On Friday, October 29th, from 2-4pm, the University of Rochester held its annual Undergraduate Research Fair.
It was amazing to have everything set up in person again — since COVID, the Fair has been held online. Last Friday, though, there were professors and students representing every department, set up with pamphlets and poster boards or open laptops to display their respective research projects. We even had candy available for anyone walking by.
I sat at the English Department’s table with professor Katherine Mannheimer and professor Jeff Tucker. It felt great to explain to the students that came over the kind of work that gets done for the Archive. Many different kinds of students approached our table — there were students who weren’t English majors but were curious about the methods of literary research. There were students who had never heard of William Blake, and there were students who have. One student I encountered had taken a class with Professor Morris, and was amused to find out that he was involved with a digital humanities project that centered around Blake. “He talks about Blake all the time!” she told me.
Of course, the English department’s booth was dedicated to more than just Blake — we also had information for the Lazarus Project, past and ongoing digital humanities projects in the Robbins Library, and English internships where students are connected to organizations in the community, such as Memorial Art Gallery and Writers and Books.
The William Blake Archive was, obviously, the most interesting and important one. Not only did we have two different information pamphlets, but I displayed our website on my computer. When students came over, I gave them a brief introduction to the work that goes into the upkeep of the site — I guided them through the diplomatic transcription to object 13 of An Island On The Moon, how to navigate editors notes, and how the general notice can be used to gain an overall understanding of the text or image, the print history of the different editions, and the preservation of the text on its journey through different sponsors and institutions.
I didn’t end up referring to the Bentley book I brought with me, or going into some of the contextual things that I summarized in my notes for the Fair about the Notebook. But that’s ok — I could tell most students wanted basic information about internship and research opportunities, the practical implications and requirements of participating, and most of all, someone to listen about their academic interests so that they may be guided to the right internship for them. It was very rewarding to help provide this for them!
I also made sure to emphasize our social media presence with every person I got to talk to individually. Hopefully we get some new members, or new followers, or both!