Objectification: how to encode the contents of objects?

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Objectification: how to encode the contents of objects?

James Cummings-5
Dear TEI-L,

The creation of the <object> element (and <listObject>, <objectName>, <objectIdentifier>) for describing physical objects was based very much on the <msDesc> element (this being a very specific type of object) in an earlier release. At the time of that release (3.5.0 in January 2019) some elements related to manuscript description were changed to add the phrase 'or other object' into their descriptions to enable their use inside the description of a non-manuscript (or even non-text-bearing) object. (Though, to be honest, TEI has long encouraged the use of manuscript description for other text-bearing objects of sufficient concern to have a detailed description, regardless of whether they are actually manuscripts.)

While some elements like <msIdentifier> were replaced by <objectIdentifier>, the <msContents> and <msItem> elements were kept (though with the 'or other object' in their descriptions) so that we could gather more opinions about what an <msContents> for physical objects should include. In many ways <msContents> act as a table-of-contents for the intellectual contents of a manuscript, so a similar element for objects would need to encode the same kind of information. 

Some examples used in the Guidelines of objects included the Mask of Tutankhamun, the Alfred Jewel, Excalibur, etc. And one that I've been using to think about another issue is a building, the mosaic-covered Central Library at UNAM https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Library_(UNAM)

Whatever this element might be called (<contents>? <objectContents>?) maybe only needs a list of <item>s inside it? Maybe there are better ways to describe the individual portions/sections/items of an object and their intellectual contents? In raising this issue https://github.com/TEIC/TEI/issues/1851 I wanted to involve others interested in the documentation of objects to comment (here or even better on the github issue) to get a wider range of viewpoints. So if you have any thoughts on describing the intellectual contents of objects, I'd be interested to hear them.

Many thanks,



Dr James Cummings, [hidden email]
Senior Lecturer in Late-Medieval Literature and Digital Humanities

School of English, Newcastle University