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Digital Humanities

BAND, Digital Humanities

Insights from a Doubly Digital Humanist

This semester I enrolled in a course entitled “Digital History: Historical Worlds, Virtual Worlds, Virtual Museums”— thoroughly intrigued by the course’s description which promised to teach me to “harness emerging technologies to educate the public about the past.” It seemed familiar, yet distant enough from my existing skill set to be rewarding.

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BAND, Digital Humanities, XML

Songs of Innocent XML

The top of the XML tree for William Blake, An Island in the Moon, Copy 1 (1784–85), page 1, www.blakearchive.org/bad/bb74.1.xml.

One of my responsibilities as an Andrew W. Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow at the University of Rochester is contributing to an established digital humanities project. For that reason, I am the newest member of the Blake Archive North Division team. While I do not have a background in William Blake’s works or those of his contemporaries, I study U.S. religious and cultural history, so Blake’s talk of a unity in religion and his flirtation with Swedenborg’s tiered heaven echo what I’ve read in American sources. Blake’s visions are wild and, unlike many religious innovators, he actually drew and painted them.

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BAND, Digital Humanities

A Watermark Mystery

Sometimes in archival work, you find yourself on these “side quests,” tracking down a paradoxically indispensable yet trivial bit of information. Such a quest came up after the last round of receipt proofing. A member of the Archive noticed that a handful of the receipts had watermarks with a range of visibility. Receipt number 26 had a particularly faint watermark that evaded straightforward identification. As this information—when present—is typically included in the publications, it was necessary to figure out if this watermark was visible enough to describe.

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BAND, Digital Humanities

Instagram as Archive: Blake and Digital Art Culture

Exciting news: the William Blake Archive now has an Instagram. This additional platform will enable Blake’s materials to reach new audiences through a primarily visual application, bringing decades of digital archival work into the pocket-sized cellular devices of over one billion active monthly users worldwide. Both known for ease of access and for interweaving the visual with the textual, Instagram and the William Blake Archive are a natural fit for one another.

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BAND, Digital Humanities

From William Seward to William Blake—and Back Again: Lessons Learned from the William Blake Archive

As part of my duties as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Digital Humanities, I am required to serve as a Research Assistant for one of the many digital humanities projects at the University of Rochester. I was drawn to the William Blake Archive for several reasons. First, the Archive is a foundational DH project. Its depth and multi-institutional workflow serve as a model for onlookers hoping to recreate a successful digital collaboration. Selfishly though, I was also drawn to the William Blake Archive with an intent to gain more experience in XML, TEI, and digital-documentary editing. I hoped to adapt elements of the William Blake Archive for a more recent digital project ongoing at the University of Rochester, the Seward Family Digital Archive.

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BATS, Digital Humanities

Little Boys Lost

A few years ago I was having drinks with someone I had recently met through an interdisciplinary research/reading group at the University of North Carolina. He was a geneticist. In the course of our conversation he confided that he no longer read books, especially those books having to do with literature. Since everything reduced to genetic coding, which revealed itself in its own inscrutable (to me, even though he tried to explain it) language, all macrocosmic products of human artistry were epiphenomenal, superfluous. We were just humming flesh lumps elaborately but programmatically spun out from inherited scripts. He stared hard into his ice cubes as he said this. I’d quote him, but I can’t remember his exact words.

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BATS, Digital Humanities

Subjective Image Processing?

In my role as Assistant Project Manager, I respond to the many requests for reproducing content from the William Blake Archive, of which the overwhelming majority are for images (a surprise to me). One of the most memorable request so far was a patron asking if he could screen-print one of the images on his home stereo cover. While this was a strange request and much different than the normal reproduction requests for publication, it tells us that the images in the archive contain a tremendous power outside of academic use. I wondered how I can locate that power.

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BAND, Digital Humanities, Uncategorized

Why we should be talking more: office chat and DH

When I look back over many of the most recent blog posts—Rachel’s about how to use notes with a sense of audience, Oishani’s about Blake’s quirky punctuation, my own about the differences between red wax seals and wafers, and other posts from the past several months—I am not surprised to realize that many of these posts began in the William Blake Archive office as informal conversations about digital editing. I remember Oishani asking my input about how to encode a period under a superscript, and I recall spending the better part of an hour with Laura and Lisa discussing why and how we decide that a letter is sealed by wax or wafer. These conversations are illustrative of one of the greatest benefits of digital humanities projects: the opportunity to collaborate and work with a team of scholars from a variety of backgrounds.

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