The challenge


We were tasked with building a new Historical Texts service to support full text searching across more than 400,000 15th -19th century digitised texts, with a combined total of over 70 million pages and images. The source collections include:

  • Early English Books Online (EEBO)
  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)
  • British Library 19th Century texts
  • UK Medical Heritage Library

For user access, the system had to support a combination of open and Shibboleth authentication and a subscription process.

User engagement

With a wide and varied audience from FE and HE, ranging from students to researchers and tutors, we had to:

  • Be innovative, using new technologies and approaches
  • Support teaching, learning and research

Service management

Transfer knowledge so that the staff at Jisc were able to support the system and develop it further in-house.

What we delivered

Partnering with Gooii and Sero Consulting, we worked closely with the customer and the user community to deliver the new service. User consultation webinars and prototyping were critical to the design process. The service has received praise within the user community and its subscriber base has increased. End users can:

  • Cross-search the collections, to explore themes
  • Deep zoom images
  • Apply advanced search options, including historical variant spellings and proximity searching
  • Save searches and create personal collections
  • View and search the full text and bibliographic information for texts
  • View images and full text side by side
  • Download whole publications (PDF), individual images (JPEG) and epub texts (all created by the platform)
  • Browse and filter by author, date range, genre, language, publisher, collection, and more
  • In depth statistical reporting about usage per institution
  • Collection and field-level access management
  • Subscriber interface for report generation

The solution is built using our CIIM platform, extended with custom modules for the data types, data sources and external system interfaces. Its configurable framework allows new collections to be added and existing data sets to be easily expanded/updated.

The systems speed and responsiveness far outstripped the previous version. For the technical audience, the index was more than 1TB in size and the media over 100TB.

In a subsequent project phase we extended Historical Texts to incorporate data visualisations based around the UK Medical Heritage Library collections. These can be accessed freely by members of the public from the Historical Texts website.

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