Unlocking Digital Texts

Digital texts are all around us - as objects of study in scholarly work, to the news, social media and other texts we interact with everyday online. But how long will these digital texts last?

The problem with digital texts is that they come in a variety of formats that are hard to reuse. Even robust scholarly formats such as the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is shaped by the textual, semantic and annotation conventions of specific fields or sub-fields of study. Reusing and sustaining digital texts requires format and infrastructure updates beyond the skill and funding limits that few researchers can access.

This project aims to scope and define an Interoperable Text Format as a means for accessing and delivering text that is stored in a variety of extant formats. Importantly, we are aiming for something that is both human- and computer-readable.

This international collaboration between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Notre Dame in the USA will also work with project partners to test the issues, constraints and possibilities of an Interoperable Text Format on case studies in scholarly work and library collections. 

If you are interested in taking part in our project workshops, please contact neil.jefferies@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Partner Organisations

Cambridge University Library

University of Notre DameNavari Family Center for Digital ScholarshipJohn J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values, Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society


See our outputs on our Open Science Framework project page: https://osf.io/r78gx/

Project Team

Principal Investigator (UK): Neil Jefferies


Neil was involved with the initial setup of the Eprints and Fedora Repositories at Oxford and is now working on the development of future library-related technologies and services. Neil is Technical Strategist of the Cultures of Knowledge project, and PI of the Unlocking Digital Texts project. He was a founding co-author of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), a co-author of the Oxford Common File Layout (OCFL) for preserving versioned digital objects, and community lead for the SWORD protocol for moving digital objects between systems. Neil has served on the organising committees of international conferences such Open Repositories, DPASSH, The Preservation and Archiving SIG and ILIDE, and teaches regular sessions on a variety of topics at the Oxford Digital Humanities Summer School.

Director (US): Dr Robert Goulding (Co-I)


Director, John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values; Director, Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science; Associate Professor of Liberal Studies, University of Notre Dame. 

Dr Megan Gooch (Co-I)


Head of the Centre for Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities

Professor Dirk van Hulle (Co-I)


Dirk Van Hulle is Professor of Bibliography and Modern Book History at the University of Oxford, chair of the Oxford Centre for Textual Editing and Theory (OCTET) and director of the Centre for Manuscript Genetics at the University of Antwerp. With Mark Nixon, he is co-director of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (www.beckettarchive.org), series editor of the Cambridge UP series ‘Elements in Beckett Studies’ and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Beckett Studies. His publications include Textual Awareness (2004), Modern Manuscripts (2014), Samuel Beckett’s Library (2013, with Mark Nixon), The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett (2015), James Joyce’s Work in Progress (2016), the Beckett Digital Library and a number of volumes in the ‘Making of’ series (Bloomsbury) and genetic editions in the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, which won the 2019 Prize for a Bibliography, Archive or Digital Project of the Modern Language Association (MLA). His most recent monograph ‘Genetic Criticism: Tracing Creativity in Writing’ was published by Oxford University Press in 2022. 

Dr Michael Hawkins (Co-I)


Research Associate, Cambridge Digital Humanities; Senior Software Developer, Digital Initiatives & Strategy, Cambridge University Library

Professor Natalie Meyers


Associate Director of Operations, Lucy Family Institute for Data and Society; Professor of the Practice, University of Notre Dame

Dr Rob Ralley (Research Associate)


Research Associate, Cambridge Digital Humanities 

Dr Scott B. Weingart (Co-I)


Director, Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship, University of Notre Dame

Dr Arnaud Zimmern (Postdoctoral Research Associate)


Postdoctoral Research Associate, Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship; University of Notre Dame. 

Dr Caterina Agostini


Postdoctoral Research Associate, The Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship, The John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values, and The Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society, University of Notre Dame