Archive for the ‘Digital Tools’ Category

The Library Beyond the Book (…and Beyond the Human)

August 9, 2015

Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Battles’s The Library Beyond the Book (Harvard University Press, 2014) is a multimedia publishing experiment that moves beyond slapping a CD of music onto a book’s inner front flap or uploading music onto a related web site.  This book’s material is interlocked to material on a slew of media: a dedicated web site, a 24-minute documentary, relevant digital reviews about the film and Harvard’s MetaLAB in Harvard Magazine, and even a playable deck of cards (more on this later).

This gothic disassembly and reassembly of the book’s traditional parts is intentionally disquieting–more Frankenstein’s monster than utopian order.

Like Shelley’s monster, the volume questions its own narrative.  It opens with a steampunk cartoon in which Melvil Dewey time travels from past to future, gleefully outlining the history of libraries and insisting on the library’s facilitation of dialogue between the living and the dead.  The cartoon’s closing tableau reveals the domed reading room of the future library holding no books at all. Instead, an announcement from a loudspeaker informs Mr. Dewey that his volumes are “ready for download.”  The Victorian Mr. Dewey is triumphant.  The library of the future is here.

Four sections of subsequent text question this cartoon’s playful certainty, replacing Dewey’s confidence with provisional speculation.  The volume’s first line announces that the title “The Library Beyond the Book

is a provocation, not a description. It gestures toward a threshold being traversed at the time of writing, not toward an era when books will vanish and bookshelves will be seen only in virtual versions, brimming over only with e-books.

The threshold being traversed involves dismantling the linear momentum of the book.  The volume’s typographical design disrupts forward progress, in part through red-inked epigrammatic meditations on the future library that run down the right margin of each spread, forcing one to turn the volume 90˚ in order to read them. These future scenarios are deliberately whimsical, and reviewers have complained about the book’s abstractions.  Though such complaints mistake theory for pragmatism, they are understandable given the legitimate anxiety about the future of libraries.

Perhaps most whimsical is the companion deck of playing cards available for purchase upon request, on which the red-inked “provocations” are recorded.  But here too the whimsy is richly informed.  The deck recalls the organization of the first card catalog, designed by the historian Edward Gibbon on the backs of playing cards. Assumptions that these provocations matter, that they should be saved for posterity, that they should be the stuff of meditation are made frivolous by the medium of playing cards, even as we recall that playing cards are not only sometimes preserved in archives but also valuable for the insight they provide into the past.  Gibbon’s card catalog provides one example; the famous playing cards narrating the fictional Popish Plot provides another.  If items as apparently frivolous as playing cards should be collected and stored in libraries, where does the collecting end?

The limitations of storing is the topic of the project’s highlight, the brilliant 24-minute documentary, Cold Storage, which is an improvisational tribute to Alain Resnais’ Toute la memoire du monde (1956).  Toute la memoire du monde documented the organization of France’s beautiful Bibliothèque nationale; Cold Storage examines Harvard Library’s decidedly homely remote storage system.  Both French and American documentaries dispel romantic concepts of the library, but a comparison of the two exposes the increasingly diminished role of the human in the highly functional and mechanized archival vaults of today.

Directed by Cristoforo Magliozzi and narrated by Schnapp, Cold Storage takes viewers behind the scenes to the gargantuan breathing machine that is the Harvard Depository, a sprawling concrete monster that bends humans to its will as it exhales and inhales books sent to and from readers at Harvard’s libraries. In climate controlled concrete bunkers, shelves tower above and beyond sight, forcing human assistants to use electrical lifts to reach them. Drone technology allows cameras to capture a perspective from non-human heights.  The resulting point of view is that of the building viewing the tiny workers lifted mechanically to shelves no human could reach without robotic help. Because of the volume of books sent there daily, books are cataloged and shelved by size, not by content.  The result is a collection

designed for the eyes of laser scanners, inventory tracking systems, and mechanically-aided acts of retrieval. . . . The HD reduces its sparsely-distributed human agents to parts in a cybernetic machine that speaks a language not of authors, subjects, and titles, but of barcode label identifiers and the ID numbers they encode (139).

That laser scanners are now part of an intended audience is also suggested by the dust jacket designed for The Library Beyond the Book.  An impossibly long barcode runs down the left side of the front cover, a hyperbolic indication of the book’s need to be “readable” by lasers in either Amazon warehouses or book depositories or both.

The lifespan of the depository poses a problem that has always haunted libraries: finding space.  Its climate controlled bunkers preserve books and other records for hundreds of years, but the concrete bunkers themselves will last between 70 and 100 years.  With new books added to the collection’s 9 million items daily, the project is “unsustainable,” explains Matthew Shehy, head of access services.

To the old, though intensifying, problem of sustainability is a new problem of concept, one that Battles suggests in his earlier volume, The Library: An Unquiet History.  The machine-controlled bunkers of the HD force a reassessment of the beautiful and coherent religious metaphors we often use for libraries—”cathedral,” “monastery,” “hermitage,” and “refuge.” In those spaces, humans could collaborate with texts and others to construct a sustained cultural memory and identity.  By contrast, the bunkers of today contain numbers of texts growing so quickly that not only cataloging but also comprehension seems beyond the scale of human minds.

Everyone should watch Cold Storage for its creepy revelation of the non-human design of the very institution on which we rely to preserve, celebrate, bemoan, and understand the human record.  For all its irreverent play, this  multimedia project makes a serious point, leaving us to consider how best to respond to a monstrous body that was designed with the latest technology without full consideration for its place in human society.

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015–Part I

July 25, 2015

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) has featured digital projects at its conferences for many years now. With the SHARP 2013 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, SHARP began the tradition of hosting a stand-alone digital projects showcase at its conferences. During a two-hour time slot, creators present and demonstrate their projects to attendees. SHARP 2015, held in Montreal this past July 7th through July 10th, offered attendees the following fourteen fascinating digital projects and tools:

  • Jonathan Armoza, “Topic Words in Context (TWiC)”
  • Belinda Barnet, Jason Ensor and Sydney Shep, “A Prototype for Using Xanadu Transclusive Relationships in Academic Texts”
  • Troy J. Bassett, “At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901”
  • Léon Robichaud, “Bibliographie de l’histoire de Montréal”
  • Richard Cunningham, “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base”
  • Bertrand Gervais, “Arts et littératures numériques: du répertoire à l’agrégateur”
  • Joshua McEvilla, “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama”
  • Jordan Michael Howell, “Digital Bibliography Quick Start”
  • Hélène Huet, “Mapping Decadence”
  • Mireille Laforce, “Des innovations pour faciliter le dépôt légal à Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec” ”
  • Sophie Marcotte, “Le projet HyperRoy”
  • Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee, “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century”
  • Chantal Savoie, Pierre Barrette, Olivier Lapointe, “Le « Laboratoire de recherche sur la culture de grande consommation et la culture médiatique au Québec » : un ambitieux système de métadonnées pour mieux comprendre la culture populaire”
  • Mélodie Simard-Houde, “Présentation de la plateforme numérique Médias 19”

Complete abstracts may be found here on the SHARP 2015 conference website.

This two-part post, however, will focus on a few projects most relevant to EMOB’s focus. Part I will focus on Joshua McEvilla’s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” and Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century.” Part II will cover Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” and Richard Cunningham’s “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base.”

Joshua McEvilla‘s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” showcased his An Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language, a resource aimed at encouraging the study of neglected seventeenth-century dramatic authors whose work and contributions have been overshadowed by the attention given to Shakespeare.

mcevilla-sharp-2015-poster-1
(Click to enlarge)

As the site’s introduction explains, John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language (1655) is the first seventeenth-century book of quotations to draw its material exclusively from early modern dramas. As such, Cotgrave’s collection “provides a means of studying the original reception of the plays of Shakespeare with the plays of other dramatists” (Cotgrave home). In turn, Dr. McEvilla’s construction of a digital edition of Cotgrave’s work—complete with a concept-based faceted search tool (introduction and search tool), a full list of all the known plays from which the quotations are drawn, data tables, and much more—harnesses the power of the digital to transform this printed resource into a dynamic tool. Besides assisting researchers and encouraging study of neglected English seventeenth-century dramatic works, the Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s ETWL also seems useful for teaching English drama in an advanced undergraduate classroom or graduate course. For those with access to Early English Books Online (EEBO) and/or 17th and 18th Century Burney Newspaper Collection, McEvilla’s tool could serve as an important complement in assisting students understand the contexts for the drama contained in EEBO or in providing them with a guide for selecting texts in EEBO. That the bookseller Humphrey Moseley held the license to print Cotgrave’s work is also worthy of note. As David Kastan recounts in “Humphrey Moseley and the Invention of English Literature,” Moseley played an important role in what he terms the “invention” of English literature (see Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, Univ. of Mass Press, 2007, pp. 104-124).

Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s Scottish Chapbook Project at the University of Guelph draws from the university’s collection of Scottish chapbooks—the largest such collection in North America. A true exercise in collaboration, the digital project results from the cooperation of the university’s Archival and Special Collections and its Department of History”. Not only have librarians, faculty, and graduate students been involved, but undergraduate students (114 since 2013!) in Dr. Andrew Ross’s digital humanities course have helped to build various exhibits as the one depicted in this image.

Exhibit: A Groat's Worth of Wit for a Penny

Exhibit: A Groat’s Worth of Wit for a Penny

(Click to enlarge)

Besides the exhibits, the site also features teaching modules geared to high school instruction, thus extending the reach of this work beyond the university student population.

Among the site’s goals stated in the SHARP abstract is the aim of supporting “an ongoing analysis of the role of woodcut images for the popular readership in Scotland during the early modern period” as well as “the goals of the recently formed Chapbook Working Group of the UK Bibliographic Society.” At present one can browse 416 items, and more are being added regularly. The ultimate aim of this project is to integrate all the estimated extant 10,000 Scottish chapbooks in an interconnected site. Such a long-term goal of integration and interconnection is a promising one, especially in terms of centralizing sources and information on a given topic. As a related aside in terms of integration of projects, Benjamin Pauley’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker (see prior emob post, post, and post) is now being phased out, and its information being incorporated into the English Short Title Catalogue.

Please explore these tools and offer your comments and suggestions.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) — A Brief Update

July 4, 2015

Since the launch of the DPLA in April 2013, the staff under the direction of its director, Dan Cohen, have been pursuing various projects to determine best ways to develop this resource/tool further and broaden its serviceability. In an April 2015 whitepaper, “Using Large Digital Collections in Education: Meeting the Needs of Teachers and Students” authors Franky Abbott and Dan Cohen set forth one set of plans for making the DPLA valuable in K through 16 settings. The plans resulted from research supported by the Whiting Foundation and yielded a program that enlists the help of educators through another initiative funded by Whiting. The following 15 June 2015 “Call for Educators” on DPLA’s blog describes the kind of partnering with educators that DPLA is seeking to undertake:

The Digital Public Library of America is looking for excellent educators for its new Education Advisory Committee. We recently announced a new grant from the Whiting Foundation that funds the creation of new primary source-based education resources for student use with teacher guidance.

We are currently recruiting a small group of enthusiastic humanities educators in grades 6-14* to collaborate with us on this project. Members of this group will:
•build and review primary source sets (curated collections of primary sources about people, places, events, or ideas) and related teacher guides
•give feedback on the tools students and teachers will use to generate their own sets on DPLA’s website
•help DPLA develop and revise its strategy for education resource development and promotion in 2015-2016

If selected, participants are committing to:
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting on July 29-July, 30 2015 (arriving the night of July 28) in Boston, Massachusetts
•attend three virtual meetings (September 2015, November 2015, and January 2016)
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting in March 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts (dates to be selected in consultation with participants)

Participants will receive a $1,500 stipend for participation as well as full reimbursement for travel costs.

DPLA has also been receiving significant funding from additional sources for other efforts–including funding its “hubs,” both its content ones (“large libraries, museums, archives, or other digital repositories that maintain a one-to-one relationship with the DPLA and assist in providing and maintaining metadata for content”) and its service ones (“state, regional, or other collaborations that host, aggregate, or otherwise bring together digital objects from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions”). In a big boost to its hub development, the DPLA has recently received $1.9 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and $1.5 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation); it will use this support to advance their efforts in “connecting online collections from coast to coast by 2017” (“Digital Public Library of America makes push to serve all 50 states by 2017.”)

Universal Short Title Catalog (USTC)

April 5, 2014

The Universal Short Title Catalog (USTC) holds records for European books printed through the sixteenth century.  Records list locations of original copies.  If open-access digital copies are available, these are also noted.

The USTC web site describes itself as “a collective database of all books published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century.”

The project also offers 6-8 week internships at St. Andrews for

qualified scholars wishing to gain experience of work with a major bibliographical project. Successful applicants will receive instruction in rare books cataloguing and have the chance for hands-on experience with the University Library’s uncatalogued 17th century collections.  In addition to physical bibliography, the internship will involve extensive practice in the manipulation of digital resources. A certificate of completion or letter of reference will be made available to those successfully completing the internship. They also attend our annual book conference, held at the end of June (this coming year, 19-21 June 2014).

Please see St. Andrews’  internship page for details.  Plans are underway to expand coverage into the seventeenth century.

Folger Digital Texts Now Online (and Other March Announcements)

March 15, 2014

This month has already seen a number of news items of potential interest to EMOB readers including Gale-Cengage’s announcement that will it offer STEM e-books from Springer and Elsevier (a potentially potent nexus of publishing forces in the subscription database world) as part of its Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) and that it is launching a Proprietary Monograph Publishing Program; free access in March to Orlando: Women’s Writing Online that Anna announced here a few days ago; and a note from Dr. Ian Christie-Miller about digital imaging resources he has been developing and the interest it has received in the UK.

Just this week the Folger announced that all 38 of its digital texts of Shakespeare’s plays are now available, free of charge, online. As the homepage’s title Timeless Texts, Cutting-Edge Code suggests, a key feature of these texts is the robust coding that one can freely download. Besides the meticulously executed TEI-compliant XML structure of these plays, the texts are also attractively designed for reading as this opening of All’s Well That Ends Well illustrates. This page also displays the useful digital paratexts accompanying each work. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine offer a brief Textual Introduction to the site.

We would like to hear from others about how they are using this new resource–both in terms of its texts and the source code.

Book History and Digital Humanities: SHARP at #MLA 14 #s738

January 27, 2014

The recent MLA 2014 conference featured numerous sessions dealing with digital humanities in its various incarnations. More than a few of those sessions dealt with the interrelationships between new and old technologies, including Session 738, a stimulating roundtable sponsored by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and organized by Lise Jalliant (University of Newcastle). Unfortunately, Lise was not able to attend MLA as planned, so Eleanor Shevlin served as chair in her stead.

Designed to “shed light on the digital future of book history and the bibliographical roots of digital humanities” (MLA special session proposal), the “Book History and Digital Humanities” roundtable featured six projects that attest to the close interrelationships between the two fields. The presentations were delivered in the chronological order of the projects. Not only did these projects illustrate the ways in which the digital and book historical are tightly intertwined, but they also demonstrated various technological advances as they highlighted what a new generation of digital capabilities and thinking are affording scholarship.

Greg Hickman, head of the University of Iowa’s Special Collections and Archives, opened the session by discussing the Atlas of Early Printing, an interactive map that provides a visualization of printing’s spread during the incunabula period. The 2013 version Greg demonstrated offers a technological advance over the map’s flash-based design launched in 2008 and has been primed to operate effectively on mobile devices as well as desktops.

Atlas of Early Printing

Atlas of Early Printing


Unlike the two-dimensional print maps from which it draws its inspiration, the Atlas contains information related to the spread of print such as the locations of paper mills, universities, trade routes. Users can select all or any of this additional information to create specific contextualizations about the ways the press and printing took hold throughout Europe in the decades leading up to the sixteenth century.

Interested in using technology for purposes beyond gathering, organizing, and explaining information, Michael Gavin, a professor of English at the University of South Carolina, discussed using computer simulation to create a more generative way of working with information. Specifically, Gavin, drawing from Joshua Epstein’s work in agent-based computational simulation to model early modern print culture and to “grow information” about seventeenth- and eighteenth-century book trade issues including censorship and the effects readers exercised on printers and booksellers. The use of such computer modeling focuses on simulating social behavior to generate and test information; if the model is right, then it should not crash.

The director of NINES and professor of English at University of Virginia, Andrew Stauffer, made a cogent plea for the imperiled status of nineteenth-century printed books. Individual copies of nineteenth-century books, often still in the stacks or in the process of being de-accessioned (if not already removed), possess rich, layered histories and the evidence of their multiple temporalities. In an effort to preserve the histories of these works “hidden in plain sight,” In addition to advocating for the primacy of the printed work as a site embodying distinct, irreplaceable data, Stauffer is developing a crowd-sourcing project that will ask academic institutions, other holding bodies and individuals to use Instagram and other forms of technology to capture digitally this heritage and make it accessible.

Matthew Laven, the Associate Program Coordinator of the Mellon-funded “Cross Boundaries: Re-envisioning the Humanities for the 21st Century” at St. Lawrence University, addressed the question “What is a digital bibliography of a book?” through his work on a dynamic, visually-enriched publishing history of Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop (1927) for the Willa Cather Archive. Acting as a case study for the digital representations of both various material artifacts (e.g., manuscripts, printed translations, unusual editions) and textual variances, the project also seeks to convey the bibliographical ties among the various artifacts and is informed by a Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR)-based ontology.

Hannah McGregor, a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta, spoke about constructing an innovative methodological approach to studying periodicals that she and Paul Hjartarson, professor of English and film studies at the University of Alberta, have been developing in collaboration with the Editing Modernism in Canada research group. A key working hypothesis of this project is that periodicals are ideally situated for digital remediation as relational databases because they themselves resemble databases (that the word “magazine” also meant a storehouse bespeaks this similarity). While middlebrow magazines serve as the project’s focal point, McGregor drew her examples from the Western Home Monthly and Pictorial Review. The issue of labeling—what to call different items, the problem of categories and categorization—has been a vexed point and one no doubt complicated by the multiplicities of genres and the nature of periodical materials (think of the Burney 17th and 18th Century Newspaper Collection). This issue of labeling underscored the ways in which coding is important intellectual labor.

The final participant, Elizabeth Wilson-Gordon, professor of English at King’s University College in Alberta, presented the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP). A collaborative effort involving Canadian, U.K. and U.S., institutions, the project seeks to advance research in the history of modernist presses and publishing. Wilson-Gordon used Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press to illustrate the capabilities of MAPP. The Hogarth Press offered an especially rich example because of the insights its history affords about Woolf and her work but also because of its importance to interwar publishing and its longevity throughout the twentieth century. Like many of the other projects discussed, MAPP illustrated the importance of collaboration and communities of scholars working in tandem. The launch of the Hogarth Press open-access portion of MAPP is slated for 2017.

The Book History and Digital Humanities session was one of three excellent panels sponsored by SHARP. SHARP’s liaison to MLA, Greg Barnhisel has written a full account of the other two, equally invigorating sessions for the spring issue of SHARP News: the official SHARP panel, Session # 501 Books and the Law, and Session #398 Virginia Woolf and Book History, co-sponsored with the Virginia Woolf Society.

Teaching with ECCO

August 17, 2013

As posted yesterday, Gale Cengage is providing SUNY colleges with trial access to ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online) and NCCO (Nineteenth Century Collections Online) this fall. Gale Cengage is also sponsoring
essay contests for SUNY students using these tools. This is a great opportunity to test these products, to think about how best to teach with them, and to evaluate students’ responses to them. So how best to introduce these resources?

Thinking about my undergraduate Gothic Novel class this fall, I decided that short videos would be the most effective way to introduce students unfamiliar with eighteenth-century texts to ECCO. I prepared three brief videos (below). I would love to hear how others introduce students to these tools.

There are a number of other videos on using ECCO. Below are a few from Virginia Tech:

The following essays from The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer are also helpful. See especially the appendices Eleanor included in her illuminating essay. You may have to scroll through the pdf document to find each individual essay.

For those relatively new to using ECCO in the classroom, the following resources may provide useful background. I will use Gale’s guide as a handout after students have watched the videos.

For those using Burney (which is included in the free trial), our “Preliminary Guide for Using Burney ” may be helpful.

Finally, Laura Rosenthal opened a valuable discussion on this topic in 2009 on Long Eighteenth that may interest readers. I’d love to hear updates to that discussion, particularly ideas for effective teaching assignments. What works? What doesn’t?

Trial Access to ECCO and NCCO for SUNY Colleges + Essay Contests

August 16, 2013

The following announcement from Gale Cengage will interest faculty and students at SUNY schools. It’s a great opportunity to explore these resources and students’ responses to them.

We hope to hear about classroom experiences here on emob.
AB

*****

This fall, Gale Cengage Learning is sponsoring an essay contest for SUNY students. Its purpose is to encourage primary source research using advanced databases like Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO). We hope this experience with these key resources will help students prepare for a digital future.

We are offering free access to SUNY schools during fall 2013 through our new platform Artemis, which will contain both ECCO and NCCO. We hope you and your students will explore these tools to see how they enrich the learning environment. We also hope you will encourage your students to submit essays that incorporate these resources as part of the contest.

Two undergraduate essay awards ($250 each) and one graduate essay award ($500) will be offered for the best submissions on 18th-19th-century history and/or literature.

More information can be found at the link below: http://galesupport.com/suny/

Questions can be forwarded to Theresa DeBenedictis:

Theresa DeBenedictis
Gale, Cengage Learning
Theresa.debenedictis@cengage.com
1-800-877-4253 x 2229
Cell: 732-865-4249

Conference to Launch of Digital Miscellanies Index, a New Resource

August 5, 2013

On 17 September 2013, St. Peter’s College Oxford will host a one-day conference, “A Miscellany of Miscellanies: Popular Poetic Collections and the Eighteenth Century Canon” and an evening performance of eighteenth-century music to launch the Digital Miscellanies Index.

This Leverhulme-funded index was three years in the making. Its publication will make freely available 1,000 poetic miscellanies published during the eighteenth century. The Index adds to the porjects hosted by Bodleian’s Centre for the Study of the Book. The Bodleian Library’s Harding Collection, “which houses the most significant but largely neglected group of miscellanies in the world,” contains the majority of the miscellanies, but the project also contains data about copies held at the British Library and the Cambridge Library. The project developers based their work on Professor Michael Suarez, S.J.’s recent bibliography of eighteenth-century poetic miscellanies.

Dr. Abigail Williams (St. Peter’s College Oxford) is the Index’s principal investigator. Some EMOB readers may have heard Dr. Jennifer Batt, DMI’s post-doctoral project coordinator, speak about this exciting project at past American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conferences. As the DMI website notes, “In displaying this material for the first time, the Index will enable users to map the changing nature of literary taste in the eighteenth century.”

We look forward to the availability of the Digital Miscellanies Index and to hearing the experiences of EMOB readers using this new resource.

SHARP 2013 Digital Projects and Tools Showcase

July 29, 2013

In mid-July the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) met for its twenty-first annual conference, “Geographies of the Book,” in Philadelphia. Hosted by University of Pennsylvania, the conference included a three-hour, stand-alone digital showcase on Saturday, July 20th. Before I turn to the sixteen projects featured in the showcase, a few words about the history of digital sessions at SHARP are in order.

The tradition of showcasing digital projects at SHARP conferences was begun by Dr. Katherine Harris (San Jose University) for the 2008 conference held in Oxford, England. Currently serving as the E-Resources Review Editor for SHARP News, Dr. Harris continued to organize showcases for subsequent conferences. These highly popular sessions ran concurrently with other sessions. Although the 2011 Washington, DC organizers had attempted to find space to hold a stand-alone session that would not compete with other panels, space limitations prevented this desire from becoming a reality. A successful digital project session for the DC conference, however, was organized once again by Kathy Harris. Yet, the 2013 Digital Showcase at Penn marked the first time that the demonstrations of new digital projects and tools at SHARP had a dedicated time slot of its own as well as a setting well-suited to such an exhibition.

With a dedicated three-hour running time, the digital showcase ran from 12:30 to 3:30 pm; it competed for attention with parallel programming only during its final hour. The showcase’s location in Penn’s Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags easily accommodated 16 six-foot tables, each with its own monitor, and afforded the room for numerous attendees to navigate the various stations with ease.

Mitch Fraas (UPenn) demonstrates his project.
Photo credit: Alex Franklin (Univ. of Oxford)

Alan Galey (UToronto) demonstrates his project.
Photo credit: Alex Franklin (Univ. of Oxford)

The following is a list of the sixteen projects:

Eight of the sixteen projects deal directly with the early modern period, and at least two–Mark Algee-Hewitt and Tom Mole’s Bibliograph and Tim Stinson’s ARC and Collex–extend beyond the historical confines of the early modern but possess specific relevance to the period. I have counted Alan Galey’s The Borders of the Book: Visualizing Paratexts and Marginalia in Multiple Copies and Editions among the early modern projects because his work relies on texts from this period. Yet, his work on digital visualizations of differences in paratextual features and different readers’ marginalia found in multiple copies of the same books has larger application, too. All of the projects, no matter what the period, embody approaches and strategies afforded by the digital that can help advance work in book history and related fields. The projects are also at various stages–and you will notice that some have links, and some don’t because they are either in very early stages or simply not ready for widespread release. Bibliograph, for instance, is currently a prototype, with a beta version in the works for testing; the project launch date is aimed for 2014 or 2015.

END: Early Novels Database is a collaborative project involving several Philadelphia academic institutions but still in the midst of digitization and construction. In contrast, the Eighteenth-Century English Grammars Database is, in one sense, “complete, but as Professor Yáñez-Bouza noted, it is also “an open-end project because one can always add more grammars and some of the fields could be completed with more information had we the resources to look into contemporary book reviews and sales catalogues (e.g. the fields Price and Target Audience).”

Several of the projects have made previous appearances in EMOB posts. A post last June mentioned ARC (Advanced Research Consortium), and it is very good to see the progress since then. The Mellon grant that the Early Modern OCR Project (see the entry for Jacob Heil) received was announced in a post last fall. More recently, EMOB devoted a post to the image-matching software developed at the Bodleian that Alex Franklin presented at SHARP. Finally, the Mapping the Republic of Letters project the EMOB discussed in a post several years ago, served as the inspiration for Mitch Fraas’s Expanding the Republic of Letters: India and the Circulation of Ideas in the Late Eighteenth Century.

Explore and comment!


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