Institutional research: The long-term concept for developing the research organisation at the National Library of the Czech Republic in 2019–2023
Institutional research: The long-term concept for developing the research organisation at the National Library of the Czech Republic in 2019–2023
Coordinator: Adolf Knoll
Financial support: the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic
The National Library of the Czech Republic (NL CR) continued implementing the expanded, updated version of its Dlouhodobé koncepce rozvoje výzkumné organizace Národní knihovna České republiky na léta 2019–2023 [Long-Term Concept for the Development of the Research Organisation at the National Library of the Czech Republic in 2019–2023].
Area 1. Research into the history of book culture
Project leader: Dr Kamil Boldan
The members of the realisation team continued their work on ascertaining the original owners of the mediaeval books housed at the NL CR. They undertook research into the provenance of approximately 400 mediaeval manuscripts and 120 incunabula volumes with the complete transcription of the provenance notes. As part of the research, Renáta Modráková has systematically devoted herself to the area of the book culture in mediaeval convents, Milada Svobodová has been involved with the history of the Lobkowicz Library in Prague, Lucie Heilandová has been researching the history of lithography and Moravian letterpress printing, Kamil Boldan has been studying the history of letterpress printing, the book trade and book binding workshops in the 15th century and Jan Vojtíšek has been involved in researching the history of cartography and urban book culture. They have published three monographs in addition to eight expert studies: Knižní kultura kláštera benediktinek u sv. Jiří na Pražském hradě [The Book Culture of the Benedictine Convent of Saint George in Prague Castle] (Renáta Modráková), Rukopisy palácové knihovny hrabat Czerninů z Chudenic. [Manuscripts from the Palace Library of the Counts Czernin of Chudenice] Vol. 1 (Milada Svobodová), Středověká knihovna Starého Města pražského [The Medieval Library of Prague’s Old Town] (Michal Dragoun, an external team member). The members of the research team prepared two lectures as part of the Clementinum Treasures popularisation cycle: Lucie Heilandová’s lecture was on the topic of Krünitzova Oeconomische Encyklopädia a fenomén vydávání encyklopedií v 18. Století [The Krünitzsche Oeconomische Encyklopädia and the phenomenon of encyclopaedia publication in the 18th century], while Kamil Boldan gave a lecture on the topic of the Kodex z knihovny uherského a českého krále Matyáše Korvína [Codex from the library of the Hungarian and Czech king, Matthias Corvinus].
Area 2. Musicology
Project leader: Mgr. Zuzana Petrášková
Research on the as yet unprocessed collections at the Church of the Exultation of the Holy Cross in Litomyšl and the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Teplice continued, including the submission of records to the RISM database. A study on the Teplice collection was published in the Knihovna: knihovnická magazine, 2022, no. 2.
The entries in the watermark database were checked. There are 1536 entries available for use; the database is used by collaborators from the RISM and other researchers at: http://aleph.nkp.cz/web/watermarks/intro.htm. Furthermore, an online catalogue of the printed sheet music from Marco Berra’s publishing house (1811–1855) was also made available at: https://aleph.nkp.cz/web/berra/cze/intro.htm. The database currently holds 1704 records. The stored records are regularly subjected to an in-depth inspection and corrected and supplemented with as yet unknown printed works, including from other libraries (Vienna: the Austrian National Library, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, the Prague City Library, the Kinsky Library, the Archive at the Prague Conservatoire). The in-depth inspection and cataloguing work on transferring the paper documentation from the collections that have already been recorded in the Union Music Catalogue to the RISM database continued, including printed works, but especially with regard to the manuscripts from the Loukov u Semil parish collections and the Paseky nad Jizerou collection. The review of the Strachota family collection was completed in preparation for the publication of the 13th thematic catalogue in the Catalogus artis musicae in Bohemia et Moravia cultae editorial series of the NL CR. The preparation of an expert study on the collection of Elise Countess Schlick and Schönborn-Lobkowicz took place at the Conservatoire Archive in Prague and work started on processing the composer manuscripts written by significant personalities of music culture that are stored in the archive. In-depth reviews of the records held in the music archive in Český Krumlov, including their submission to the RISM database, took place regularly. All of the stored entries are available online at: http://opac.rism.info. The cooperation with the international RISM editorial centre focussed on online consultation, especially dedicated to the processing of printed historical musical documents. A study on Josef Páleníček’s music estate was published in the Knihovna: knihovnická revue magazine (2022, no. 1) in relation to the area of research into the music culture of the 19th and 20th centuries. Studies on the composer manuscripts of Otakar Ostrčil and Vítězslav Novák from the Music Department’s collection are ready for publication. A study on the French letters from the Music Department’s collection was published in the Fontes Artis Musicae magazine, 2022, no. 4. Papers on the work performed under the project were presented at the IAML international congress of music librarians in Prague.
Area 3. Slavonic Studies
Project leader: Dr Lukáš Babka
This area involves the expert development of disciplines in Slavonic studies and Slavonic librarianship, which are guaranteed at the NL CR by the independent Slavonic Library (the SL). The objective is to perform expert research into the collection of historical manuscripts and old printed documents and the cartographic and visual collections at the SL with a focus on the provenantial characteristics of the documents and the study of any phenomena discovered during the course of the research. The objectives include the first-rate cataloguing of any historical documents designated for digitisation and the transfer of the cataloguing entries from the SL database to the Manuscriptorium. The SL further focuses on research into specific phenomena associated with the existence of the library and the composition of its collection: the issue of Russian and Ukrainian interwar emigration, the personal libraries in the SL collection and so on.
The cataloguing of all the monographs issued in 1796-1800 and the remaining relevant periodicals was completed as part of the fulfilment of a sub-objective involving the publication of the fourth volume of the Katalog starých ruských tisků z fondů Slovanské knihovny tištěných azbukou [Catalogue of Early Printed Russian Documents from the Slavonic Library’s Collections Printed in Cyrillic]. The introductory study has been completed. The entire manuscript has undergone a peer review.
A total of seven manuscript documents and two historical printed documents from the SL collection were examined and catalogued according to the appropriate parameters before subsequently being digitised as part of the VISK 6 program. Their digital copies are available in the Manuscriptorium.
An expert study entitled The Old Believers' Printed Books from Klintsy in the Slavonic Library, Prague. History, Context, and Tradition was published as a result of the expert research into selected historical printed documents.
The research into printed documents published in Czechoslovakia by members of the Russian and Ukrainian émigré communities and the relevant archive sources continued. The monograph Russkaja emigracija v Prage (1918–1945): putevoditel' = Ruská emigrace v Praze (1918–1945): průvodce [Russian emigration in Prague (1918-1945): a guide] was published as part of this topic; three expert studies dedicated to the activities of the Ukrainian diaspora in interwar Czechoslovakia were published and the classification, cataloguing and digitisation of the collection of materials dealing with the public life of the Ukrainian diaspora in 1915-1947 (T-UEP) was completed. An inventory list of the collection was posted on the internet and the digital copies of the documents are published on the www.esbirky.cz portal.
A monograph dedicated to the SL’s history and collection is under preparation. The classification of the collection of documents related to the history of the SL (approximately 2000 newly described entries) is currently ongoing.
Area 4. Digital codicology and librarianship
Project leader: Dr Zdeněk Uhlíř
In 2022, access to Manuscriptorium 4 was provided in parallel to Manuscriptorium 3. As such, the user interface was innovated so as to suitably respond to the diversity of content, which has been significantly expanded in comparison to Manuscriptorium 3. The end user can therefore now get to the full Manuscriptorium content simply and in less procedural steps.
The TEI XML coding was standardised and the relationship between the internal mark-up and the visual representation for the end user was modified within the framework of the already created full text database that provides access to the modern edition of original historical documents. The need for a digital tool/tools for working with coded information has become apparent and this will be the subject of research and development in the following period.
IIIF technology enabling the complex creation of manifestos for collections (book collections), comprehensive documents (individual books), partial digital objects (individual pages) and fragments (details on the pages) was developed to the level of interoperability between sources, Europeana being first among them. As a result of this, it is also possible to use data from other sources within the framework of an individualised Manuscriptorium account and as such to significantly expand the options for electronic publishing. The IIIF technology has thus become an effective means of creating and developing a virtual environment for the provision of access to historical documents and collections so that there is also the option of using an eventual meta-version when working with various sources.
The system for administering TEI documents has been commissioned and become a tool for other Manuscriptorium partners that also simplifies and deepens the communication between them, including data harvesting.
The EDM ARMA Specification Sandbox, created under the ARMA project in 2021, has been implemented in the Manuscriptorium and coordinated with the TEI P5 ENRICH Specification Sandbox, meaning that the Manuscriptorium now enables work in a heterogeneous environment for various standards and formats without the need for any mutual conversions, which constitutes exceptional relief for any work with aggregated content.
At the end of 2022, the Manuscriptorium contained 390,586 file records, 168,073 comprehensive digital documents and 23,358 binder’s volumes.
Area 5. Web archives for scientific research
Project leader: Mgr. Marie Haškovcová
Research activities continued on the provision of access to archived data and metadata from the web archive for further scientific research. The Grainery software had been designed in previous years to provide access to technical and administrative metadata. A certificated methodology for creating, storing and providing access to technical and administrative metadata from the web archive, which offered a theoretical framework for improved work with metadata and the inclusion thereof in further research, was created on the basis of this software. The team then concentrated on research into current user problems in the area of web sources within an international context and analysing the further options for the provision of access to archive data and metadata. It dealt with the issue of vanishing web content and the grasp of the term extinct website, which is associated with the effort to provide new knowledge about the vanishing sphere of the internet. This year, the team realised research with the objective of mapping academia’s awareness of the existence and use of web archives. The goal was to ascertain whether researchers work with web archive data and how they would like to use it in their research. The quantitative survey research method was chosen for the investigation. The research, which was realised for the first time ever in the Czech environment, was presented to the public in the Používáte Webarchiv? Průzkum potřeb uživatelů českého webového archivu [Do you use the Webarchive? Research into the needs of Czech web archive users] study published in the Proinflow peer reviewed journal. The research activity in the area of vanishing web content led to the development of the Extinct Websites curatorial application that enables the automated detection of extinct websites on the basis of a comparison of the status codes and metadata. The application creates and records further metadata about extinct websites and helps in identifying websites for a specialised database, which provides the information on extinct websites to the users.
Area 6. Archiving digital data
Project leader: Bc. Václav Jiroušek
The research into long-term archiving undertaken in the last period followed on from the results of previous years. Analysis especially continued into the area of the technical and administrative metadata necessary for the long-term logical protection of digital documents, as did research into the area of the selection of suitable file formats for the long-term archiving of digital data. In 2019–2021, the PREMIS metadata standard was analysed, the area of the significant properties was researched and a proposal regarding the significant properties of digital documents was drafted for various types of data, including methods of entering them into the metadata of digital objects. Filip Pavčík presented the acquired information in 2022 in his article Možnosti zápisu technických metadát u digitálnych objektov a vytvorenie vlastnej metadátovej schémy pre elektronické publikácie [Options for the entry of technical metadata in the case of digital objects and the creation of our own metadata diagram for electronic publications] published in the ITlib periodical. In 2022, the research into the area of file formats continued as a follow-on from the preparation and proposal of a methodology for evaluating formats suitable for long-term archiving from 2019 and 2020. Vojtěch Kopský and Natalie Ostráková presented the findings in an expert article entitled Archival file format selection and design of file format sustainability matrix for the National library of the Czech Republic in the Review of the National Center for Digitization periodical. Analyses also continued in the area of file formats that are suitable for archiving electronic publications and audiovisual documents from library collections. A format analysis was undertaken of 1,585 electronic publications stored at the NL CR and a study looking into the option of converting e-publications between the PDF and PDF/A formats was completed using a sample of 460 stored files, including the subsequent verification of the completeness and authenticity of the resulting archive copies. The results of the completed analyses were published by Jana Hrzinová and Václav Jiroušek in an expert article entitled Výběr archivačních formátů pro povinný depozit e-publikací v ČR [A selection of archive formats for the legal deposit of e-publications in the Czech Republic] in the Itlib periodical. Vojtěch Kopský dealt with the issue of the selection of formats suitable for archiving audiovisual documents in an expert article entitled Výběr video formátů v paměťových institucích [The selection of video formats at memory institutions] published in the ProInflow periodical. An updated version of the methodology for the creation of SIP packages was also prepared in 2022 and its certification is planned for 2023. An expert monograph dealing with the issue of digital archiving was also prepared and there are plans to publish it in 2023.
Area 7. Protecting book collections
Project leader: Ing. Petra Vávrová, Ph.D.
The main and final result of the project in 2022 was an exhibition with a critical catalogue entitled Restaurování pokladů Národní knihovny České republiky aneb tajemství práce restaurátora [Restoring the treasures of the National Library of the Czech Republic or the secrets of a restorer’s work]. The exhibition acquainted visitors with everything that has to be done in order to permanently preserve books for future generations. Various professions such as restorer, preserver, bookbinder, microbiologist, restoration technician, climatologist and so on were presented along with the history of the protection of the collections and the personalities who stood at the genesis of this field. The wide range of restoration procedures was presented using examples of complex pieces of restoration work on historical books. The public was also acquainted with the used tools and with specific materials used for restoration and conservation. The exhibition took place in the Clementinum Gallery on 18.8.- 2.10.2022. Approximately 3000 people visited the exhibition. The exhibition was also viewed by the delegates to the international ICOM general conference and the English texts in the QR codes on the panels enabled the foreign visitors to become acquainted with the project and its results. The research into the physical condition of the modern book collections continued, as did the work in the CZBRD aplikace pro průzkum fondu [CZBRD application for collection research] environment which is mainly aimed at establishing the original states of the specimens predominantly from the Universal Library Collection, the 19th Century Collection and the Music Collection. 16,292 new records were created in the research database, as were 300 cards with deacidification actions. 4,015 records were further modified in 2022. The records were created in previous years and only edited now. The editing took place due to the establishment of intervention cards, predominantly involving deacidification, but also mechanical cleaning, conservation and simple repairs. A further reason involved the addition of photographic documentation, the weight of the specimen or the uploading of bibliographical data from Aleph. A total of 20,307 records were worked on in 2022.
The work on the development of new deacidification methods also continued. The in situ book deacidification method requires the paper in the deacidified books to achieve a sufficient water content so that the compression of the book block leads to a continuous liquid phase being established due to the contact of the surfaces of the adjacent pages which then enables the diffusion of the inserted alkaline compounds from the place of insertion to the surrounding pages in the book. At the end of the year, we succeeded in proving that the currently used hydrogels could be replaced with paper containing around 7 % of a superabsorbent, which has significantly better properties when compared to the hydrogel used to date for deacidification.
In 2022, the Book Collection Protection Department acquired an automatic Nebula® machine for disinfecting collections of books, newspapers, magazines and binders or folders of documents. The issue of disinfecting the book collections would now appear to be a very relevant topic, especially after the implementation of energy saving measures at the depositories. The collections are being increasingly attacked by micro-organisms. That is why the testing of this machine for automatic disinfecting currently makes great sense. Once the effectiveness and any possible risks have been tested, it will be possible to deal with greater numbers of books affected by mould more effectively and quickly.
The principle of the Nebula® machine lies in halting the activities of any bacteria, mould and viruses by means of the biocidal effects of the QAC substance . The books pass through an atomiser chamber where the disinfectant solution is applied to all the outer parts of the book, followed by quick drying in the drying chamber. The machine is easy and safe to use, because the system operates in a safe, vacuum sealed atomiser chamber and with a precisely guided air stream in the drying chamber.
A so-called mobile collection research set has been developed due to the long-term interest in research into the physical condition of the book collections in various institutions throughout the entire Czech Republic. The mobile set contains all the necessary equipment and consumables for investigating the physical condition of book collections, for example a camera, scales, a pH meter, a laptop, but also other materials such as buffer solutions, cellulose, a wash bottle and so on. In 2022, the sets were used for educational purposes as part of the courses in the VISK 2 sub-program. The sets have enabled employees to become acquainted with the individual components and to try using them directly in the depositories for their own collections, which has in turn led to the gradual expansion of the equipment found at the individual institutions so that they can perform fully-fledged research into the collections in their workplaces. The sets are also a clear example of the necessary equipment and materials that have to be acquired for each workplace involved in research into the physical condition of collections.
The contamination of the internal atmosphere in the exhibition halls constitutes a serious risk for the artistic items stored there. The concentrations and composition of any aerosol particles, the temperature, the relative humidity and the concentrations of CO2, O3, SO2, NO2, gaseous NH3, HNO3 and organic acids were monitored in the internal atmosphere of the Baroque Book Hall. It is apparent from the concentration of fine particles over time that these particles have penetrated into the book hall from the external environment and that they have most probably been generated by traffic. During the course of the tourist season, the internal concentrations of coarse particles displayed periodic growth starting at the beginning of visitor hours, reaching their maximum at the end of visiting hours and then followed by a subsequent drop to the initial levels. It is therefore apparent that the visitors were the source of these particles. The main water soluble, inorganic compounds were sulphate, nitrate and ammonium ions. The amount of the internal nitrate concentrations dropped to zero values. This was caused by the evaporation of the ammonium nitrate after its penetration into the internal environment. The internal concentrations of gaseous ammonia also increased as a consequence of this process.
Area 8. Modern publications in the Czech Lands after 1800
Project leader: Mgr. Anna Vandasová
In 2021–2023, this research area has mainly been involved in research into extensive periodicals with regional editions and in developing and optimising a tool for effectively recording them, as this will significantly simplify the administration of these publications in the individual conservation collections located in libraries around the Czech Republic, as well as making these records more transparent.
The work on the optimisation and further development of the PerMonik tool, which enables highly detailed records of the information about periodicals’ individual editions and about those periodicals that published such regional editions, has not only been a subject of interest of the experts at the NL CR, but also of those from other significant libraries with conservation collections; especially the ML in Brno, the Olomouc Research Library and the Ústí Regional Library. The fundamental questions that the research team dealt with this year involved, for example, supplements from extensive periodicals, which the PerMonik tool will be modified to effectively record, as well as, for example, the issue of the graphic labelling of the variant editions or the depiction of the condition of the given specimen. The NL CR is also preparing further years of Československý sport [Czechoslovak Sport] and other large periodicals with regional editions and entering their units into the Aleph system so that they can subsequently entered into the PerMoník database. The records of all the modifications were also maintained in the Github repository in the form of issues in 2022: https://github.com/NLCR/evidence.periodik/issues.
The researchers also focussed on the preparation of a methodology for researching regional periodicals, which has been planned as a result for 2023. The methodology should describe in detail the issue of regional variant editions or the variant editions of extensive periodical titles, their form to date and the not overly optimal method of processing them in libraries, as well as providing a detailed manual on how to use the PerMonik system for periodical records.
Anna Vandasová presented this system as part of an expert forum in her paper entitled Systém pro evidence periodik PerMonik – nástroj (nejen) pro digitalizaci [The PerMonik system for recording periodicals - a tool (not only) for digitisation] and at a regular regional digitisation seminar, which took place at the ML in Brno on 15.–16.11. The activities in this area were also presented in a peer reviewed article by Anna Vandasová and Aleš Brožek entitled PerMonik jako nástroj pro evidenci periodik a jeho využití při průzkumu regionálních mutací Československého sportu v Severočeské vědecké knihovně [PerMonik as a tool for recording periodicals and its use during research into the variant regional editions of Czechoslovak Sport at the Ústí Regional Library] which was published in the Itlib periodical.
Area 9. Digital humanities
Project leader: Jan Holomek
Further steps in developing the competencies to support data manipulation and the application of digital humanities were undertaken throughout 2022. Teaching lessons were undertaken in the areas of machine learning, practical programming and feature engineering, i.e. designating the key properties of texts with the help of various pre-processing procedures, for example delexicalization (the replacement of certain words with more common properties), with the participation of NL CR employees. Here, we managed to launch a specialised tool called the Authorguesser, which enables the preparation of models and the subsequent designation of the probability of authorship for individual texts. Czech prose writers of the late romantic period of the 19th century were used as an interesting dataset for this tool from a data point of view. Research by students from the Mathematics and Physics Faculty at Charles University in Prague was also undertaken along a parallel axis using the same dataset as part of the exercises for the NPFL054 HW2 (JS 2022) subject. An international authorship conference called Authorial style, its analysis, and limits of automatic recognition was also held at the Clementinum. The conference was promoted using the website of the Czech Association for Digital Humanities – CZADH. The all-day conference was attended by experts on the topic of authorship, who also presented research into topics from various methodological backgrounds. A server and data processing line (the Authorship Attribution Line) using the central Authorguesser algorithm were launched in 2022. The approach of the NL CR Digilab will be described in detail in two texts designated for the expert and librarian public in 2023. There is a plan to present the results of the Digilab in 2023 as part of the platform of the AI4LAM international consortium. The Digilab is planning to demonstrate the use of its approaches with the results of the currently completed NAKI DL4DH (DG20P02OVV002) and NAKI Centralised Interface (DG18P02OVV016) projects for the purposes of popularisation. This will enable project synergy within the framework of the adjustment of the newly available NL CR digital services and the further promoted procedures dealing with authorship (on a wider level, dealing with the data of the NL CR ) for experts in the digital humanities, but also for potential interested parties from the ranks of students and the initiated public.
Area 10. The book as a medium in the Middle Ages and the Modern Age
Project leader: Mgr. Jan Vojtíšek
From the point of view of the research into the book as a societal medium, the research into St. Ludmila as an example of the interpretation of a specific historical individual within the production of medieval and modern narrative threads was completed, with the exception of the continuation of the systematic processing of the topic, while new research commenced from a different methodological point of view focussing on the process of the dissolution of the monasteries under the Josephine Reforms and the influence of this phenomenon on the fates of the monastic libraries. Four convents were chosen for the study, as they provided a view of both the use and the influence of book production in the convent environment.
The presentation of the results focussed mainly on exhibition activities, the target group for which was both experts and the wider lay public. The Book and the Veil. 1100 Years from the Death of Princess and Saint Ludmila exhibition, which presented the public with a picture of St. Ludmila in individual literary genres and thematic units or written production dating from the early Middle Ages to the Enlightenment by means of a series of panels and exhibits, including the most valuable manuscripts and early printed materials, came to an end. The critical catalogue offered the expert community a deeper analysis of the individual themes that the exhibition had focussed on. The second exhibition based on the study of historical book production and books as a means of transferring knowledge was the exhibition entitled Tirsch and the others … Czech Jesuits in Mexico. It was also held in the Clementinum Gallery in October and November 2022. It presented the public with the story of the Jesuit missionary journeys to Mexico, including the preparations for these journeys, and book documents associated with the discovery of the New World, including the main exhibit, the pictorial Codex Pictoricus Mexicanus created by the Czech Jesuit Ignác Tirsch and based on his missionary journey. The results of the research were presented in the nine-lecture Z klementinských pokladů [Clementinum Treasures] cycle, which was divided into spring and autumn parts. Two lectures from the spring part of the cycle were dedicated to the issue of Saint Ludmila and one of the autumn lectures was associated with the Tirsch and the others exhibition. The other lectures focussed on various aspects associated both with manuscript production and with printed books and cartographic material.