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Yiddish Texts and/within the Digital Commons

Wed, December 16, 2:15 to 3:30pm

Session Submission Type: Lightning Session


This panel critically introduces several recent or forthcoming digital Yiddish projects. Panelists will describe and analyze recent or emerging projects, but with the conceptual emphasis placed on the question - What comes next? With documents, books, posters, and other textual artifacts scattered across institutions, what kinds of collaborations must be imagined in order to build frictionless spaces for scholarship? In looking prospectively, the panelists will engage with the politics of knowledge production, and debate the conceptual framework GLAM - Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums. Can the edges of this relationship be meaningfully exploited, or is its primary utility clarifying that the study of cultural heritage is distributed? If so, how does it stand in relation to “scholarship” as traditionally conceived?

Two papers evaluate formal archival collections. Lyudmila Sholokhova offers an appraisal of the digitization of materials from An-Sky’s and Beregovsky’s expeditions in Ukraine. The presentation will discuss the nature and structure of the collection, digitization, and ongoing questions of access. By contrast, Eitan Kensky interrogates a modern, born-digital collection. In “Tsili: Or Field Notes from the Archive of Post-Vernacular Yiddish Filmmaking,” Kensky introduces Amos Gitai’s 2014 film Tsili, its complex archival legacy, and the broader politics of “The Amos Gitai Archive.” This emerging project, and ongoing international collaboration, he argues, raises critical questions of cultural heritage and transmission.

The second set of papers discuss “new” technological approaches to Yiddish texts. In 2019, The Yiddish Book Center publicly released Full-Text Search. The Yiddish Book Center partnered with Assaf Urielli on an OCR application that uses machine learning to improve its analysis over time. The presentation will discuss the challenges encountered in the process, as well as share unexpected discoveries. Finally, in “Linked Open Data: A Yiddish Trial,” Heidi Lerner explains how a discrete collection of 85-90 Israeli Yiddish theater posters afforded an opportunity to experiment with semantic web technologies. Describing the individual posters using Linked Open Data will theoretically help researchers and institutions understand and visualize the relationships nested within the posters, the data of actors, authors, theaters, singers and other stage personnel; and more broadly the history of Yiddish theater.

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