the CITY filter one can use to physically locate the manuscripts. The INTERVIEWS section has good potential if further developed.
However, there are also a few drawbacks: the images are spoilt by large watermarks and there is only one zoom view; the font size is unreasonably small considering the amount of empty space available; the project describes itself as a library of Dante’s works, yet it doesn’t provide dates for the documents listed; the absence of a critical apparatus, even basic, doesn’t do much for the reader in terms of contextualising the story; the NEWS section is, in my opinion, counterintuitive in that it doesn’t display a list of entries but, instead, leaves it up to the user to search the news archive.
Wouldn’t it be beneficial to open this -ultimately huge- resource up to the public so as to crowdsource links, dates and annotations? Or does user input work against the project’s (scholarly) objectives? As a heavy user of online resources myself, I like to actively engage with them rather than be passively given information. After all, isn’t the digital about user engagement and breaking barriers?
Another two digital projects on Dante advertise similar goals: the Princeton Dante Project ❝combines a traditional approach to the study of Dante’s Commedia with new techniques of compiling and consulting data, images, and sound❞ and the Dartmouth Dante Project contains commentaries on Dante’s magnum opus.
Dante Online, Princeton, Dartmouth… I’m thinking Linked Open Data.