In his role as the president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS), Peter Reill has recently written the ASECS membership about issues extremely relevant to this blog’s purpose: the increasing importance of commercial databases to scholarship and the reality of unequal access to these tools. As we have been discussing on emob, databases such EEBO, ECCO, Burney, and the like enrich our ability to do historical and other forms of research in ways that simply weren’t possible before. At the same time, a lack of access to these resources seriously hampers the types and scope of projects that one can undertake. While these resources have definitely made more texts accessible to more scholars, those who lack access are now at a far greater disadvantage than scholars previously were. Interest in interdisciplinary work, book history and print culture studies, material culture, transatlantic studies and global perspectives continues to grow within and across fields, and these resources foster such work. These tools also offer new directions for more traditional approaches. Given the inherently historical nature of eighteenth-century and early modern studies, the access that these databases afford to facsimiles of primary documents is crucial.
Peter will be attending a meeting hosted by the Mellon Foundation to address access in February. We thought it would be helpful to create a series of posts that will supply some feedback to the questions Mellon posed to attendees (and that Peter, in turn, posed to ASECS members).
To initiate this series of postings, this post is devoted to the following three questions: