Friday, May 15, 2015

The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings

Glynis Carr’s The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women’s Writing, constructed from 1997-2001, is an important early digital humanities and digital pedagogy project. Carefully edited to meet the standards of MLA's "Guidelines for Editors of Scholarly Editions," the project has been included within the MLA International Bibliography.

The archive includes texts from eight women writers: Lydia Maria Child, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Victoria Earle Matthews, Willa Cather, and Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin). Some of these texts, such as Aunt Lindy by former slave Victoria Earle Matthews, are not available in any other digital format and have been out of print since their original publication.

Carr also includes three Zitkala-Sa articles that were published in The Atlantic Monthly. 

Carr's editing of Lydia Maria Child's stories, plays and poems originally published in The Liberty Bell remain our best contemporary edition. Some of the digital texts, such as "The Quadroons" and "Slavery's Pleasant Homes," are available as pieces of Stephen Railton's Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture, others, in the Emory Women Writers Resource Project. Some texts that Carr includes, such as "The Black Saxons," are reprinted in Carolyn Karcher's 1997 A Lydia Maria Child Reader (Duke UP). However, Carr adds texts unavailable in digital or print format including "Jan and Zaida" or "The Emancipated Slaveholders" as well as a gallery of Liberty Bell illustrations. 

The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writing is carefully edited, as documented by the Textual Notes and Editorial Practices statements. In fact, I would argue that Carr's digital project is as well edited as any university press published text and should remain our definitive edition of many of the included women writers'  works.

Glynis Carr produced the project with a small number of undergraduate students, without a digital humanities center or library support, and published the project on her personal faculty page at Bucknell University. Student contributors include Jon C. Adams, Kate Barmak, Courtney Curzi, Jacob H. Frechette, Katey Kuhns Castellano, Jennifer L. Ciotta, Kathy Davis, and Jacob H. Frechette.

Carr described the project "as a laboratory for teaching students at Bucknell University the principles and practices of textual editing. In addition to developing the familiar skills of literary research and criticism, students contributing to The Archive learn about the processes by which publishers prepare texts for readers and thus gained valuable professional skills, including some technological ones that normally make but a shadowy appearance in the literature curriculum" (Preface).  This description sounds very similar to how those of us who work with digital pedagogy projects describe our contemporary projects, a reminder of Carr's important position within digital humanities and digital pedagogy.

If you have additional information about The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings, please let me know. 

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