The third Coffee Break Conference, “The Study of Asia: between Antiquity and Modernity,” recently held in Cagliari (13th–15th June), hosted a panel on Cybernetic Sources—The Historical Sciences in the Age of Digitization. On this occasion, Dr. Formigatti delivered a speech analyzing the advantages and shortcomings of a digital catalogue vis à vis a traditional catalogue in book form. Particular attention has been devoted to the encoding of information according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) standards, and to the drawbacks of its highly hierarchical organization schema. A major issue arising from the application of these standards is that cataloguers are often forced to adapt definitions developed for Western manuscripts—whatever this might mean—to manuscripts belonging to altogether different cultural traditions. However, also the positive aspects of a digital catalogue have been dealt with, such as the digitization of manuscripts, the increased ease of cross referencing information within collections and the open character of digital texts, a feature that allows the constant improvement of catalogue entries.
Burkhard Quessel, Curator of the Tibetan Collections at the British Library, will meet with the project team on Monday 19 March to discuss some of the issues arising from the use of the TEI 5 module for the cataloguing of South Asian manuscripts.