Thursday, December 17, 2015

ANS Awarded Funding for NEH/Mellon Foundation’s Humanities Open Book Project

The American Numismatic Society has been chosen as one of ten publishers to participate in Humanities Open Book project, a joint NEH-Mellon Foundation grant program to convert out-of-print books of enduring scholarship into EPUB e-books licensed to allow readers to search and download these books freely, and to read them on any type of e-reader. The ANS is the only learned society to receive funding for this initiative.

“The large number of valuable scholarly books in the humanities that have fallen out of print in recent decades represents a huge untapped resource,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “By placing these works into the hands of the public we hope that the Humanities Open Book program will widen access to the important ideas and information they contain and inspire readers, teachers and students to use these books in exciting new ways.”

ANS publications date back to 1866 and include over 500 volumes of numismatic scholarship. Thanks to the funding received from the Mellon Foundation, nearly 100 of its rarest out-of-print books will be converted into free EPUB digital editions. The ANS will go one step further by TEI-encoding these editions for online viewing, searching, and linking. Following best-practices of Linked Open Data (LOD), these XML files will link to (and will be able to be linked from) other Open Access (OA) resources in the Humanities, benefiting researchers in history, archaeology, art history, geography, and other disciplines.

“Scholars in the humanities are making increasing use of digital media to access evidence, produce new scholarship, and reach audiences that increasingly rely on such media for information to understand and interpret the world in which they live,” said Earl Lewis, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“Knowledge wants to be free,” Andrew Reinhard, ANS Director of Publications said. “This grant will help the ANS put even more of its collections online for free and open access for anyone who wants it.” The ANS continues its ongoing, longtime commitment to digitization and databases having placed over 600,000 objects online—more than 100,000 of which have been photographed—while contributing tens of thousands of coin records via international projects such as Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE) and PELLA: Coinage of the Macedonian kings of the Argead dynasty. Thanks to the Mellon grant, the ANS can continue to add its publications to this suite of OA materials.

Ethan Gruber, the ANS’s Director of Data Science, said “this is an important project that will enable us to further integrate our numismatic collection, archival materials, and digital library into a cohesive platform to further not only the study of coins, but also the study of the evolution of numismatics.”

“On behalf of the Trustees and staff of the Society, I would like to thank the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this exciting project,” Ute Wartenberg Kagan, Executive Director of the ANS, said.

The Mellon-funded EPUB and TEI-encoded publications will be available by the end of 2016.

For more information, contact Andrew Reinhard, Director of Publications, at

The full list of works to be made publicly accessible as EBooks through this program is available at

Friday, December 4, 2015

The ANS Digital Library, a Look Under the Hood

The ANS announced the launch of its Digital Library few months ago. There are only a few items in the repository at the moment, but we will be expanding in the very near future to include journal articles and open access EBooks. This blog post will introduce some of the technical concepts behind the open source DL framework, ETDPub.

The idea that initially drove our framework was the desire to make numismatic theses and dissertations more widely and freely accessible. Andrew Reinhard, ANS Director of Publications, came to me in the late summer to put together something very basic that we could launch at the INC in Taormina in late September. At first, I looked into an off the shelf tool called Vireo, developed by the Texas Digital Library. However, this platform was designed for the phases of dissertation review and publication into an institutional repository at a university. It is a backend-only with no front-end to speak of. The only solution was to build something effective quickly. The basic specifications for ETD publication were: an interface for basic metadata entry, and upload mechanism for PDFs or other documents, and a front end to provide the public with access to the documents.

Since I've done a lot of XForms development upon library metadata standards in the past, and since nearly all of our applications are already built in XRX/SPARQL design concepts in Orbeon, we opted to use Orbeon for this framework as well. We put together a basic MODS template for electronic theses and dissertations and an XForms editor to handle data entry, document upload, and web service interaction. Like EADitor, xEAC, Numishare, etc. there are lookup mechanisms for the Getty LOD thesauri, Geonames, VIAF,, Pleiades for ancient geography, and LSCH from the Library of Congress. In even includes lookups for authority records from a xEAC installation (like EADitor). We went from development to production in the first version of the framework in about a week.

Saving the MODS file writes it to an eXist XML database, publishes the metadata to Solr, and indexes the document file into Solr for full-text searching using the ExtractingRequestHandler. Yesterday, I extended the publication functionality to serialize MODS into RDF to post triples in a SPARQL endpoint. This draws content from our Digital Library into our archival platforms built on EADitor and xEAC. We are digitizing auction catalogs, books, and journals edited or authored by prominent numismatic scholars that also played a role in the Society, and therefore have EAC-CPF records in the ANS Biographies service. For example, our Digital Library contains one auction catalog edited by Edgar H. Adams. The metadata from this catalog are published to the SPARQL endpoint, and two items from our archive (an EAD finding aid and a photograph described in MODS) are also available from the biographical page in the Adams authority record. This is the ideal model for larger-scale aggregation of cultural heritage content associated with archival authorities. It is nearly impossible to maintain these connections by hard-coding resourceRelation elements in the EAC-CPF record.

So now we have three standalone software frameworks that comprise our digital library and archive, all connected together via linked open data methodologies. The next step is to begin integrating coins from our collection into this broader network of numismatic information.

We will begin this work soon with the digitization of ANS monographs. These books contain references to coins in our collection, to hoards published on, to materials in our archive, and to numismatic concepts defined on

ETDPub already supports the publication of TEI and dynamic serialization of TEI into EPUB 3.0.1.

More details soon.