MEDEA Project Workshops

Modeling semantically Enhanced Digital Edition of Accounts


A significant portion of the historical record for which cost-effective digitization models have yet to be developed, accounts of various sorts have been produced by most human communities. Account books have long been used as primary sources for economic and social history since they allow scholars to explore the development of economic behavior on both a macro- and microstructural level. And a number of projects in Europe and the United States have begun to explore models for digitization of such sources.

The MEDEA (Modeling semantically Enhanced Digital Edition of Accounts) Project, supported within the NEH-DFG Bilateral Digital Humanities Program,  includes two major events:

  • A workshop to be held at the University of Regensburg, October 22-24, 2015. Workshop participants will present current models of encoding of accounts for discussion, critique, and suggestions from the invited experts.
  • A workshop to be held at Wheaton College (Massachusetts), April 6-8, 2016. Principals will present the results of this testing and consult with the assembled experts regarding next steps for expanding the communities of practice employing these models for historical financial records.

The directors of the MEDEA project have planned an intermediary phase to introduce pragmatic concerns early in the process so as to avoid introducing problems that might result from solely theoretical discussions.  After the October workshop, participants will produce examples that may be used as models for further testing and development of best practices for transcription, markup, and analysis of accounting records. These examples will be chosen to demonstrate the wide range of documents that are included in the general category of accounts and to begin to suggest the breadth and depth of information to be found in such sources.

The discussions and examples will concentrate on a set of questions intended to elucidate the features of accounts of greatest interest to scholars. Thus the activities will focus on the following issues:

  • How might we model the economic activities recorded in these documents? In particular: What can the conceptualisation of double entry bookkeeping help? What other models of bookkeeping were followed historically and how can they be represented formally? Are data models developed for modern business reporting helpful?
  • How can we model the economic reality behind the texts? Can we establish common resources on metrics and currencies or even the value of money which can be reused in other projects? Is it possible to build common taxonomies of commodities and services to facilitate the comparison of financial information recorded at different dates and places? That is, can we develop references on the order of name authorities and standards for georeferencing?
  • How might we integrate topological information of the transcription with its financial interpretation? Is the “table” an appropriate method? What possibilities are offered by the TEI Manuscripts module and use of the tei:zone element?
  • How can we integrate a topological/documentary approach and the growing linguistic interest in the texts with the interpretations that economic and social historians extract from the documents?


This project is supported jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) is the central, self-governing research funding organization that promotes research at universities and other publicly financed research institutions in Germany. The DFG serves all branches of science and the humanities by funding research projects and facilitating cooperation among researchers.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.