Review | A Selection of Digital Humanities Projects

Posted in journal articles, resources, reviews by Editor on September 25, 2013

The current issue of Renaissance Quarterly includes Michael Ullyot’s assessment of five digital resources, several of which are relevant to eighteenth-century studies:

Michael Ullyot, “Review Essay: Digital Humanities Projects,” Renaissance Quarterly 66 (Fall 2013): 93747.

673531.cover“Are databases the defining genre of the twenty-first century? This question was at the core of a debate in 2007 over the nature of the Walt Whitman Archive in PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America). With digital resources now firmly established as an essential scholarly research tool, the question remains: what status do we afford databases relative to other forms of publication, like editions or monographs? The question is pertinent not just to tenure and promotion decisions, as the MLA Committee on Information Technology recently advocated, but more fundamentally to the circulation and provocation of ideas.1 If databases help us to interact with texts and cultural objects differently, enabling us to interpret them in ways we
could not otherwise do, how do they differ from monographs or journal articles? . . .” (937)

1. “Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media.” http://www.mla.org/guidelines_evaluation_digital; accessed 17 January 2013.

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· Mapping the Republic of Letters, which draws on the University of Oxford’s Electronic Enlightenment data, a collection containing over 50,000 letters.

· The Map of Early Modern London, a digital atlas of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century London (Ullyot references, in passing, Locating London’s Past, which is based on John Rocque’s 1746 map).

· 1641 Depositions Project, which collects 8,000 manuscript accounts of the 1641 Irish rebellion of Catholic gentry against Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.

· The Medici Archive Project, which aims to catalog the Medici Archival Collection (Mediceo del Principato), a collection of over four million letters written between 1537 and 1743. To date, approximately 10 percent of the archive is included within the database, though Ullyot explains a number of new, “promising” features aimed at making the platform more efficient and more interactive.

· Early English Books Online, a collection of texts published between 1473 and 1700. “What makes EEBO truly innovative and interesting is the Text Creation Partnership (TCP), under which the University of Michigan and Oxford University began in 1999 to convert these PDFs [created from microfilm copies of the books] into fully searchable texts. The TCP has focused on transcribing all 70,000 of the unique monographs in EEBO’s collection. These transcriptions are cross-linked to the page images they are taken from, so they are fully integrated into EEBO. At present, only members of the TCP consortium of libraries are able to access this resource, but it will ultimately pass into the public domain [starting in 2015 and finishing up in 2020]” (945).

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