The Journey of The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590-1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma into and out of XML
Peter M. Lukehart
Associate Dean and Project Leader
Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art
When we first undertook the creation of a research database of documents concerning the early history of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (one of the first artists’ academies in Europe and the model for most subsequent institutions worldwide), we were fully committed to following the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI: http://www.tei-c.org/). Based principally on early modern documents in Latin and Italian, the project seemed perfectly tailored for the rich organizing and searching capabilities TEI provides. It also promised to be a future-proof and sustainable platform, anchored as it was in XML. From its launch in 2010 until about 2014, the site performed very well and it served tens of thousands of international researchers. What we had not anticipated, however, was that our bespoke website depended very much on the knowledge and expertise of our web architect, who had created a hybrid of TEI that allowed for automatization of tag creation and for the site to interact with content on other areas of the National Gallery of Art’s (NGA) website (under whose umbrella we function). The web architect’s untimely death in 2010 put the project in a precarious position vis-à-vis making corrections and updates, as the coding was not documented. Each change required hiring consultants at high cost. Adding to our predicament, the NGA changed platforms for its website and was henceforth requiring that all projects conform with its HTML program (CQ, now AEM, both Adobe products). Any outliers were responsible for providing all of their own maintenance and consulting needs, an expensive and time-consuming prospect. Faced with these compelling challenges, we decided to yield to forces beyond our control and migrated the entire website from TEI to HTML, which took over a year—from mid-2014 to late 2015. Good news accompanies this tale of loss of our foundation in XML principles: members of the team can now add content without any training in TEI; there is greater interoperability with the other areas of digital content on the NGA’s website; and we are able to benefit from the NGA’s participation in the International Image Interoperability Format (IIIF) initiative.