Using the Stainforth Library as a Pedagogical Tool

This chapter of our exhibit provides examples of how the Stainforth Library Project can be used for teaching. Here are two examples, each with a more detailed description that follows:

  • Example 1: Use the Stainforth project as a model to inspire student-curated digital exhibits that explore rare books featured in Norlin Special Collections and Stainforth’s Library. This is a semester-long tiered project that introduces students to the challenges and benefits of creating digital access to a specific, physical rare book.
  • Example 2: Use of the Stainforth Library project as a DH practicum at CU Boulder that enables students to have hands-on experience learning how to build a digital archive and other electronic forms of scholarship.

1. In my literature classes, I assign class time in Special Collections, usually 1-2 formal meetings each semester. For our first meeting in Special Collections, I curate an exhibit of approximately 30 rare books that pertain to the course description. I devise an exercise that encourages students to adopt a rare book or manuscript with which to work for the remainder of the semester, as we built an online exhibit of our books as a class. (At CU Boulder, one of the books that students can work with is Stainforth’s manuscript.)  Students worked in pairs with a single book and two students are also appointed “webmasters” to design our WordPress exhibit website. The goal for each pair of students is to “tell the story” of their rare book to increase access to these archived materials using a digital portal. They tell the stories of their books through the platform of WordPress with text, video, photographs, and sometimes music or audio essays; thus, this project teaches students how to write and edit in an electronic medium, how to include photographs and video in a blog post, best practices for using images from the web and citing web sources, and how to troubleshoot. Students also tweet as they work on their exhibits (you can see our twitter feed on the website sidebar) and have used Storify to organize their tweets. Here is one website that my women’s literature class curated in 2012:

Hold your cursor over the title you want to visit and you will find a drop-down menu of sub-pages to explore, where each sub-page describes the title.

A copy of Elizabeth Cobbolds’ “Ode on the Victory of Waterloo” appears at the end of the book entitled Cliff Valentines — a unique hand-illustrated edition of this collection of poems by Cobbold. Here is the student-curated exhibit for Cliff Valentines, including the “Ode”.

2. A DH practicum related to the Stainforth will begin informally in Spring 2014, when collaborators train graduate student transcribers and TEI encoders who will join our project team. I hope, in the near future, to integrate hands-on experience building the Stainforth Library in an official “Intro to the Digital Humanities” course that follows the life of a book from the physical object to building its representations in the digital Stainforth Library. The following topics would suit a DH practicum taught using the Stainforth Library project.

  • What is the digital humanities? What does it add to traditional methods of doing humanities work? Broadly, what are the evolving sets of benefits and challenges to DH work?
  • What is a digital archive? How are digital archives made?
  • Theories: digital, media, platform, media archaeology, critical code theory, and more. How do these theories relate to working with rare books by women authors in collaboration with Special Collections, as the Stainforth Library project does? How can we use more traditional theoretical lines of inquiry, such a structuralism, postcolonial, or feminist theory, to inform digital analyses and projects?
  • What are electronic editions of a text and how are they made?
  • TEI encoding: why learn it and practice it? Now what do I do with all these XML files? (See next topic)
  • Learning XSLT: transformations of XML documents into webpages
  • What makes a sustainable digital humanities project?
  • What is all the fuss about “big data” and what does this mean for the Stainforth Project?
  • What do you mean by “visualizing data” and how do we do this in a critical manner? How might we visualize the data we collect for the Stainforth Library?
  • Social network analysis, as it pertains to the Stainforth project as well as very different projects
  • Textual analysis using Voyant
  • Using social media, like Twitter, for research, collaboration, and idea development
  • The history of computing in the humanities

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