The Watermark Initiative project originated at the 1996 Roanoke Conference
on the History, Function, and Study of Watermarks. This conference
was convened by Daniel Mosser, Michael Saffle and Ernest Sullivan to facilitate
communication among scholars and specialists from diverse fields working with
paper or interested in the history of paper, and to explore the implications
of currently emerging technology for advancing the study of paper and the exploitation
of the evidence of paper.
The Watermark Initiative's distributed database system also had a pre-history.
During the years before the Roanoke Conference, Robert Allison and James Hart
developed a database for an on-line catalogue of paper descriptions and watermark
images, The Archive of Papers and Watermarks in Greek Manuscripts. Originally
conceived as a mode of publishing the paper descriptions for Allison's catalogue
of the Greek Manuscripts of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, it quickly expanded
into a prototype for a central database for all persons working with Greek manuscripts.
Its ojectives were to promote the publication of paper descriptions as a recognized scholarly
activity, to assure consistency of paper description, and to provide the means for amassing
a body of data that would realize the potential evidential value of paper descriptions
for all scholars working with Greek manuscripts.
A major concern of Allison and Hart was that their database should be consistent
with standards that they anticipated would be emerging for searchable databases
of paper descriptions and watermarks. A working prototype for this database
served to the World Wide Web in 1995-96 (without real data from the Philotheou
Manuscripts) coincided with the development of a WWW searchable database being
developed for the Thomas Gravell Archive and with the Nottingham University
Library Watermark Database. This early proliferation of database models highlighted
the need for communication and development of common protocols of description
and database design. The 1996 Roanoke Conference was instrumental in asssembling
persons from diverse fields and focusing their attention on the implications
of currently emerging technology for their work with paper. At its concluding
task force session to consider standards for a WWW-based publication of papers
and watermarks, the Philotheou Project Database was adopted as a starting model,
and its developers, Robert Allison and James Hart, agreed to work with the
participants of the Conference to develop their prototype into a universally
applicable database of paper descriptions and watermark images.
Papers and studies from this early stage of the project may be seen
at the Watermark Archive website including models for description of paper,
watermarks, watermark images (facsimiles), moulds and stamps and a detailed
analysis and critique of the IPH Standard.