David R. Chesnutt

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David R. Chesnutt

Syd Bauman-7

Readers of this list may be saddened to learn that David R. Chesnutt, an important participant in the development of the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines, a pioneer in the development of electronic documentary editions, and a longtime member of the executive committee of the Association for Computers and the Humanities, has died at the age of 74.

David was for 35 years a research professor in history at the University of South Carolina, serving for many of those years as Associate Editor and later Editor of the Papers of Henry Laurens.

He was a tireless worker in the service of documentary editing and spent many years helping documentary editors come to terms with information technology. His work appears to have been appreciated: over the years, the Association for Documentary Editing gave David almost all of the awards it makes: the Distinguished Service Award (together with Charles Cullen) in 1985, “to acknowledge the assistance that they provided to other editors making the transition to new computer/ word processing technology”; in 1990, the Lyman H. Butterfield award “for his selfless service to the profession and to the ADE as president-elect”; in 1995, the Julian P. Boyd Award “in recognition for his lifetime contribution to understanding the American past through documentary editing as teacher, mentor and scholar.”

I first met him (if memory does not deceive me) when South Carolina hosted the International Conference on Computers in the Humanities in 1987, and came to know him better through the TEI, which began that November with a planning meeting at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. David was one of 31 signatories to the resulting Poughkeepsie Principles, which defined the scope and goals of the TEI; later, he served on the TEI’s Text Representation committee. As a representative of ACH, he was also present at the meetings in Chicago in 1999 that made the decision to form the TEI Consortium and pass responsibility for maintaining the Guidelines to them.

In 1995, he invited Susan Hockey and me to join him and a group of several historical documentary editions in exploring the possibilities for electronic delivery of such editions. The resulting Model Editions Partnership collected samples from a variety of editorial projects, some of them traditional letterpress editions, some of them image-based (microfilm and/or CD-ROM) and created a web portal for them. The original portal at the University of South Carolina is no longer in service, but after it died, some of the original data was recovered and has been made available in a slightly different interface at http://modeleditions.blackmesatech.com/mep/.

David’s quiet demeanor, marked southern accent, and deliberate speech may have led some to underestimate his intelligence and drive. But he moved the Laurens papers to word-processing and electronic type-setting at a time when exploiting information technology for editorial projects did not mean choosing wisely from among the existing array of commercial and open-source software suitable for the purpose, but hiring a programmer and developing with them a program for managing back-of-the-book indices (and later, a generic markup system for typesetting the edition). Not work for the clueless or the timid.

The TEI and its users, American document editors, students of American history, and digital humanists are all in his debt.

— C. Michael Sperberg-McQueen