Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews Multimedia Digital Library


Our greatest debt is to the numerous informants who generously shared their knowledge and traditions with Professor Samuel Armistead, the late Professor Joseph Silverman, and Israel Katz. A list of most of these informants, with links to the transcripts and recordings in which they appear, can be found by following the link on the home page, “Explore the Archive” and clicking “View the List of Identified Informants.”

This site is based upon the field work of Professor Samuel Armistead, the late Professor Joseph Silverman, and Israel Katz. The history of this work and a partial bibliography can be found by following the link on the home page, “About Sephardic Oral Literature and Pan-Hispanic Oral Literature.”

There are many individuals who, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and from the Amado Foundation, worked together over the past years to create this site. They are:

Bruce Rosenstock:

Bruce Rosenstock was co-principal investigator (with Professor Samuel Armistead) on the DLI-2 grant. Currently, Bruce Rosenstock is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and from there he continues to manage the web site for the project. In previous years of the project he was Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of California at Davis. Bruce Rosenstock was responsible for oversight of the project. In addition, he designed and implemented the technological infrastructure, from transforming the transcriptions into TEI XML documents to the Perl scripts that permit on-the-fly creation of their HTML formatting.

Karen Olson:

Karen Olson was the editor for the DLI-2 project. In the initial stages of the project, she listened to the tape-recorded materials, made transcriptions, trained students to do this work and then revised and corrected their transcriptions. The texts are in two quite different dialects of Spanish, both of which are radically different from Standard Spanish (both Peninsular and Spanish American). Later Karen worked with Bruce Rosenstock to learn about and determine the appropriate XML tags for encoding the transcribed material, so it would be accessible to researchers through the internet. She then trained the students in tagging requirements so they would be able to revise and tag (encode) their written transcriptions. Karen supervised and edited their work, doing research as necessary to find additional XML tags to solve problems and accommodate variations in the transcribed texts. During the entire grant period, she prepared a database consisting of information about the tapes, the transcriptions, and Samuel G. Armistead’s original field notes—the metadata—which can be accessed from the project’s web site and which is now available to other scholars. The bulk of this data was obtained by reading through the volumes of Prof. Armistead’s handwritten field notes and correlating the information there with the tapes he recorded in the field. Karen plans to continue adding information to this database as time and funds permit.

UC Davis graduate students who worked on the DLI project:

Dolores Miralles Alberola, María Belén Bistué, Janet Casaverde, Oswaldo Estrada, Esther Fernández, Jesús David Jérez Gómez, Corinne Pubill.

UC Davis undergraduates who worked on the DLI project:

Vivian Alvarado, Solange Bonilla, César Chang, Geoffrey Cheung, Julia Cohen, Rosa Dimas, Facundo Funes, Nydia Huerta, José Luis Lomelí, Karla Márquez, Cinthya Miranda, Ivannia Ramírez, Ariana Rodríguez, Nelly Rodríguez, Nancy Tamayo, Bianca Yerena.

Non-UCD students who worked on the DLI project:

María Belén Bistué, Olga Borovaia, Jill Kushner, Miguel Orts Laza, Aitor García Moreno, Gaspar Roby.

Staff from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

During the summer of 2011, Tom Habing, Manager of the Library's Software Development Group, ported the web application to the ASP.NET platform so it could be hosted on UIUC Library servers.

History of the Transcription Process:

Many UC Davis students, as well as some non-UCD students, have contributed to the project in various ways. Undergraduates from many different departments and majors, most of them native Spanish speakers, did the fundamental work of listening to the tape-recorded materials (now digitized and converted into MP3 files), and making transcriptions of the songs, stories, and comments they heard on these field tapes. In the initial stages of the project, starting in the summer of 1999, several graduate students in the UCD Spanish Department were instrumental in organizing the work in our dedicated computer lab in Shields Library at UCD. At the start of the project, Dolores Miralles Alberola and Janet Casaverde made crucially important contributions. They interviewed and hired the student transcribers, established phonetic conventions for the project, and trained the students in all procedures relating to transcribing. Lola and Janet spent hours revising and editing the initial transcriptions, listening to difficult passages and deciphering the words. They also resolved numerous linguistic and technical issues that arose daily. The project could simply not have succeeded without their expertise. Several undergraduates also made significant contributions at the beginning of the project, especially Julia Cohen, Karla Márquez, and Nelly Rodríguez. María Belén Bistué (not a UCD student at the time), together with the undergraduates mentioned, was particularly adept at completing and revising the initial transcriptions. Later in the first year, Jill Kushner and Olga Borovaia transcribed materials recorded in Hebrew and also participated in overseeing the transcription work.

As work progressed, during 2000 and 2001, graduate students Esther Fernández and Corinne Pubill supervised the undergraduate students and continued to revise the written transcriptions. As they gained expertise in XML tagging, they added the appropriate encoding. At this point, the graduate students were indispensable in running our transcription lab, checking and testing the XML tags, and fine-tuning the procedures and conventions followed by the transcribers. In this period, Aitor García Moreno contributed his expertise, while here as a visiting graduate student, to decipher difficult passages in Judeo-Spanish. These students created a wide range of materials for reference and teaching purposes, including everything from file management and naming protocols, to phonetic conventions and examples of correct XML tagging. We are indebted to them for documenting the work they carried out.

In the third year of the project, 2001-2002, two graduate students, María Belén Bistué and J. David Jérez Gómez, contributed their expertise, along with Miguel Orts Laza (not a UCD student). They completed the revisions of transcriptions, fine-tuned the tagging and corrected errors that appeared as the files were called up from the project website. They also searched for missing files, resolved file-naming conflicts, and conflated and edited duplicate versions of transcriptions, while continuing to supervise undergraduates. In his second year of work with the project, undergraduate Facundo Funes became quite expert at transcribing the materials, as he learned more about the Judeo-Spanish language and romances. His conscientious work, along with that of Nydia Huerta, seldom needed revision. Throughout the 3-year grant period, the graduate students did a fantastic job of organizing and overseeing the day-to-day work of the project. It certainly could not have been completed without them. Their ongoing documentation of the work carried out will be a valuable resource for future projects of this type.

In June 2002 we were permitted to extend the grant period for one year. This additional year allowed us to expend the remaining grant funds to add significant materials to a database consisting of information about the tapes, the transcriptions, and Prof. Armistead’s original field notes. From June to December 2002, María Belén Bistué and J. David Jérez Gómez learned, under the supervision of Karen Olson, how to carry out the work on this metadata. Using the automated data entry methods created by Bruce Rosenstock to facilitate this time-consuming task, they made great progress inputting the data contained in Prof. Armistead’s handwritten field notes. Karen also trained the graduate students in the project’s database methodology, so that they were able to help substantially with this process of research and subsequent additions to the database: reading through the field notes, interpreting the information there, and correlating it with individual songs on the various tapes. They skillfully resolved many questions relating to unidentified ballad fragments, variants, and contaminations (parts of several ballads sung together as one). María Belén Bistué continued this work from January to June 2003. She also spent tedious hours searching for incorrect tags and correcting them and fixing any other technical errors embedded in the transcription files, which Prof. Rosenstock encountered as he worked to fine-tune the project website and its searchable database. Belén’s work during this stage was enormously important, as she was able to glean a great deal of additional, detailed information from the field notes regarding the collection of the ballads, the informants, and even the ballad titles, in many cases. Without her dedicated, diligent efforts, future scholars would not have access to this precious information.