WikiLala: “Google” Ottoman Turkish documents


The online digital library project “WikiLala”, which aims to collect and digitize all printed texts from the Ottoman Empire since the advent of the printing press, has shed new light on the history and culture of the empire. Thousands of books, magazines, magazines, newspapers, various manuscripts and other documents from Ottoman Turkish works are numbered.

The project has been in operation since 2019 at the initiative of Hiperlink, founder of Turkey’s first digital library, project director Sadi Ozgür and Harun Tuncer, project consultant and academic member of the history department of Aydın University in Istanbul.

Tuncer stated that after the reform of the alphabet in 1928, which converted the official alphabet of Turkey into Latin letters, there was a serious and significant separation and separation from the Ottoman era. He said that society and the academy had become oblivious to Ottoman culture, social structure and political knowledge.

A screenshot from WikiLala showing the results of the Ottoman newspaper Cumhuriyet issues that contain the keyword
A screenshot from the WikiLala website showing the results of the issues of the Ottoman newspaper Cumhuriyet containing the keyword “Istanbul”, obtained on February 19, 2021. (AA Photo)

Tuncer said that there has been a great treasure of knowledge waiting to be discovered in Ottoman documents since the time of Ibrahim Mutifrika, who introduced Empire Press He was the first Muslim to run a printing press in Arabic calligraphy.

“We are oblivious to this wealth of knowledge, and we do not know how to access it, how to evaluate it. Once we reach it, we do not have many means to research all these texts,” Tuncer told Anadolu Agency (AA). “That was the thing that motivated us in this project. This is a renewal movement, like the Renaissance. We want to rejuvenate that era. This is our goal.”

As part of the project, documents are transferred to the digital library in a three-part process. In the first stage, documents are scanned with high accuracy if obtained via a physical copy, and then digitized. Finally, the digital documents are indexed and uploaded to the system, where they are available for analysis.

Researchers can access documents online without having to obtain physical copies from libraries. They can also search documents easily and quickly using the system search engine, which can be used with Arabic and Latin characters thanks to optical character recognition (OCR) technology used in the scans.

The project website, currently in its beta version, houses more than 109,000 Ottoman documents, including more than 45,000 newspapers, 32,000 magazines, 4,000 books and 26,000 articles.

Tuncer said that they have been working on the project for two years and that they recently launched a beta version of the site. He believes the website will be out of beta in two months and will welcome visitors with its full version.

Tuncer also explained the name of the project. “WikiLala” is derived from the title “Lala” which was given to the teachers of the Ottoman princes. He said that they wanted to educate and guide people trying to access this wealth of knowledge, noting that “they were trying to build a” Google “in the Ottoman Turkish language.

Tuncer also explained their goals for the site. “We will download half the number of documents we want to access within a year. Researchers, with the contribution of our users, will be able to access a range of works of up to 2 million pages from 3 (millions) to 5 million pages that we believe exist.”

Tuncer said they used several sources to supplement the library’s catalog including foreign open source libraries and public and private Ottoman collections. He also noted that converting and simplifying documents into Latin was also part of their plans, which they aim to do by 2022.

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