Grants talk:IEG/palm leaf digitalization
some basic information
This proposal sounds very promising and I think preserving these manuscripts through digitization is a very useful task. As I am not at all familiar with palm leaf mansucripts, and I do assume that others also lack this kind of knowlege - I would like you to add some information on the age of these manuscripts and the number of manuscripts that exist/that you plan to tackle. Also I would like to know, which like-minded organisations you have in mind that would continue your work / cooperate with you?
First of all, thank you for the kind and gentle query.
For a basic idea of Palm leaf (known as താളിയോല thaaLiyOla in Malayalam language) as an ancient Indian medium to record information, please see Narayam. (Narayam is the special kind of stylus that was used to scribe in Palm Leaves. Incidentally the predecessor of ULS tool we use in Wikimedia projects was named as Narayam, a local language input method editor tool that originally emerged from our own community i.e. Malayalam Wikipedia community. As of now, 'Palm leaf' itself does not have an article on English WP. However, a sample picture is here:
Palm leaf scribed pages are made from the systematically prepared and dried leaves of Asian palmyra palm with utmost care in order to ensure a long life. However, like every other organic material, with time, they too gets their tear and toll, especially with the harsh and undulating tropical weather and the poor means of storage facilities available in South Indian region.
In Kerala, most of the traditional knowledge were preserved by aristocratic families, palaces, temples and churches. Until some 1850 or so, we did not have a public library or museum culture. The total of all knowledge were either maintained through vocal renderings or through such palm leafs. In the course of history and with intermittent absence of value-awareness among the custodians, archives in most of those aristocratic houses, palaces, temples and churches have gone wane or completely ruined. What we are trying to recover and salvage is in fact only a tip of a lost iceberg. Nevertheless, this is still valuable and this is the only chance we get. The opportunity can not wait any longer as the preservation attempts of even the available lot are quite in an apathy.
The first and major lot of the palm leaf collection that we plan to obtain and digitize particularly belongs to an ancient family who continued to practice the Indian medicine w:en:Ayurveda. This family is one among the so called Eight Schools of Ayurvedic medicine from Kerala. The members of this family have been kind enough to offer to us an otherwise difficult access to the palm leaf collection that they hold (provided we maintain 'ultreme' care to handle the precious objects while executing the image acquisition). We are confident enough to follow those conditions as we have the in-house expertise from within the community as well as a few external specialists.
The exact quantity of the first lot is not enumerated as of now. This can be possible only when we can access the collections directly which requires a positive assurance and commitment that we will indeed execute the project. An early estimate runs into several hundred volumes of these books each contains 100+ leaves. In fact, however less in number they may be, the value of each leaf can not be underestimated considering just their rarity and hitherto unexposed status. Apart from Malayalam, the volumes may also contain Sanskrit and Tamil, languages which were often scribed in Grantha Script.
Similarly, the precise level of antiquity of the collection is yet not determined. This may be a mixed lot from circa 1600 till 1900. We expect that the scripts themselves could provide the age through the content it exposes during digitization.
Apart from the above collection, we have started exploring additional material of the same class from other sources. While this could be a laborious task, we are hopeful that the combined efforts of our community, especially through another dedicated team who is pursuing a complimentary IEG grant project, should add enough volumes that will justify the cost-benefit advantage of this grant. In addition to the palm leaves, we will be using the equipment, expertise and manpower to also digitize paper books of antiquity that will be added to the Wikimedia repository under appropriate free licenses.
As for the co-operation of other institutions, we are looking forward to create new (as well as re-enforce existing) connections and relations with several government, non-profit and volunteer organizations. We have already initiated contacts and expressed an interest to work together with Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development, Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, IT@School Project, Swathanthra Malayalam Computing, various departments of the Government of Kerala etc. As we progress towards a successful approval of the grant, most of these entities are anticipated to collaborate with this project.
Please let us know if you need anymore information. Thank you! ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 23:38, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
Funds for cultural preservation
Thank you for your detailed proposal and your dedication to preserving important cultural heritage! I am marking your proposal eligible for IEG review today, and just wanted to note as I do so that we understand this project would be funding your time primarily for the procurement & preservation of these materials (rather than simply for the final act of uploads to Commons), because we understand that preservation has a very high overhead and volunteers cannot be reasonably expected to do this work alone. Wishing you best of luck as the review of this proposal continues. Warm regards, Siko (WMF) (talk) 03:38, 10 October 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for considering this proposal for further review. We hope we will be successful to get through the next layer of review and approval. It will be our pleasure to clarify any finer points, should they arise during the entire review, approval and execution process. ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 07:19, 11 October 2014 (UTC)
Eligibility confirmed, round 2 2014
This Individual Engagement Grant proposal is under review!
We've confirmed your proposal is eligible for round 2 2014 review. Please feel free to ask questions and make changes to this proposal as discussions continue during this community comments period.
The committee's formal review for round 2 2014 begins on 21 October 2014, and grants will be announced in December. See the schedule for more details.
First of all, I appreciate you taking the time to describe palm leaf manuscripts in more detail in response to User:Poupou_l'quourouce's question. I too did not know much about these manuscripts and would suggest moving the more detailed content from above to the actual grant page (as I assume others too would be curious to learn more).
I really like that there are plans to gift the digitization equipment to a non-profit organization (or organizations) after completing the project! I also appreciate that it might not be possible at this stage of the project to know which organizations will be the recipients of the equipment (as it likely depends on a variety of factors, including time of staff and internal capacity).
I wonder if you could speak a bit about the agreements that have been developed between your team and the various custodians of the manuscripts. Is there a licensing agreement or memorandum of understanding you could share? When you say 'proper licenses' what exactly are you referring to (I assume CC-SA licenses)? Do you foresee the project requiring any additions/revisions be made to such licenses with respect to traditional knowledge intellectual property rights? I'm also wondering if you see any connections between this project and the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library?
Thank you for pointing out these additional concerns, Thepwnco.
1. Certainly, we will transfer some of the informative content above to the grants page, if it will still confine to the scope and size of the page.
2. We are really not 'giving away' the equipment to a third party as a gift. The issue is that, as independent Wikimedia volunteers from the community, we do not have a permanent office or people who are officially representing the community. Just to avoid any unfounded conspiracy theories, we would not want to even keep with any particular community member. The solution we have found is to find a suitable non-profit organization who has a local office with a library and some staff. We have identified at least two of such organizations with whom we have had quite some symbiotic relations already. While they will be the custodians of the equipment, the actual ownership of the equipment can be handed over to Wikimedia India Chapter (or a User group that we are yet to form at regional level). In due time, there will be a recorded agreement between the parties involved, to this effect.
The equipment, thus in the custody of the holding organization will be allowed to be utilized by the organization, making use of the staff, for the same purpose (that is to digitize their own content and release as CC-SA to the world). The staff will be trained to operate the equipment. Community members will be able to bring in any additional volumes they collect and do the digitization part in these office premises. If any large volume collections are made available later, the equipment can be even transported to that site for a few weeks for that work.
There may still be a few points to be settled in such proposal. For eg. any Annual Maintenance Contracts, Corrective and Preventive Technical Support protocols, Estimated life time for term of ownership etc. We are confident that these fine details will be worked out amicably as we go.
3. The licenses will be mostly that conforms to 'very old' public domain materials. (CC-0, CC-SA and similar). For the first lot of palm leafs, the family who owns the collection is willing to offer an OTRS (for the digitized copies of the original material)to that effect. We have members within our community who are seasoned experts to deal with the licensing procedures. Again, fine details will be worked out at the right times as we go.
4. Thank you for bringing out the additional links on IPR. In the very page, you may note a minor section on the IPR Policy of Kerala Govt.(India). Interestingly, our project falls very much under the same geographic jurisdiction. As you see, we are conscious and prepared to deal with such fine aspects of licensing. :)
Thank you! ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 14:28, 10 October 2014 (UTC)
- @Viswaprabha: thank you for your thoughtful responses — indeed, I can see that you are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities related to the proposed work! cheers, -Thepwnco (talk) 00:24, 16 October 2014 (UTC)
comments about equipment
Hi to everybody! While I am quite happy with the grant and its components in general, I think it's not efficient to purchase expensive equipment for one-off task and then donate it to somebody. I think it's better to consider leasing option or some kind of sale-back at the end of the grant, is it possible to lease this equipment in the area of project execution? rubin16 (talk) 12:50, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
We are not donating it to anybody! Please read the lines well. Thanks ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 12:59, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- I have read posts above, let me clarify my concern. We now have a one-off event that requires expensive equipment and its future use isn't clear. If there was a regional chapter, the equipment could be purchased by it or for it (and kept by it) based on the own budget of the chapter or based on the funding of the chapter from WMF, if chapter's regular activities would need this equipment. When equipment is transferred to 3rd party, we are still somehow donating 3rd party organizations, not Wikimedia movement: that's not the use WMF donors are expecting from us. So, the most efficient use of this money is to pay for a certain time when we use this equipment (leasing) and not to associate us with any 3rd parties that we aren't reviewing here rubin16 (talk) 13:34, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- Dear rubin16,
- First of all, this cannot be termed as a one-off event at all. As community members of ML, we have been wanting some high value equipment for high volume digitization for many years now. You can notice the kind of activities happening within our space for some eight years now, ever since the beginning of ml.wikisource project. With the humblest resources, we have accumulated a noticeable volume of content within the Wikisource. Most of the source images for those works have been generated using cheap scanners and mobile phone cameras initiated by very loyal and dedicated common men, contributors who are really short of sufficient means (in terms of money or donor time)to take up any large volume works. The opening up of IEG grant programs is the first time, we are considering as an opportunity and a permanent solution for this problem as it will continuously enable us to approach serious source donors and commit definitive output as they require us to deliver, for a long time. The lot mentioned here (which itself run to more than 400 palm leaf volumes each containing more than 200 leafs on an average, as per our latest updates from the contact) is only something to begin with. It is also mentioned and elaborated as to conform and confine within a specific time limit for a definitive and measurable output as the IEG grants stipulate. There will be much more potential sources as these. Besides this priceless collection, we have at least three more very old libraries already in our waiting queue, of which, the collection of books themselves are worth the entire cost of these grant. In fact, the institution where we are going to KEEP the equipment (not donate to it) itself is one among these libraries. Besides, they have been constant associates to the Wikimedia projects we have been pursuing. Without the support of these institutions, we wouldn't have been a community here at all. (That's how stuff works here in our place.)
- As mentioned above, we are not giving away these equipment as gifts or donations, no no! I myself am an advisor of this project. I have been assisting this team to envisage and develop this grant application. I also happen to be the current Treasurer and one of the board members of Wikimedia India Chapter. The chapter can very much take over the equipment responsibly. But then, the chapter does not have an office in Kerala. Neither are we planning to open an office any soon here, just to keep a rusting equipment. On the other hand, while the chapter can over the legal ownership of the equipment, we also can accept the good courtesy of a friendly and like-minded organisation to keep the same in their well-facilitated premises and allow the community members to use it as and when they require either on-site or off-site. Please understand that they are actually doing a favour to us, not the other way round.
- As members of a very vibrant and enthusiastic community, we have a long way to go. There is enormous wikisource material within the libraries and other archives in this ancient land. If this pilot project goes well, what fathoms ahead may even be well beyond our wildest imagination. Please see the article on Bhasa's famous works which were thought to be lost forever. Believed to be dated to more than 2000 years ago, they are now famous as the first-ever instances of classical stage-acted theatrical drama in all over the world! Those were recovered from a similar collection and situation from this very region, exactly 100 years ago, almost as a miraculous coincidence. You can read more about this in any serious 20th century historical review on ancient Sanskrit (aka Indian) literature. (For eg. here). A potential find of even a single volume of such historical significance is well worth many multitudes of this entire grant! And we are already talking about many such collections yet to be harvested! ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 16:18, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- Further, it is NOT POSSIBLE to arrange such equipments on lease in our area. In India, practice is not prevalent to offer such equipments on lease. ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 16:21, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- thanks a lot for your comments, now I understand your future plans and have no objections to it. Probably, you can expand a little bit "sustainability" section of the proposal with the comments about future projects, legal ownership, etc. (as above) but it is up to you - comments on the talk page are clear and complete for me. Thanks again and, please, treat my questions as a willing to improve grant proposals, not to decline all requests to keep money :) rubin16 (talk) 18:17, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- Thank you rubin16. From us, there is no ill-impressions towards any sincere comments and questions put forward here. In fact, we too believe that such a pilot project should get through all possible scepticism and risk assessments so that we ourselves will be prepared to handle any untoward situations with more preparedness and care. Your inputs will only make our implementation plans more refined and responsible. :-) I am glad that my explanations helped. ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 18:51, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
Hi, thanks for your submission: it's well prepared and I see it clear. Now, the question time (please, add a background music ;))
- There are 24 units to pay manpower, how is distributed?, the line says "Grantees & Volunteers", but it says too "allowances", so, can you specify the amount to pay to the grantees and volunteers?, because (ie) you could pay the transportation costs to the volunteers.
- How could you say 384 units of allowance (at 500 INR) if there are two team member to be defined?
- Why you include Wikisource project if your success measure doesn't include it?: the main goal of the project is upload files to Commons.
- What's happen if the media or press don't cover your project: is unsuccessful, fail or just bad luck?, this is don't depends on you and you haven't money to spread the word.
- First of all, these figures are really only tentative. The exact rates and quantities may vary moderately. One unit is estimated as the pay for one person for one month, for a set of working hours 5 days a week, 8 hours. The allowances are statutory requirement by law and these are typically derived from the basic pay figure itself. (e.g. Monthly Medical Allowances, Local conveyance etc). These estimates are much less than what are equivalent and justifiable to the prevailing manpower costs for technically skilled jobs in Kerala. We are yet to finalize an employee-volunteer-grantee matrix. It may be possible that some volunteers may share the work load and thus reduce the costs towards paid manpower. In such cases, the volunteers may have to be compensated for their food, travel, communication charges etc. (and even short term accommodation contingencies in certain cases). Such costs are included in this portfolio, so we will have adequate space to work within the same head of account. These costs are separately anticipated and accounted than what is provided in line 7 or 9. Therefore, 24 units are roughly for two paid workers each at two stations for six months @ Rs. 20,000 ( US $ 666 approx. i.e. US$ 22 per day) per person. Give or take the statutory allowances and / or complimentary (volunteer) allowances.
- The 384 units are intended for travel to the source sites by the grantees themselves and many additional volunteers who may join and help (by way of liaison or skill or training). We assume such four persons will have to make each 4 trips in a week for six months. This may not be strictly regular. The numbers and frequency can vary high and low. At the prevailing living expenses, Rs.500 is a nominally minimum amount for each such trip.
- The Palm leafs are valuable in two aspects. These are not just images like photographs of persons or objects. Each palm leaf contain valuable text content that should eventually go to the Wikisource. In fact, Wikisource is the final destination for the information that we acquire. In addition, Indian (and other) Wikipedia and Wiktionary projects will be utilizing these collections for a tremendous amount of references and citations. So Wikisource is the target area to define measurability matrices.
- Ever since the evolution of Wikimedia projects, we, the Malayalam community, have always maintained very good relations with the print, online and wave media regionally and nationally. We can point out an ample number of instances to show this fact. As rightly intended, most of them are in our regional languages themselves. But you may also find sufficient results by a simple Google search with suitable keywords.
Grant doesn't explain the specific justification for the salary nor the full time equivalent. In general, when we're basically giving away valuable equipment, I don't like the idea of adding wages on top of it. --Nemo 08:38, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
- Given the delicate nature of these materials, this type of preservation work seems reasonably beyond the scope of what volunteers can be expected to accomplish in their spare time, Nemo_bis. And I'd expect that access to such materials may be given during certain hours only, etc, which can make things harder to accomplish as a volunteer as well... Siko (WMF) (talk) 21:24, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
- As Siko (WMF) rightly pointed out, this is not exactly the kind of 'edits' we do normally at Wikimedia projects. Instead, we are gathering valuable content that can be added to the WM repositories from precious sources, in a highly responsible manner. This requires more responsible contributions and efforts that can not be normally entrusted and assigned to volunteers. The skills needed to operate and maintain the equipment, preserve and ensure the health of the source material, regularly and precisely report the status of work progress to the source donors as well as to the grantees and eventually to the WMF are all tasks needing extra responsibility. In fact, the equipment themselves are less important in this project. It is the process component which takes more of a serious outlay.
2 sets of equipment/workstations?
I'm wondering if 2 sets of equipment stored in 2 different offices are truly required to begin this project. Might it make more sense to begin with 1 set, learn from working with your first lot of materials, and then, as your approach demonstrates success, perhaps request funds to add a second station later? The budget for this project feels ambitious for a first grant of this kind, although I can see the value of this work, and so I'm wondering if there is anywhere we might limit the risk by starting small and building up over time. Cheers, Siko (WMF) (talk) 21:34, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
- First, it is for the very reason of mitigating risks that we are bifurcating this workflow. Any contingency disasters (such as an equipment failure, long power supply interruptions, access restrictions etc. - in our place, we are always prone to such failures) might be devastating to this project if we can not have a redundant structure.
- . There are more than few sources which are already prepared to allow us to do the digitization. Each of them may take weeks (if not months) to complete the work in a single batch. Since the project involves handling rare artifacts and valuable books and transportation and installation of equipments, we can not do each source as multiple or intermittent batches. However, the prevailing situation (of having allowed to access and retrieve the material) may not continue indefinitely. Hence, the time to act is a critical factor. With two sets, we can commence the activities immediately. Having two sets also enables us to make the project more fault-tolerant and flexible in scheduling and managing the work load.
- . The two locations we intend to base the offices and equipment are geographically far apart. These two locations (Kottayam & Thrissur) are both hotspots of volunteers. Also the locations will facilitate nearer access to current and more potential sources.
- . By implementing a two-prong project management strategy, we may be able to benefit through more effective negotiations and better terms and conditions from the equipment suppliers during procurement, installation, maintenance and after sales support.
- . We will be able to save time and resources on training and volunteer support.
- . As we plan to scale up this as a possible model to emulate both within the local and other similar communities, a two-prong system would yield more realistic lessons.
Damage to the leaves
What can be said about the physical preservation of the leaves? Of course I want them digitized, but in handling them and digitizing them some amount of damage will definitely happen to these old leaves. Who among this project is experienced at handling leaves of this sort and what measures are in place to protect the leaves as they are processed?
What kind of documentation will be made for any leaves which become damaged during the digitization?
Who is responsible for physically protecting the leaves? If you had to put a money value on each individual leaf, then how much would you say each leaf is worth?
I would like to avoid a situation in which anyone complains that during this very sensitive digitization project, the Wikimedia community was too bold and unprepared to respect this delicate kind of media. Blue Rasberry (talk) 18:15, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
- Thank you Blue Rasberry , for pointing out this very important factor for consideration. We have already pondered well enough to take care of such situation.
- As a primary precaution and security measure, a representative member from the family or trust who owns the collection will be always present for supervision while handling the leafs. In addition, we are also getting expert practical information, advice and guidance from authorities who are specialized in handling palm leafs and such vulnerable and priceless artifacts from institutes such as Oriental Research Institute & Manuscripts Library, Thiruvananthapuram etc.
- With the kind of seriousness we approach this project, one must be able to comprehend the degree of care we will be adapting to these objects. In fact, unless someone start really acting in some way, even by way of such a project as proposed here, these artifacts would rather perish sooner than later.
- Thank you once again, Blue Rasberry ! :-) ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 19:06, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
- Viswaprabha Thanks for your answer. I appreciate your caution, and would like to hear more from you. I expect that other people outside of India would like to hear more also.
- Do you think it is necessary to purchase insurance to compensate the families in case damage comes to these leaves in the course of digitization? Why or why not? Please excuse me - I live in the United States and some of your leaves might be older than my country. If a project like yours were done in the United States, there would be insurance, and you have not budgeted for that or commented much on the protection of the leaves. Tell me, for example, what you will if some family gives you leaves and some terrible accident happens and they are destroyed.
- Let me ask another question - imagine all the leaves that you intend to digitize. If these leaves were to be sold in a public auction and shipped to an international museum, what monetary value would you guess would be on these leaves? Something like Rs 100 per leaf? 500? 1000? 5000? What estimate can you give about the monetary value of the assets you are handling? Blue Rasberry (talk) 20:13, 31 October 2014 (UTC)
- Thank you for this question too, Blue Rasberry . Sorry to be a bit late, as we had failed to note the addition of this question in time.
- For one thing, The concept of insurance is kind of completely different here compared to the practices in West. Offering an insurance on such material may be completely a weird idea to the limited number of policy providers. Even if a party is prepared to offer an insurance, we really have no idea how we would quantify the worth of these materials.
- Nevertheless, you have brought up an important point that we should corroborate upon. We may just have to consider this option after consulting with the source providers, insurance providing companies and among ourselves. If necessary, we may either add such additional expenses to the project as an extended cost figure or try to apportion the same within our estimates submitted already, but only as we proceed with the actual work schedule. For now, we would like to keep the project estimates undisturbed. ViswaPrabhaവിശ്വപ്രഭtalk 23:20, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
- Viswaprabha Okay, forget insurance for now. But without doing much research, please give me your best guess about the monetary value of the source materials you would be touching. I know they are priceless and irreplaceable but if the worst happens and they are destroyed by some accident, then the Wikipedia community will be responsible for paying to replace them. Say something about how the money value of leaves may be determined. Say something about the average age and average quality of a leaf, and how much you would have to pay on average in compensation if one were destroyed. You might say, "We are not experts, but our guess is that the value of all of the leaves in this project would be three crore rupees if they were sold to a museum in Delhi. The average leaf examined in this project is about 120 years old and has not been stored in a museum, so it is medium quality. If we damaged a leaf, we would offer the owner Rs 2000 per leaf lost, and we would expect that they would be completely satisfied getting that amount of money in compensation." I know that in India it is not customary to put prices on these kinds of things, but if this is funded by the international community and something goes wrong, then there needs to be some discussion in advance about what to do. In projects like this especially with volunteers who are not trained in museum science, it is possible that at least one leaf will be damaged during the project. There is no shame in accidents because they happen even with professionals, so just say something about the value of the leaves. Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:51, 13 November 2014 (UTC)
Aggregated feedback from the committee for Palm leaf digitalization
Thank you for submitting this proposal. The committee is now deliberating based on these scoring results, and WMF is proceeding with its due-diligence. You are welcome to continue making updates to your proposal pages during this period. Funding decisions will be announced by early December. — ΛΧΣ21 17:05, 13 November 2014 (UTC)
Round 2 2014 Decision
This project has not been selected for an Individual Engagement Grant at this time.
We love that you took the chance to creatively improve the Wikimedia movement. The committee has reviewed this proposal and not recommended it for funding, but we hope you'll continue to engage in the program. Please drop by the IdeaLab to share and refine future ideas!
Comments regarding this decision:
We love the enthusiasm, experience, and focus of the Malayalam community and this team of proposers, and have no doubt about the capacity to engage and excite local volunteers. Where we had less confidence was the negotiations with outside groups, without any evidence that some in the relevant scholarly community had interest. A future proposal that trimmed the equipment costs, pre-engaged scholarly partners, and considered how to handle the risk of digitizing fragile documents might be worth exploring. You might also consider PEG funding for some version of this project, as they’ve funded digitization efforts and partnerships along similar lines in past.
- Review the feedback provided on your proposal and to ask for any clarifications you need using this talk page.
- Visit the IdeaLab to continue developing this idea and share any new ideas you may have.
- To reapply with this project in the future, please make updates based on the feedback provided in this round before resubmitting it for review in a new round.
- Check the schedule for the next open call to submit proposals - we look forward to helping you apply for a grant in a future round.