Pauley Symposium and Nebraska Digital Workshop

Last Friday and Saturday, September 22nd and 23rd, I attended Nebraska’s Pauley Symposium and the first annual Nebraska Digital Workshop for at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. The two events reminded me of my earlier decision to collect my CLIR thoughts and my added motivation now that fellow CLIR fellow Tim Stinson has three elegant posts on his blog. So I begin another digital life of words.

In two days of marathon conferencing, I was introduced to a number of astonishing digital projects of which I had not heard. Perhaps the most impressive in terms of data-gathering was the China Historical GIS, which was introduced by Professor Peter Bol of Harvard. The ambition of the project is stunning: “The main task of the CHGIS relational database is to create unique records for all of the administrative units down to the county (xian) level that were part of the historical dynasties of China from the time of unification (222 BCE) to the end of the dynastic period (1911 CE), and to provide documentation of the sources used to create each record.” 1700 years of data are linked to provincial unit records, linked to historical maps, a project whose amibitions and achievements are stunning. See China GIS at Harvard.

John Lutz (Professor at the University of Victoria) presented on unsolved mysteries in Canadian history, a project very intereresting for teaching as it promises to interest students in primary source materials. Canadian Mysteries. The student’s mission (should your teacher have you choose to accept it) is to solve the mystery by reviewing the records.

Abdul Alkalimat (Professor at the University of Toledo) presented on his Malcolm X site. Perhaps most crucial for librarians and scholars was his effort to stop the sale of Malcolm X’s papers on eBay. The papers, which had been stored by family members in a rental storage facility, were about to be sold after the materials in storage were forfeited because rent not paid. Cultural treasures meet capitalism, and media coverage results in a brokered deal in which materials become part of Schomburg Center. See Malcolm X Research Site.

On Saturday, I attended talks on Forget Me Not, a 19th Century Literary Annual, on the Vault At Pfaffs, a Roland Hypertext, and on the political function of purges in the Roman Empire. That later two were far out of my area, so see CDRH site on Dig. Workshop if you’re interested in those. First two are there too, but perhaps a few observations. Dr. Edward Whitley presented on Vault at Pfaff’s, and it’s a rich digital collection for making connections among mid-century (19th) NY bohemians, including Walt Whitman. John Brougham’s Columbus el Filibustero! seems like a drama that I need to read. Dr. Katherine Harris’s Forget Me Not archive is rich for enthusiasts of the physical forms of distribution in 19th C. The Blue Bell, an American antislavery annual of which I had not heard, caught my attention in Dr. Harris’s talk.

Speaking of essential works that were put on my list during conference, Alan Liu suggested William St. Clare’s Reading Nation, Alkalimat twice recommended Unsworth Report from ALCS, and someone (can’t remember who) suggested Henry Louis Gates’s Signifying Monkey, and I also need to finish McGill’s American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834-1853.

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