PROVO, Utah, July 31, 2013 — Backstage Library Works and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries have collaborated to bring full-text search and discovery to the entire collection of Isaac Leeser's correspondence.
The Gershwind-Bennett Isaac Leeser Digital Repository features access to the personal papers and publications of Isaac Leeser, widely regarded as the foremost American Jewish leader in antebellum America. The repository is the first major collaborative effort undertaken by the Jesselson-Kaplan American Genizah Project.
The Leeser site contains digital images of over 2,100 original letters. The Penn Libraries cataloged the correspondence according to local standards and transcribed the letters for legibility. Backstage then encoded each letter using TEI to allow for sophisticated full-text search and discovery. Links to facsimiles of the original letters are embedded in the TEI documents.
David McKnight, Director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library indicates why Penn (Libraries) chose Backstage for the project:
"In our desire to move the Leeser project forward, we had funding which enabled us to consider outsourcing the TEI encoding. The Penn Libraries had some experience working with Backstage so we decided to partner with them on this project. We worked closely with the Backstage team to ensure our project requirements were well understood. It turned out to be a success."
The Leeser Digital Repository increases access to the Penn Libraries' Dropsie College Isaac Leeser Collection for scholars around the world. The Penn Libraries' materials are also placed in a larger context among other collections of Isaac Leeser's personal papers and publications, providing a more complete understanding of this man and his impact as an American Jewish Leader in Antebellum America.
Additionally, the project provides an example of how digital technologies and metadata enhance access to dispersed archival documents and produce dynamic forms of discovery through full-text searchability of transcribed hand-written documents and printed works.
The Leeser repository can be accessed at: http://ubuwebser.cajs.upenn.edu/.