A Prince’s Papers: Transcribing Albert's World



Project Background

Hello, and welcome to the first part of this rolling workshop, A Prince's Papers: Transcribing Prince Albert's World.

In this session I will, briefly, introduce myself, the workshop, its partners, and materials, give an outline of what I hope we will be able to cover and achieve, and walk you through transcribing and editing an example document. At the end of this session, there will be suggestions of materials that you might like to try transcribing and editing yourself for the first of our themed sessions.

To begin, I am Andrew Cusworth, and I am an 1851 Research Fellow, based at the Bodleian Libraries. My research interests are in digital collections, how these operate, and how digital mediation changes our approach to cultural heritage. For the last eighteen months, I have been pursuing this in relation to the Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy project, which has been a major undertaking to digitise and make publicly available a large body of material from the Royal Archives, the Royal Collection and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.This project is is supported by Sir Hugh and Lady Stevenson in honour of Sir Hugh's sister the late Dame Anne Griffiths DCVO, former Librarian and Archivist to His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, and by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. My role has been as a scholarly adjunct to the project, and to explore ways in which the materials might be enhanced digitally.

Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection and manages the public opening of the official residences of Her Majesty The Queen.The Royal Collection is among the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. The Royal Collection is held in trust by the Sovereign for her successors and the nation, and is not owned by The Queen as a private individual.

The Royal Archives is the private archive of Her Majesty The Queen and holds the official records of the Royal Household and the personal records of Sovereigns and other members of the Royal Family.

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was established by royal charter with Prince Albert as its President to organise the Great Exhibition. When the Exhibition made a profit of £186,000 the Commission received a supplemental charter to continue in perpetuity to disburse the profits in order to "increase the means of industrial education and extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry", work which it continues to this day..

The workshops

The aims of these workshops are to give you an opportunity to

  • engage with the materials of the Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy project in a structured way.
  • gain experience in creating transcriptions of 19th Century manuscript materials.
  • explore some of the possibilities for presenting editions of these materials for print and digital use.
  • have a taste of digital humanities methods using the TEI mark-up protocol.
  • get a sense of what might be possible with further digital humanities training and how this fits the DH landscape.
  • leave you with transferable skills, a publicly accessible edition to your name, and a thirst for more of all of the above.

The workshops are incremental, building from the point of view of minimal experience, and each will add something to your knowledge of digital humanities and textual scholarship, as well as exploring a rich set of historical documents. Each session will consist of:

  • a brief online 'lecture' element made up of text, images, and videos - you may find me repeating myself quite a bit in the text and videos.
  • some self-guided working
  • a virtual 'drop-in' at which we will discuss the documents, their contents and what is interesting about them, and any issues you may have encountered in transcribing or editing.


The work each week should not take terribly long. Each 'lecture session' will be ready for you on the Tuesday of each week, and each drop in will take place on a Thursday. At the end of each week, you will be asked to send in your edited transcription for it to eventually be made available online.

If you have any difficulty, please do get in touch with me at andrew.cusworth@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and I will see what I can do to assist.

What you will need

Let's start with what you might need to do the workshops. I've tried to keep the requirements simple and, above all, free! So, you can do this workshop if you have access to:

  • a computer (not a tablet or phone)
  • the internet (probably not free)
  • good word processing software, such as: Microsoft Word (not free); Open Office (free); or equivalent (potentially free)
  • Zoom video conferencing software (free)
  • a pencil and some paper
  • text editor software (either the standard one on your computer or Brackets (free) or something similar

(Brackets is a development text editor, intended for working with computer code and simplifying that for expert users. When you install it, you may find it a little daunting, but do not worry too much. We will deal with it a little as we go along.)