11.000 Letters!

Yesterday, I checked the numbers while preparing a talk about the NorKorr project. We now have metadata from 8979 letters delivered to CorrespSearch, the correspondence metadata aggregator and search engine. There are another 2.409 letters in the pipeline, which we hope to deliver by the end of the year. This amounts to more than 11.000 letters – quite the achievement!

We started slowly in 2019 when my colleague Ellen Wiger added metadata from scholarly editions of correspondences from bokselskap.no, the Norwegian Society for Literature and Language’s publication outlet. We got our next “big” delivery when Ellen added two letter collections from lokalhistoriewiki.no, the wiki run by the Norwegian Institute for Local History. These were letters from Norwegian emigrants to their families back home and correspondence between Ivar Kleiven and Kristian Prestgaard.

In 2022, things sped up a bit: I applied for a small grant from the University of Oslo’s Teksthub+DH to hire a developer part-time for three months to help harvest the correspondence metadata from the Edvard Munch digital scholarly edition, eMunch.no. My colleague and head philologist at the Munch Museum, Hilde Bøe, wrote a blog post about how this project came into being and the challenges of extracting the metadata from it. We also presented the scripts our developer, Loke Sjølie, created for the task. At the end of 2022, we delivered the metadata of 8.527 letters from eMunch.no to CorrespSearch, where they were integrated into their ever-growing collection of letters. At the time of writing this post, there are 235.942 letters added to CorrespSearch that can be explored!

Right after the Edvard Munch correspondence had been harvested and the CMIF (Correspondence Metadata Interchange Format) files had been created, the Center for Ibsen Studies and the University of Oslo joined forces. They, in turn, hired Loke to harvest the correspondence metadata from the Henrik Ibsen Wiritngs Online edition, ibsen.uio.no. Both editions, eMunch.no and ibsen.uio.no, were similar enough to re-use the scripts Loke had created. The Ibsen correspondence metadata could be harvested with a simplified version of the Munch correspondence code. Enriching these with both GeoNames and VIAF (Virtual International Authority File) was necessary to fit into the CMIF data model and make them useful for CorrespSearch. There are still some minor issues around the Ibsen dataset; however, we plan to release the data CMIF-compliant by the end of the year.

There is more data from digital scholarly editions to be harvested. Several correspondences have been published on bokselskap.no, which haven’t yet been integrated into CorrespSearch. Namely, the correspondence between Sigrid Undset and Nini Roll Anker, Kitty Kielland and the family Lie, and Ebbe Hertzberg and Poul Andræ. There are also letters by Harriet Backer and Elisabeth Koren, published only recently.

Another more extensive collection of letters we intended to include right from the beginning of the project is the correspondence of Norwegian modernist painter Nikolai Astrup. KODE Bergen, the Art Museums and Composers’ Home, has recently published the catalogue of their Astrup collection, including some 400 pieces of correspondence in facsimile and transcription, including commentary and a translation into English. The archival collection with the letters can be browsed on the Nikolai Astrup website.

The next phase of NorKorr will be to gather correspondence metadata from printed editions. I have created a bibliography of 165 editions containing letters and correspondences. I will apply for another small grant to get these hand-coded into the CMIF format using the CorrespSearch CMIF Creator.

From XML to CMIF

The aim of the NorKorr project is to aggregate and provide correspondence metadata from Norwegian editions of correspondences from different projects, institutions and collections in a format that can be ingested by CorrespSearch.

So far we have included metadata from 12 digital editions (approximately 400 letters) in CorrespSearch . Among them are letters from National Library in Norway’s source edition series NB kilder and letters from other e-books published at bokselskap.no.

All of the letters are encoded in TEI P5 XML. To get the letters registered and integrated into the CorrespSearch web service we create a CMIF file based on the metadata already recorded in the correspDesc element in our XML files. The CMI format used by CorrespSearch is developed by the TEI Correspondence SIG and is a reduced subset of the TEI Guidelines and the TEI element correspDesc.

Digital edition, bokselskap.no
Example from the CMIF file

Two New Correspondences

The latest addition to the NorKorr corpus are the letters between the painters Kitty L. Kielland and the Eilif Peterssen and between Kitty L. Kielland and her sister Dagmar Skavlan.

The Norwegian painters Kitty L. Kielland (1843–1914) and Eilif Peterssen (1852–1928) first met in Germany in 1873. They were colleagues, but also close friends. They wrote letters to each other regularly, at least until Kielland late in life became too ill. Unfortunately, many are not preserved. The exchange of letters presented in the digital edition (Kitty L. Kielland og Eilif Peterssen. Brevveksling 1874–1908. Edited by Anne Melgård, National Library of Norway, 2019) is from the years 1874–1908, a total of 42 fragments/letters/drafts.

Kitty and her sister Dagmar were close. The wrote to each other regularly, but unfortunately, many of the letters have been lost. The new digital edition (Kitty L. Kielland og Dagmar Skavlan. Brevveksling 1879–1905. Edited by Anne Melgård, National Library of Norway, 2019) includes the 20 letters/fragments still preserved.

The digital editions are available (in Norwegian) at bokselskap.no and metadata from both have been included in the CorrespSearch web service.

Eilif Peterssen and Kitty L. Kielland (The National Library of Norway)
The Kielland siblings with partners, ca. 1885 (Stavanger byarkiv)

Kitty L. Kielland’s Correspondence in CorrespSearch

The latest addition to the NorKorr corpus is the correspondence of Kitty L. Kielland and Arne Garborg.

The Norwegian painter Kitty L. Kielland (1843–1914) and the Norwegian writer Arne Garborg (1851–1924) first met in Paris in 1885. The letters between them give a unique insight into a lifelong friendship. They wrote letters to each other regularly, at least until Kielland late in life became too ill. Unfortunately, many are not preserved, especially in the case of Kielland’s letters from the 1890s. The exchange of letters presented in the digital edition (Kitty L. Kielland og Arne Garborg. Brevveksling 1885–1906. Edited by Anne Melgård, National Library of Norway, 2018) is from the years 1885–1906, a total of 48 fragments/letters/drafts.

The correspondence has been included in the CorrespSearch web service. The CMIF file we sent to CorrespSearch was made using metadata already stored in the XML file (TEI P5) containing the digital edition.

Arne Garborg to Kitty L. Kielland, 14. mars 1888, Brevs. 12
Kitty L. Kielland to Arne Garborg, undated, Ms.4° 4318:A


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