Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shelley-Godwin Archive gets $300 000

The (U.S.) National Endowment for the Humanities has just given $300 000 to the Shelley-Godwin Archive. This is a treasure trove dedicated to the study of Mary Wollstonecraft, her husband William Godwin, their daughter Mary Shelley, and the tousle-hair'd poet Percy Bysshe. One of the main partners is the Pforzheimer Collection, which was so supportive of the exhibition I reviewed at the Bodleian, "Shelley's Ghost: Reshaping the image of a literary family", covering the same foursome. (A version is due to be exhibited at New York Public Library in February 2012, apparently, although their website provides little information.)

It is a valuable project, showcasing the best of digital humanities, but it appears to repeat the limitations of the exhibition. As I wrote in March, "My main criticism of Shelley's Ghost is that, while attempting to tell the story of a literary family, it shortchanges the mater familias. There just wasn't enough about MW." The Archive project will start with the other three members of the family:
While this project is just the first phase of the Archive, it will in itself constitute a rich stand-alone resource. In this initial phase, project partners will also digitize copies of Shelley’s major philosophical poem, Queen Mab, with his extensive reworking; the first two volumes of Mary Shelley’s journals; and manuscripts of two novels by William Godwin, Fleetwood and Cloudesley.
That was from the NYPL press release. There is a slightly different take on it from the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities:
Humanities scholars, curators, and information scientists are partnering from MITH, the New York Public Library (NYPL), the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, the Houghton Library of Harvard University, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, and the British Library, to put manuscripts and early editions of these Romantic writers online and freely accessible to the public. MITH Director Neil Fraistat, renowned scholar in both the digital humanities and Shelley studies, will serve as co-Principle [sic] Investigator along with Elizabeth C. Denlinger, Curator of the Pforzheimer Collection of the New York Public Library.  
This is the cutting edge of digital humanities (or so I am led to believe):
Tools and functions will include the ability to collate texts, overlay images of the original manuscripts and view them side by side, search the complete text, and tag content with user annotations. 
The stated focus is Romanticism, rather than the Enlightenment: 
MITH, in addition to its partners, seeks to cultivate and further the Shelley-Godwin Archive as a comprehensive, accurate and accessible digital resource for British Romanticism scholars, in order to provide the platform for an intellectual journey into nineteenth-century verse, history, and letters. 
I wish them all luck, and have signed up at the Archive for updates, so I will add more news to this blog, if and when the team turns its talents to Mary Wollstonecraft.

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