Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures

1. Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures and
2. Digital Mitford Project
Primary contact: Elisa Beshero-Bondar

Two projects are now underway, part of an ongoing adventure connecting research with pedagogy. The adventure began a few years ago with an interest in a daunting challenge: to produce a current scholarly edition of the writings of Mary Russell Mitford, an exceptionally prolific 19th-century poet, dramatist, and innovator of local color prose fiction. She had already been celebrated in Digital Humanities circles by Franco Moretti, who dedicated a chapter on mapping to Mitford’s Our Village in his Graphs, Maps, and Trees. Given the volume of Mitford’s writings and especially of her literary correspondence, a traditional print edition in volumes seems unfeasible, likely too expensive to produce and more importantly a digital edition, if well designed, could do far more to extend Mitford’s reach among scholars and general readers of 19th-century literature.

Preparing to launch this project involved pursuing necessary background through the Brown Women Writers Project, and led to the first instruction of a Digital Humanities course at Pitt-Greensburg, together with my colleague Sayre Greenfield. Our course involved experiments with text-mining and instruction in TEI XML oriented to research and discovery of 18th-century publications about first contact in the Pacific. Plans a second round of the course in Fall 2013 involved further training in coding through the Brown Women Writers project, as well as participating in a course offered by a fellow DHRX member David Birnbaum, To prepare for a second round of the course, I attended a workshop at Brown University on transforming TEI with XSLT, co-taught by our colleague and member of the DHRX David Birnbaum, who in turn generously offered me and two dedicated companions a spot in his Spring 2013 course on Computational Methods in Humanities. In 15 weeks, we ran through a mill of daily rigorous homework exercises in coding: XML, XSLT, CSS, RelaxNG, Schematron, XQuery, SVG, Javascript. I worked together with a small project team of faculty and students from two campuses, to launch a serious and continuing project in textual analysis, mapping, and graphic visualization of voyage narratives and poetry on Pacific cultural encounters called Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures. This project site, with its research questions, and its range of coding applications, serves as the basis of our next iterations of the Digital Humanities course at Pitt-Greensburg.

On the strength of the experience gained from the Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures project, I am now launching a collaborative digital archive project of the literary works and letters of Mary Russell Mitford. I’m fortunate to have assembled an international project team willing and ready to work with me, thanks to the formation of the Mary Russell Mitford Society (MRMS) at the 18th-and-19th-Century British Women Writers Conference in Albuquerque in April 2013. As of the summer of 2013, we are beginning work on digitizing and coding texts and transcriptions of the prolific Mitford’s works and letters.This is a huge task, and a welcome new adventure.

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Kinds of collaborators
Individual/small group
Graduate students
Contact person
Help needed