Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews Multimedia Digital Library


This digitial library was created as part of the Digital Library Initiative Phase 2 program of the National Science Foundation. It was, at the time, one of only three humanities-centered grant recipients. We are proud to have paved the way for the many fine humanities digital library projects now underway throughout the world. Our digital library conforms to international standards for document metadata and encoding, using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) document type for all transcriptions. Furthermore, it relies upon the W3C standards for maintaining valid XML file versions of all TEI transcriptions. In this way, this digital library can be integrated seamlessly with other libraries that are similarly standards-compliant.

Original Technical Architecture 2000: All the software on which this digital library relies is Open Source. We employ an Apache webserver (Apache2.0.6) running mod_perl. We use the MySQL database server for maintaining searchable metadata concerning the transcription files. Xerxes++ and Xalan++ are used for parsing the XML files and for creating valid HTML files through an XSL stylesheet. The architecture of the website is designed using MasonHQ, a mod_perl web management tool. The search facility is supported by the ht/Dig software offered through the UC San Diego. The delivery of the audio files relies upon the SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) standard, and is facilitated by the Open Source Helix Server platform. The operating system is Linux, Ubuntu 8.04. In creating this digital library, we have sought to make interoperability, portability, and universal access our primary goals.

New Technical Architecture 2011: During the summer of 2011 the web application was rewritten and ported to a Microsoft-based platform. All code was written in VB.NET for the ASP.NET MVC web architecture and hosted on an IIS 7 web server. The original MySQL database was moved to an MS SQL Server database. Most of the database schema was unchanged, but several tables were added so that the full-text of the TEI files could be added to the database and full-text indexed for searching. All original TEI, MP3, and SMIL files were moved to the new IIS web server. MP3 files are played using the Google Reader MP3 player which uses Adobe Shockwave Flash. In order to play shorter snippets of larger MP3 files the open source Mp3Splt utility is used to create MP3 snippets on the fly.

There are nearly 2,500 fully edited transcription files with associated audio files. This resource constitutes the largest online collection of Sephardic folk literature (indeed, of all Hispanic folk literature) in the world. As such, it constitutes an invaluable resource for scholars in a number of fields, from medieval Hispanic studies to Jewish Studies and musicology. The beauty of the music and the poetry can be appreciated by visitors to this site from around the world.