The Stainforth Project and Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College

The Stainforth Library of Women Writers digital archive project now has a second home on Dartmouth’s new Digital Humanities website and among other DH projects at Dartmouth. Projects that it has the most in common with include The Occom Circle project as well as the Media Ecology Project. See below for project descriptions and links.

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The Dartmouth DH website situates the Stainforth project among other DH projects underway at Dartmouth, including (and there are more!)

  • The Bregman Research Studio’s study “Brain, Music, and Auditory Representational Space” (BMARS) and work on the nature of audio-visual experience seeks to answer questions like: What makes music move us? How do we derive meaning from music and images? What new types of experiences and technologies are possible in the audio-visual domain? What is the future of audio-visual art and music?
  • The Dante Lab: Dante Lab is an online application that allows students and scholars of the Divine Comedy to read and compare up to four text editions from the site’s database simultaneously. The objective of Dante Lab is to create a virtual workspace that accounts for the needs of both students and novices to the poem, as well as serious scholars engaged in contemporary Dante Studies. The Dante Lab reader was inspired by the ‘analogue’ workspace of the professional Dantista, who needs quick and easy access not only to the text of the poem’s three canticles, but also to the early commentaries, notes from numerous recent editions, and a concordance that facilitates philological research and interpretive criticism.
  • The Media Ecology Project (MEP) is a digital resource at Dartmouth that will facilitate the awareness of and critical study of Media Ecology: the dynamic ecology of historical media in relation to the public sphere and public memory. The Media Ecology Project provides online access to primary moving image research materials, and engages dynamic new forms of scholarly production and online publishing.
  • Metadata Games: a digital gaming platform for gathering data on photo, audio, and moving image artifacts. The platform entices players to visit archives and explore humanities content while contributing to vital records. Metadata Games is free and open source software (FOSS) developed by Tiltfactor, Dartmouth College‘s socially conscious game design laboratory, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the ACLS.
  • The Occom Circle Project: a freely accessible, digital edition of documents by and about Samson Occom (1727-1792) housed in Dartmouth College. Occom was a Mohegan Indian, Presbyterian minister and missionary, intertribal leader, public intellectual, and important Indian writer. Dartmouth’s archives hold a wealth of primary materials pertaining to Occom and his circle, which included Eleazar Wheelock, founder of Moor’s Indian Charity School in Lebanon, CT, other Native American students at Moor’s, and a wide range of prominent figures in North America and Great Britain involved in Indian missionary efforts.

What does this mean for the Stainforth Project?

At base, it means that the Stainforth project team has a community of digital humanists at Dartmouth, in addition to those at CU-Boulder, to work with and alongside. Even if this community is a sort of virtual community, it is within an institution as well as between several institutions. For most of my time as a DHer, dating back to 2008, I have rarely felt like my institution housed a community of DH scholars and projects in addition to the one project I happened to be working on and/or the one DH scholar I happened to be working with. For example, this one scholar and project was, at Miami U, Laura Mandell and The Poetess Archive or whatever NINES or Romantic Circles project she was involved with. At CU-Boulder, the library started building such a working group last year, and Special Collections, in particular, supports several initiatives and projects that fall within DH methodologies and products. This kind of institutional support, for me, is new. The Media Archaeology Lab at CU-Boulder is an example of a project there that helped make a DH “community” of scholars and work in addition to the Stainforth project.

Having an institutional population of projects means, for one, that DH work has a shot at being perceived as scholarly production, and it also has a shot at counting toward promotion and tenure, despite the fact that DH projects tend not to fit a singular mold or genre, like a book project does. The range of scholars and departments represented in Dartmouth’s DH website hub traverses a spectrum of disciplines, including history, musicology, physiology, art history, women’s studies, literary studies, American Indian studies, and film studies, to name a few. The projects themselves range from games to digital archives.

Having a DH hub here also means that we can, I hope, share our resources and knowledge on campus to get more done, or do things we might not on our own know how to do, in a shorter amount of time and on a skinnier budget. For example, when brainstorming how to approach designing interfaces for the Stainforth, I will approach the DALI lab or Tiltfactor for ideas in addition to my own initial plan to use Processing and ideas the CU-B team has. I recently had coffee with an editor of the Occom Circle Project and compared my own editorial procedures for transcription and markup of the Stainforth catalog with their markup and transcription procedures. I learned that, in this particular instance of wanting to transcribe first and then revisit to markup the transcription, my instincts were correct. I also confirmed hunches for things we will need to change during our editorial passes.

What are we doing right now, and how does that relate to the group of DH projects at Dartmouth?

Right now, the Stainforth team is completing raw transcription of the manuscript’s 508 pages of acquisitions–the list of the books that Stainforth acquired through purchases or other means. Transcribers (myself, Michael Harris, and Deven Parker) are about 50 pages away from finishing this massive effort. Our next step is to edit the transcription files and then apply TEI tags to the elements in the transcription in order to make them searchable. The Occom Circle’s editorial team in the English Dept. and the library, in particular, will be a very valuable resource to consult in establishing the guidelines for our post-transcription editorial and tagging phases.

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