Helpathon–From the Ground Up to An Electronic Edition of _The Beggar’s Opera_

For some time now, I’ve wanted to do an electronic edition of John Gay’s great text, The Beggar’s Opera.   I’ve published on it and teach it every chance I get, but what’s lacking is a scholarly and pedagogical resource that takes is true to the multi-media roots and performance of the text, its intertextual reach, and its rich history of adaptation.  So I’m wondering if THATCampers could–speaking very slowly and simply for a newbie like me to understand–help me understand the basics of what I would have to know (programming languages, data management, etc.) to realize that vision.  In addition to the 1728 text, I’m imagining nodes for:  1) images and clips of performances; 2) opera; 3) criminal discourse; 4) political satire; 5) the history of adaptations of the play.

Session Ideas: Mobile, GIS, Digital Publishing, DAM, Events, Ecommerce

Mobile – We are launching our mobile website this week and I would like to get feedback and constructive criticism, perhaps in a session similar to the mobile crit room they had at museums and the web. I am also interested in seeing what other types of mobile apps and mobile websites other attendees have created.


Top 5 Tech Problems:

At PHMC we have a little bit a lot of everything. It is impossible to list only my top tech problem, so I have narrowed it down to my top 5. I would love to talk to anyone that has experience with any of the following topics. Even just a short conversation at lunch and exchange of contact information would be helpful.

While I have already done some research and talked to a few vendors about their products, it would be helpful to hear from anyone that has completed major projects in any of these categories. Technology is an important part, but I’m equally interested in any tips about processes and workflows.

GIS – Our Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS) and PA Historical Marker database are very outdated and in need of migration to new technology.

Digital Publishing – We are interested in publishing digital versions of PA Heritage magazine and any books that we publish in the future.

Digital Asset Management – Our online state archives pages are created in FrontPage and all of the 300,000+ files (jpgs, pdfs, etc) are dumped into folders. Need I say more?

Events – We have over 20 historic sites and museums throughout PA, plus historic preservation, archives, PA Civil War 150 road show, etc. I’m looking for a solution for our staff to easily add events and syndicate them across multiple sites, whether a hosted service (does anything like ArtistData exist for museums?) or do it yourself (example: collaborative calendar).

Ecommerce – We currently use the clunky, outdated Yahoo Stores and would like to migrate to a new hosted ecommerce platform by the end of the year.

Session idea: Small-Scale Digital Editions and Collections

I would be interested in discussing issues related to the creation, dissemination, preservation, and use of small-scale digital editions and collections. Last Spring, I attended ThatCamp South Jersey, which inspired me to begin creating a digital collection of Catharine Sedgwick’s previously uncollected tales and sketches, a project I developed further at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria, in June. I am still working on this project, and welcome the opportunity to discuss my progress, including the problems I’ve solved (a few) and the challenges I am currently facing (a lot), and to gain new ideas and insights from others who have worked on or are planning similar projects. I’d be glad to talk about both practical ideas and theoretical issues. I am both excited and intimidated by Peter Shillingsburg’s vision of the
“scholarly electronic edition of the future”:

— the one that will actually be used and therefore influence literary study and criticism — will be convenient: it will be as cheap as a paperback book, with a user-friendly interface (adaptable by the user to suit his or her condition, whether the user is a scholar, a student, or a tourist), and will be treated as the user’s own, with bookmarks, highlighting, space for marginal notes, and the ability to annotate or even change the materials that appear on the screen in what must truly feel like the user’s very own private copy. It will be convenient both for the editors that build them and the scholars who augment them. It will be maintainable, with component parts that are replaceable and amenable to being supplemented as new data and new uses for textual data develop. It will be convenient, moreover for technicians — both now and in the future — adhering to standards except where the standards impose intolerable limitations. (DHQ, Summer 2009, V3, N3

This leads to some questions:

  • What is the best platform/environment (right now) for a small-scale project?
  • What kinds of collaborations would enhance the project in terms of production, publication, dissemination, access?
  • How do we plan for the preservation of a small-scale project?
  • How do we plan for a user experience that is substantive and meaningful?

Session Idea: Online access and education

This idea is similar to the one in Siobhan’s previous post, although I’d like to focus on increasing access and use through education (elementary school through graduate research). Before instructors can build new assignments and rubrics around DH resources, they need to know that these resources exist. How can archivists and digital humanities people do a better job of interacting with various aspects of the education community? Should we skip the instructors and go straight to the students (Facebook ads? Subliminal messages on Jersey Shore?)? Or are there specific programs that archives and digital humanities projects are using to reach out to educators (Weekly educators’ newsletters? Special events for educators?)? And what kind of IT infrastructure has to be in place for these outreach projects to work?


Discussion session proposal: Digital Collections Represent?

What do you look for in a digital collection? When was the last time you used content (whether images, video, audio, or text) from a digital collection for your research? How easy was it to find what you wanted? Did you find what you wanted? The work I’m trying to accomplish as a digital collections curator at Penn State University Libraries needs input from a community of users – in particular, from our faculty and students. A digital collection can’t, nor should it necessarily, recreate what happens in a physical archive, but what should librarians, including subject specialists, and archivists be doing to facilitate efficiencies and rich outcomes in research through the way we represent our digital collections? Is a digital collection development policy appropriate? If so, how would this differ from, or be similar to, policies for the development of a physical collection? I want what we put online to be useful and used, rather than just pretty objects serendipitously encountered (if that). To this end, I’m keen to have a discussion in which we not deconstruct the notion of a digital collection, so much as we unpack the representation and user experience (both typical/actual as well as ideal) of a digital collection, particularly from a researcher’s perspective. Joining me in leading this discussion will be my colleague, Dawn Childress, Humanities Librarian for German and Slavic Languages and Literatures at Penn State University Libraries. (The question mark after “Represent” in the title is intentional, such that this session may also be seen as: how do we get to “Digital Collections Represent!”)