Encoding Overview

The Brevier Legislative Reports (Brevier Reports), published biennially from 1858 to 1887, are verbatim reports of the legislative history of the Indiana General Assembly that also include messages from the Governor, biographical sketches of legislative members, lists of enacted legislation and more. The Brevier Reports capture the impact of significant historical events surrounding the Civil War along with other issues before the Indiana General Assembly. This is a unique set of documents — there exists no other such detailed and comprehensive record of the debate and speeches delivered from the floor of the Indiana Senate chamber and the Hall of the House of Representatives for this time period.

Twenty two bibliographic volumes (19 physical volumes with 2 volumes never published, v. 3 and v. 16) some 200–700 pages in length were converted to full text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, Abbyy Reader, and encoded at the volume-level following the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines, version P5, adhering as much as possible to Level 3 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries.1 The TEI/XML files for each volume are available for downloading.

The Brevier Reports are incredibly dense and deeply hierarchical. The text encoding had to support both advanced discovery options for readers and scholars and the display of the full text in a readable manner. Due to limited encoding resources, the features of interest were to some degree constrained, and are summed up as follows:

  • Senate and House Proceedings
  • Enacted Legislation
  • Resolutions
  • Votes
  • Roll Call
  • Committees
  • Supplementary materials: Governor's Message, Biographical Sketches, etc.

In addition, issues debated that are passed as enacted legislation are linked so that the reader can correlate the discussions to the final language of the bill.

The dates of the Senate and House proceedings serve as the primary access points into the debates. Within each set of proceedings, resolutions, votes and roll calls are encoded. The proceedings are organized into topical sections (e.g., The Liquor Traffic), which reference committees and resolutions that are passed as bills among many other important topics of interest.

We faced challenges and compromises while encoding such a rich resource. As mentioned earlier, the published Brevier Reports are incredibly dense in nature so OCR imperfections were encountered, but often corrected as part of the encoding workflow. Characteristics of the print version such as small printing, tightly spaced and faded lettering, and columns contributed to these imperfections. The Brevier Reports are brimming with names of legislators that given the encoding resources would have vastly improved discovery. Unfortunately, both the ability to encode and normalize personal names exceeded the resources allotted. Another compromise we faced in the encoding is evident in the supplementary materials found in the front and back matter of the Brevier Reports. The nature of this content often differs from volume to volume, and much of it is markup intensive such as indices, addresses, etc. The content was reviewed by the editors on a case-by-case basis, and encoded if the content was unique in nature and/or substantive (e.g., biographical sketches). Otherwise much of this content such as indices were placed in anonymous block tags with no additional structural encoding like paragraphs, lists, tables and so on, enabling keyword searching, but perhaps limiting readability.

Plans for improving and enriching the encoding are in effect. Committee names will be encoded in their entirety with a later assessment of normalizing strategies of these organizational names. Not every volume contains a list of enacted legislation2 so a list will be compiled and provided with links added in the discussions that point to the final language of the bills. Front and back matter content encoding will be improved, and an assessment of personal name encoding and authority control will be conducted with a possible proposal for encoding names in phases.

1The Best Practices were in the midst of revision during the undertaking of the Brevier project. As a result, the Brevier project, according to the newly released version 3 of the Best Practices, sits somewhere between levels 3 and 4.

2Vol. 2, 1859 Regular Session; v. 4, 1861 Regular Session; v. 6, 1863 Regular Session; v. 10, 1869 Regular Session; v. 13, 1872 Special Session; v. 14, 1873 Regular Session; v. 15, 1875 Regular Session; v. 19–20, 1881 Regular and Special Sessions; and v. 22–23, 1885 Regular and Special Sessions.