Collaborative work in the humanities

This weekend, the South Atlantic Modern Language Association is coming to Buckhead, and the Hoccleve Archive team will be there. The last couple of weeks have been spent getting ready for what, for us at least, is the first public roll-out of our work.

For me, this has meant a lot of time doing graphic design work, getting our poster and power-point ready for display. One of the things I have learned in the process is that the Hoccleve project is larger & more institutionally diffuse than I previously knew. I learned earlier this semester that the University of Texas was involved, as the host institution of our digital repository and the home of the general editor of the Hoccleve Archives project, Elon Lang. Robin Wharton has established a hub for the project here at GSU, and as best I can tell, GSU is currently the most active institution involved in the project, largely due to the considerable investment the SIF project has made in it.

But while working with Robin on the poster, I learned the that project also has branches at two Canadian Universities, the University of Manitoba and Concordia University. At Manitoba, a professor in the English department is seeking funding from what I gather is the Canadian equivalent of the NEH to help digitize the Hoccleve Archives large collection of microfilmed manuscripts and to acquire microfilmed copies of the few manuscripts we do not yet have. At Concordia, another professor is using Hoccleve Archive materials to develop a editorial & collating web tool.

It’s pretty exciting to be involved in a project with such widespread roots, especially since Elon and Robin are at work trying to broad them even more. It sometimes feels a little funny, coming from a discipline that is overwhelmingly focused on individual work, to think of myself as working on a common project with people I may never meet. Yet, this is one of the most interesting aspects of my work with the Hoccleve project. On a broader scale, it seems to me that this is a style of work that the humanities at large are going to need increasingly integrate into their training of graduate students and into the conceptualization of research agendas. Collaborative work is central to a great many fields in higher ed, and maybe some of the isolation of the humanities has been the steadfastness with which they have held onto models of what scholarship looks like, the monograph, the lone reader in the rare book room, that place them on the margins of the organization of higher ed. Not to say there isn’t a lot to be said for being the loner in the rare book room!

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