1986: Prof. Walter G. Andrews of the University of Washington and Prof. Mehmed Çavuşoğlu of Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul embarked upon a project designed to introduce computer technology at the most basic levels of text transcription and edition in the area of Ottoman divan poetry (the high culture poetry of the Ottoman elites). With the support of the Fulbright Commission, which paid for Prof. Çavuşoğlu's travel and stipend, the University of Washington Humanities and Arts Computing Center, the IBM Company, which provided a state-of-the-art computer, and the technical assistance of Robert Blum and Prof. Pierre A. MacKay, a system was developed that enabled Prof. Çavuşoğlu to employ a micro- computer to enter and edit most of the divan (collected poems) of the poet Revānī during the 1986-87 academic year.
1987: Prof. Çavuşoğlu , at the time, the world's most prolific editor of Ottoman literary texts, died in a tragic automobile accident and both his unmatched experience and considerable influence were lost to the project.
1988: One of Prof. Çavuşoğlu's most advanced graduate students, Mehmet Kalpaklı, was brought to the University of Washington at the shared expense of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, Mimar Sinan University of Istanbul, and the Turkish Council for Higher Education (YÖK). He was trained in techniques of word processing and computerized text analysis and in 1991 completed the preparation of an electronic text edition of the divan (collected poems) of Fevrī as his doctoral dissertation. At the same time, Yeşim Kalpaklı entered the text of the gazel section of the divan of Necātī (originally published by Ali Nihat Tarlan), which was substantially corrected and regularized for the electronic version. In the same year, Professor Andrews delivered a well-received address to the International Turcology Congress in Istanbul describing the Ottoman Text Edition Project and calling on Ottomanist scholars to employ personal computers in their editing and transcribing tasks.
1988-1993: saw the burgeoning of computer technology and wide spread employment of computers for basic word-processing tasks. The primary focus of the projects shifted to the archiving and computer analysis of electronic texts.
1993-1999: the project experimented with text analysis software successfully employing the commercial program WORDCRUNCHER developed by the Electronic Text Corporation in the study of the gazels (sonnet-length lyric poems) of Fevrī, Revānī and Necātī and the completion of the edition of Revānī's divan (collected poems). The WORDCRUNCHER program was sold and the price raised from $200 to $800, at which point the project participants realized that dependence on proprietary commercial programs was incompatible with a long-term project that proposed to provide low-cost analysis tools world-wide and experiments began with the TACT (Text-Analysis Computing Tools) suite of programs developed by the Center for Computing in the Humanities at the University of Toronto.
1999-2001: the three principal architects of the projects, Walter Andrews, Mehmet Kalpaklı, and consultant, Stacy Waters of the University of Washington Center for Advanced Research and Training in the Humanities (CARTAH) decided that all the necessary elements were in place and the time had come to seek funding for the accelerated development of the archive. With the support of the Turkish Studies Association (the U. S. based professional organization of scholars working on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire), the project received a seed-money grant from the Institute of Turkish Studies, which was used to hire a research assistant, a graduate student in Ottoman literature who, after some training, began converting sample texts for archiving and display on our demonstration website. The project also secured the support of an outstanding international advisory board, a distinguished executive editor for the dictionary project, and a broad-based group of project participants.
2001-2002: In response to an Internet discussion of critical needs in the field of Ottoman studies, the scope of the archive was expanded from literary texts alone to include all Ottoman texts from histories and tales to legal documents and archival records. Prof. Andrews and the RA, Ms. Didem Havlioğlu, presented the projects at a workshop featuring the OTAP/OHD projects entitled "Creating an Ottoman Archive" sponsored by the Turkish Studies Association at the Middle East Studies Association annual meeting. Prof. Andrews began the process of developing grant proposals for funding the U. S. center of the projects and Prof. Kalpaklı obtained the support of the privately funded Halil İnalcık Center for Ottoman Studies (HICOS) at Bilkent University for equipment and space to house the Turkish center. Meanwhile, the project continued to process texts and prepare samples for display on the projects' demonsration website.
February 2002: The Turkish members of the OTAP/OHD Advisory Board, Prof. Mehmet Kalpaklı, Co-Directory of OTAP and Chair of the Bilkent Department of History, Prof. Talat Halman, Chair of the Bilkent Department of Turkish Literature, Prof. Mustafa Isen, Başkent University (Ankara), Prof. Semih Tezcan, Bamberg University, and Prof. Mehmet Ölmez, Yıldız Technical University, met in the HICOS facility for the first Advisory Board meeting, where they discussed issues of the projects including the gathering of transcribed texts for the projects, the need to make these texts available promptly on the Web, and the establishment of transcription standards for the projects.
March 2002: Prof. Semih Tezcan, an outstanding historical linguist and lexicographer agreed to be the executive editor of the Historical Dictionary.
April 2002: Prof. Mustafa İsen took on the task of directing the Critical Texts Group, which will work to identify and prioritize texts for preparation and inclusion in the archive.
May 2002: Prof. Gottfried Hagen of the University of Michigan presented a proposal for the development of BIDOL (A Bio-Bibliographic Database of Ottoman Literature), which was welcomed as a possible sub-project of OTAP.
September 2002: The "Divan of Revānī" initially edited by Mehmet Çavuşoğlu, completed by Ali Tarlan and Mehmet Kalpaklı is published by OTAP in a web version prepared by Walter G. Andrews and Stacy Waters. This is the first original edition published by OTAP. Previously, a web version of Mustafa İsen's print publication Künhü'l-Ahbār'ın Tezkire Kısmı was also published.
2003-2005: Unfortunately, a large grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities was turned down and most of the abovementioned planned projects could not be implemented for lack of funding and support personnel. At this point, OTAP began limiting its activities to exploring possibilities for text analysis by testing tools produced elsewhere and producing our own tools. During the period 2004-2006, volunteer researchers explored methods for displaying digitized manuscripts that linked directly to transcriptions (both Arabic Script and Latin), and translations and programmer Richard Tucker authored a set of digital tools for creating word lists and searching large texts for words, parts of words, and combinations of words in a variety of contexts. At this time the archive also added several texts produced by Bilkent researchers, including a draft of the full text of Ca’fer Çelebi’s Hevesname produced by Hivren Demir ve Hakan Atay and UW graduate student Didem Havlioğlu began editing and entering a text of the Divan of Mihri Hatun.
2006-8: During the summer of 2006, The Ottoman Texts Archive Project (OTAP) with support and funding from the University of Washington Summer School, the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey held a two week (June 26 – July 7) intensive seminar in Turkey for professors and advanced graduate students on the application of digital technology to the study, analysis, and publication of Ottoman texts. Held on the Bilkent University campus and originally limited to twenty participants, this unique program attracted such wide-spread interest in Turkey that Bilkent agreed to expand its offer of free housing and meals to thirty three attendees from seventeen different Turkish universities.
The seminar was a major success. Knowledgeable persons in Turkey had warned us that we would most likely lose at least half of our participants in the first few days. This did not happen. Two participants, who had misunderstood the nature of the seminar, dropped out on the first day and were immediately replaced by others from our waiting list. There were no further drop-outs. The group as a whole was eager, engaged, and willing to work long days and to attend voluntary lab sessions into the evening. One of the participants created a web site for the seminar (see “OTAP” at http://www.ilyasyazar.com) and a significant subset of the group indicated their eagerness to continue working with the OTAP project to contribute texts and to address issues raised during the sessions.
The period 2006-2008 also saw the creation of several new OTAP supported projects including: The Güftī, Şāh u Derviş Edition and Transcription Project, The İntibāh Edition and Transcription Project, The Reverse Transcription Experiment, The Automatic Categorization of Ottoman Literary Texts Using Machine Learning Study, and the Svoboda Diary Edition and Publication Project.
The OTAP team is also planning another Bilkent Summer Seminar for 2009.
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