Editing Digital Culture

A handwritten historical document and a digital transcription.

The Editing Digital Culture project seeks to link students with projects that are working to transform historical cultural documents into high-quality resources for the public on the web.

Project description

"Access is almost always a precursor to participation and we might not even be aware of the channels that exist to make everyone part of cultural experience."

-Annamari Laaksonen, Making Culture Accessible (Council of Europe Publishing, 2010)

Every culture is shaped by its own history and the histories of the other cultures that have preceded and interacted with it. In many cases, however, the artifacts and documents that are our most tangible record of these histories remain locked away and inaccessible to the public, such as handwritten documents kept in special collections that can only be visited in person by a small number of researchers. Even among the important cultural items that are digitized and transcribed, the vast majority are hard to find, unreliable, restricted, or hidden behind paywalls. The Editing Digital Culture project seeks to link students with projects that are working to transform historical cultural documents into high-quality resources for the public on the web.

Students who contribute to the project will learn about:

  • digital editing and publishing
  • encoding and programming
  • working in goal-oriented, project-based teams
  • rare and unique objects drawn from collections around the world and different periods of history

Project outcome

Students will create small editions of previously unpublished historical documents that will be submitted for publication on the Marianne Moore Digital Archive, or other participating websites, such as the Folger Shakespeare Library. After review and correction by a project editor, student submissions will be published online and a link to the finished work to which they contributed will be sent to them.

For Fall 2019, this work will be centered around one or more live all-day "transcribathon" events, where students will join for an hour or more to learn how to create a new digital edition of a small document, such as a brief handwritten letter, or a given part of a longer text, such as a page of a journal or diary.

Currently there is a transcribathon scheduled for November 5, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., in Capen 305. This is an open public event; you can come and go throughout the day. Refreshments will be served.

To earn the ELN digital badges, students will also have the option to complete some additional preparatory readings and write a brief reflection explaining the significance of the work completed during their participation in the transcribathon. Interested students may also be allowed to participate in this portal project on their own time outside of the live events.

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Less than a semester (0-2 months)
Start time Fall
Level of collaboration Large group collaboration
Benefits Academic credit; Interested students may pursue volunteer assistant positions and/or enroll in HMN 496: Digital Humanities Internship to earn academic credit. Contact nlwasmoe@buffalo.edu for more information.
Who is eligible Undergraduate students majoring or interested in Technology, Editing, Web Publishing, History, English, Computer Science, and/or Cultural Studies
Truman Scholarship

Students participating in this project might be interested in and eligible for the Truman Scholarship. Connect with the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships to learn more.

Core partners

  • Digital Scholarship Studio and Network 
  • UB Libraries Digital Humanities Minor (UB English and other participating departments) 
  • Marianne Moore Digital Archive (moorearchive.org; collaboration between English and CEDAR/CUBS Lab)

Project mentor

Nikolaus Wasmoen

Visiting Assistant Professor

English

413 Clemens Hall

Email: nlwasmoe@buffalo.edu

Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 
Fulfilling Academic Major/Minor Requirements

If you are planning to use this project to satisfy program requirements for your academic major or minor, it is your responsibility to obtain approval from your academic department prior to beginning the project. 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

As preparation for this work, which you may pursue at a Transcribathon event or separately in consultation with the Project Director, Nikolaus Wasmoen, please take a moment to read the attached pamphlet, "The Probative Value of Archival Documents."

Reflect on the ways in which this pamphlet argues for thinking not only about the content of a document, but all of the other factors that contribute towards "evidentiary value," that is to say the value of what analysis of that document and its contexts can tell us about the individuals and societies that created and subsequently shaped it over time. As you read, consider how the criteria laid out for assessing legal and political documents in the pamphlet might extend to other domains, such as the history of science, technology, literature, and the arts. How do we know what we know about our cultures and societies? How will we pass not only that knowledge, but the documentary basis upon which it rests, to the future? How might improving the documentary record and making it more widely accessible change some of the arguments we make about the present and the future?

After completing the reading, please fill out this brief survey form. There are no prerequisites for participating in the Editing Digital Culture project; your answers about existing skills and experience on this survey will be used for planning purposes only.