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COVAX News Issue 2


Robin Yeates <[log in to unmask]>


Robin Yeates <[log in to unmask]>


Tue, 3 Jul 2001 09:41:16 +0100





text/plain (418 lines)

--- Apologies for cross-posting ---

The following newsletter for those in libraries, museums and archives
interested in internet developments is now also mounted at

Issue 2 June 2001

1. Making cultural resources accessible

Issue 1 of Covax News outlined the objectives of COVAX (Contemporary
Culture Virtual Archive in XML). A key part of the project involves
bringing together and searching distributed databases using
fast-developing open standards based on XML (eXtensible Markup
Language). How does Covax intend to describe the collections included in
the service? How are we addressing the need for resource discovery in
multiple languages?

A key part of the Covax approach is the innovative use of an XML Explain
database based on the concept of the Z39.50 Explain standard, used to
describe System Details about servers, Content Provider details about
organisations and XML-Repository details about databases and

The descriptions, names, addresses, and support information for each
site or database are marked up using XML, which provides a common
structure for information provided by each of the partners. The records
for the prototype are being centrally coordinated, so that for each a
native language version is prepared and one in English. Then each
partner is responsible for translating each record into their own
language, according to a schedule of responsibilities allocated by the
workpackage manager. If a partner fails to contribute their
translations, a record is made available to the Covax system only in
English or in those version that are available. It is hoped that
partners will contribute Explain content records and translations
promptly in order to ensure that their materials are easily accessible
to the maximum number of users.

2. PARTNER PROFILE: Residencia de Estudiantes

The Residencia de Estudiantes, founded in 1910 by the Junta Para
Ampliación de Estudios e Investigaciones Científicas, is now a private
foundation, created by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones
Científicas (CSIC) in December 1989. Originally a student residence, it
became the primary cultural centre in Spain.  It is known as being the
institution where Spaniards such as Federico García Lorca, Salvador
Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Severo Ochoa, Miguel de Unamuno, Alfonso Reyes,
Manuel de Falla, Juan Ramón Jiménez, José Ortega y Gasset, Pedro
Salinas, Blas Cabrera, Eugenio d’Ors or Rafael Alberti, were living or
were assiduous visitors. Furthermore, the Residencia was a forum for
debate and dissemination of the intellectual life between 1910-1936.
Albert Einstein, Paul Valéry, Marie Curie, Igor Stravinsky, John M.
Keynes, Alexander Calder, Walter Gropius, Henri Bergson o Le Corbusier
among others visited and shared their knowledge in the Residencia.

Since 1990 the Residencia is once again one of the most important
cultural centres of Spain. Also the Residencia de Estudiantes is devoted
to the recovery and dissemination of its historical legacy.  Hence, a
unique collection of bibliographical and documentary resources
specializing in the intellectual history and contemporary science of
first third of the Twentieth Century can be consulted.  The personal
archives of Luis Cernuda, Jesús Bal y Gay, Fernando de los Ríos, Manuel
Altolaguirre y Concha Méndez o León Sánchez Cuesta and those of
institutions such as the Junta para Ampliación de Estudios e
Investigaciones Científicas or the Museo Pedagógico Nacional stand out.
A description of the documentary and bibliographical resources and a
collection of images of the digitized documents are available at the
Red de centros y archivo virtual de la Edad de Planta de la cultura
española contemporánea (1868-1936), a project which is headed by the
Residencia de Estudiantes and is financed by the Fundación Marcelino
Botín. (website: http://www.achivovirtual.org)

The Residencia promotes research projects focusing on two main areas of
activity: discovery and disclosure of the historical legacy of Spanish
culture, and presentation and analysis of present trends in thought in
order to explore the future of culture as we know it.

The Residencia de Estudiantes publishes critical editions of its
historical texts and rescues exceptional testimonies such as the
"Archivo de la Palabra" or the "Residencia" magazine.

3. Review of XML Spy

by Fabrizio Poggi, ENEA, Rome


XML Spy is an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) environment from
Altova GmbH & Altova used in the Covax project to manage and simplify
the markup and editing tasks of users handling XML materials. Website:


XML is a subset of the SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language)
markup language, defined by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). XML is
a free, non-proprietary standard that is likely in the near future to
play an important part in the transfer, presentation, enrichment and
standardization of computer data and transactions. Many IT companies now
consider XML as crucial for the future development of innovative

It should be relatively straightforward to read, validate and edit XML
code but the development of the related tools is still in progress. We
can certainly work with XML, including use of open source tools (that
for many of us seems a preferred option), but XML tools currently
available are not particularly suitable or easy to use, especially
compared with tools availabile for HTML, web authoring, java and
JavaScript related, etc.

XML Spy 3.5 Premium version

-- please note that a 4.0 beta version of XML Spy is now available but
not reviewed here --

XML Spy is not an open source IDE, but, from the point of view of
usability and functionality for XML management, it seems to be an
excellent choice, offering the necessary reliability for professional
use. XML supports the full XML syntax, parsing, well-formedness,
validation, encoding; DTD definition; schema definition; XSL and XSLT
management; HTML and XHTML rules (this last is a superset of HTML4.0
rules that adds to markup a more rigorous syntax and compatibility with
XML environments); syntax highlighting; interoperability with other
external applications (imports from Microsoft Word); some of ASP and
BizTalk (untested).

The grid mode

In the Covax context, we use XML Spy for working with our source data in
several modes. The XML graphical representation in XML Spy is called
"Enhanced Grid View". Without a screenshot of this mode, think of it as
a hierarchical view that allows easy reading and work on the structure
of the XML source (structure intended as the tree of parents, child and
sibling elements) and with field values encapsulated in the structure

This working mode presents coloured fonts and cells that improve visual
presentation (parameters can be customised by the user: font size, font
colour, colour of selected and non selected elements). This mode gives
the best idea of the structure. The benefits of this mode are mainly the
ability to edit the hierarchical tree safely (the content of the tree
elements is limited by the grid cells and users can't mistake content
editing and structure editing) and to add, remove, change the location
of elements and values shown using standard windows methods (drag and
drop, copy, cut, paste).

XML Spy makes this work so easy that someone may accidentally move
elements, so perhaps there should be a confirmation pop-up window for
drag and drop events. However, the infinite undo mechanism should allow
users to avoid accidental changes. At the time of writing we have come
across a few small problems, related mainly to expansion of elements and
scrolling grids containing cells with large amounts of texts inside, but
these are just minor scrolling difficulties when viewing with a 1024x768
screen resolution.

Text and browse mode

The alternative mode is text view, supplemented by a browser mode. We
consider these last two as a single mode of working (as in most cases
the user works on the text source switching continually to browser mode
to verify the result of applied changes). In this mode the user has more
control over the markup coding and can work directly with it, with the
support of a useful auto-completion function and syntax highlighting.
This mode is always active during editing and provides readability (the
tags and the special parameters appear here in different colours) as
well as reducing typing effort (XML tag pairs are closed auto-magically
by the IDE and in HTML, where the tags are limited to a small subset, a
window list appears on the cursor popping up with all possible
completions for the typed code). Switching to browser view, the user can
easily see the results of editing in a preview (almost identical to
Internet Explorer display) of the HTML page.

The XML work

Our main work was loading, parsing and validating XML sources against a
DTD. XML Spy first loads the entire source. When the xml file has been
loaded, XML Spy verifies the well-formedness of the source using its
internal parser. An incremental check of the syntax is applied, allowing
the user to apply corrections and changes. This check also includes
special characters and encoding.

The second phase is validation. When a DTD is specified in the XML
source document, XML Spy also loads the DTD file and performs a check on
rules and semantics, matching the DTD file (which contains all the
rules) and the XML file (which contains a data structure and contents).
At this stage it is also possible to make changes and corrections on the
fly to complete the validation. Our experience of using this validation
shows that the built-in parser conforms more closely to the Microsoft
XML specifications, than to the full W3C XML standard. In some cases,
XML source documents validated in XML Spy gave us problems with other
validation systems. For example, the Tamino internal loader/parser
detected errors in XML documents that had been fully validated in XML


XML Spy 3.5 Premium Version is a professional, stable tool for Windows
98, ME, Nt4 and Windows 2000 O/S. It has an attractive, intuitive
interface well implemented using a small setup package. It is an ideal
IDE environment for markup languages in specific contexts (e.g.: XML,
XSL, XSLT, HTML, XHTML etc.). It is one of the first powerful tools
available. XML editing benefits include auto completion, syntax
highlighting, multiview environment, parsing, undo/redo infinite

Despite the small package size, XML Spy requires a huge amount of
physical memory and system resources (because of the undo/redo mechanism
and the need to load documents fully into RAM memory). We have
experienced some problems with large XML documents (10MB) on a Windows
NT4 Workstation running on a Pentium II processor with 128 MB RAM. Other
minor problems are: the management of tree expansions and window scroll
bars when used in grid mode working on fields containing large amounts
of text; some delays in text mode when typing in large files.

4. Kulturerbe:online

By Georg Guentner, Salzburg Research, email:
[log in to unmask]

Exploitation plans for COVAX in Austria start with a virtual catalogue
for Austria's cultural heritage on the Internet.

One important issue arising with RTD projects carried out under the IST
programme within the 5th Framework Programme is the development of
exploitation strategies for the results achieved. COVAX (Contemporary
Virtual Archives in XML, IST-1999-11820) provides mainly technological
proof, that the upcoming XML standard is feasible as the basis of
distributed cross-domain metadata-searching in the field of cultural
heritage and as a communications interface within the component based
application architecture.

Exploitation plans at Salzburg Research, one of the technology partners
of the COVAX consortium, consider a strategy that starts from a service
centred point of view. The "Kulturerbe:online" project ("cultural
heritage online") aims to create a national service infrastructure, both
organisational and technical, that provides a virtual catalogue of
Austria's cultural heritage. COVAX components will be used for this,
although they will have to be adapted, localised and further developed.

The main aim of the Kulturerbe:online project is to set up a virtual
catalogue of the Austrian cultural heritage on the internet accessible
from an ALM portal. A number of different cultural institutions
(Museums, Libraries, Archives) will create a common platform for making
their catalogues available to the public. Kulturerbe:online thus offers
a comprehensive search engine for the Austrian cultural heritage. This
search engine is not a substitute for existing catalogues, but instead
makes these accessible via a single user interface and links to the more
detailed catalogues of the partner institutions and their digital

Kulturerbe:online is a pilot project, which proves by developing a
network of participating partner institutions that it is possible to
consolidate different standards of description and categorisation
schemes to form a common platform and make resources searchable via a
shared method. The participating cultural institutions provide parts of
their digital catalogues and participate unremunerated as pilot-users in
the project.

In later issues of this newsletter we will describe our plans to use the
Kulturerbe:online portal as the starting place for search services and
for information services from syndicated ALMs.  The Kulturerbe:online
project is being carried out by Salzburg NewMediaLab, a national centre
of competence for new media, and by a consortium of partners comprising
amongst others AIT, Software AG Austria and the Austrian National

·       Is developing a virtual catalogue of the Austrian cultural heritage
·       Offers a common and uniform view of Austrian cultural heritage
·       Makes references to the detailed catalogues of cultural institutions
·       Is developing the technical basis for the preservation of the
catalogue of Austrian Heritage
·       Advises and assists institutions in the development of their own
digital catalogues
·       Represents an important building block in the development of
comprehensive e-services for museums, libraries and archives


Fifth ICCC/IFIP Conference on Electronic Publishing, Canterbury, UK

The main objective of COVAX is to test the use of XML to combine
document descriptions and digitised surrogates of cultural documents to
build a global system for search and retrieval, increasing accessibility
via the Internet to electronic resources, regardless of their location.

COVAX's approach to achieving its objectives is based on the conversion
of existing records to homogeneously-encoded document descriptions of
bibliographic records, archive finding aids, museum records and
catalogues, and electronic texts and on the application of XML
(eXtensible Markup Language) and the various Document Type Definitions
(DTDs) currently being used for library resource descriptions (MARC
DTD), archives finding aids (EAD), museum materials (AMICO DTD) and
electronic versions of cultural texts (TEIlite).

The conversion process has proved to be a crucial one in the
COVAX-project and we therefore try to disseminate our experiences of
converting existing data at seminars, workshops and conferences.

One such event is the Fifth ICCC/IFIP Conference on Electronic
Publishing to be held in Canterbury, UK 5-7 July 2001 The conference
will be concerned with electronic publishing both for specialist
audiences and for the general public. There will be two parallel tracks.
The first track will include case studies, presentations of projects and
presentations of implemented electronic publishing solutions in public
and scholarly libraries, publishers, museums, etc. It will also include
electronic provision of local community or tourist information,
government information, and the like.

The second track will concentrate on technical issues such as file
formats, retrieval issues, etc. A major underlying theme of the
ICCC/IFIP Electronic Publishing conferences is the promotion of an
'exchange of experience' between the participants - especially between
academics researching in the area, and publishers and others with
practical experience. All papers are refereed to ensure high quality.

The Covax paper written for the conference (Friday the 6th of July
13:30) is entitled "Converting heterogenous cultural catalogues and
documents to XML - strategies and solutions of the Covax project", by
Francisca Hernández, Peter Linde, Bob Mulrenin and Robin Yeates,
presented by Robin Yeates. (http://library.ukc.ac.uk/iccc/2001)

First Austrian Metadata Seminar, Vienna, Austria

Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur, Vienna 18 May

This event organized by CSC Austria and the Bundesminsterium für
Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur reviewed metadata and current European
XML developments for museums, libraries and archives, including COVAX,
presented by Georg Guentner of Salzburg Research. The event has a
website at http://www.cscaustria.at/events/eu0006.htm that includes
presentations and a short summary by Michael Day of UKOLN.


First Italian Workshop  "XML e Conoscenza" Podere d'Ombriano - Crema,
29th-30th June, 2001
An experience in XML: the COVAX project -  L. Bordoni

Workshop on "Artificial Intelligence for the Cultural Heritage and
Digital Libraries - Bari, Italy
25th September, 2001
The Covax project- L. Bordoni

Society of Archivists' Annual Conference "Safeguarding our culture' -
Aberystwyth, UK
4-7 September, 2001
COVAX - Contemporary culture visual archives in XML - Robin Yeates (5
September, 2001)

A website has been established in Catalan, English, German, Italian,
Spanish, and Swedish at http://www.covax.org, where you can find other
issues of Covax News and other information about the project. Carlos
Wert, the project Coordinator and Francisca Hernández have published an
introductory article on Covax in Cultivate Interactive Issue 3 January
2001 (http://www.cultivate-int.org/issue3/covax/).

Project coordinator
Carlos Wert, Residencia de Estudiantes, Pinar, 23, 28006 Madrid, Spain.
Email: [log in to unmask]
URL: http://www.covax.org

Robin Yeates, LASER, Robin Yeates, Assistant Director: Research &
Development, LASER, 4th Floor, Gun Court, 70 Wapping Lane, London E1W
2RS, United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (020) 7702 2020
Fax: +44 (020) 7702 2019
email: [log in to unmask]
URL: http://www.viscount.org.uk/research/covax/

Rights and disclaimer
COVAX is part funded by the European Commission.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of this newsletter.
The site does not represent the opinion of the Community and the
Community is not responsible for any use that might be made of data
appearing herein.

Reproduction of the newsletter is authorised, except for commercial
purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.

Some of the documents and multimedia sequences in this newsletter and on
the COVAX website might contain references, or pointers, to information
maintained by other organisations. Please note that we do not control
and cannot guarantee the relevance, timeliness or accuracy of these
outside materials.
Robin Yeates
Assistant Director: Research & Development
The Development & Networking Agency
4th Floor, Gun Court
70 Wapping Lane
London E1W 2RS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (020) 7702 2020
Fax: +44 (020) 7702 2019
email: [log in to unmask]
URL: http://www.viscount.org.uk/

'Serving the London, South East and Eastern Regions'
Company No. 1991362. VAT No. 233106019
A Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered Charity No. 293864.

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