For this week’s Weekly Create we were asked to evaluate an online DH project/database/edition/archive of our choosing in accordance with the following criterion:
- What contribution does it make to scholarship?
- What is being done with this project that could not be done in print-based scholarship?
- Is the purpose of the site/project/archive clearly articulated?
- Is the site easy to navigate?
- How can you use it for your research?
- Is it aesthetically pleasing? Is it searchable? Static?
- Who are the authors/contributors? What are their roles?
- Is it a collaborative project?
- Who is the primary audience?
- What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses?
I chose to explore the 19th Century Disability site. The purpose the website is clearly articulated (3.) on the “Home” page, as well as the “About” page, which is (1.) a database project that curates “over 50” works of scholarship regarding the culture of disability in the nineteenth century. What this project achieves that could not be done in print-based scholarship is (2.) the revolutionary organization of specified content. Navigation is possible with an index, however, the navigatable aspect of the search tool is an incredibly useful time-saver. The “How To Use” section on the “About” page articulates various tools on the site that make searching easier, such as searchable tags and an advanced search feature. The site is easy to navigate, as the “Home”, “About“, and “Browse” tabs,
as well as the search box, located in the header, seem to flow into one another easily (4). It’s also aesthetically pleasing, with not too much superfluous content obscuring what the site has to offer, and an attractive banner (6).
The website constitutes a collaborative project (8) amongst graduate students and professors. The “Project Team” listed on the site’s “About” page (which the introductory blurb on the “Home” page links you to) is extensive, and consists of various contributors, researchers, as well as directors, advisors, and co-ordinators. The primary panel of moderators includes Karen Bourrier of BU as the “Project Director”, Christopher Keep of Western University in Ontario, Canada as the “Project Advisor”, and Jaipreet Virdi-Dhesi, a PhD candidate of the University of Toronto as the “Social Media Co-Oridinator”. The rest of the team consists of various grad student “Researcher(s) and Contributor(s)” from institutions in the U.S, Canada, Australia, and the U.K, including Princeton, Yale, the University of Western Australia, etc (7). The primary audience could realistically include anyone conducting research, from students, to educators, to scholars, and historians, as well as authors (9).
I think I can use the site for my research when it comes to researching background information on works by ex-patriot authors, like Ernest Hemingway and Edith Wharton, such as The Sun Also Rises or Ethan Frome, which revolve around disabled protagonists (5). The citations at the end of every article, as well as social media sharing tools across a multitude of platforms including WordPress, Twitter, FaceBook, Google, and email increase the ease of use.
The website has various strengths, including it’s ease of navigatability on a specific, niche topic, and it’s collaborative, augmentable, live aesthtic, and weaknesses (10) such as the archive of available scholarship and media is not very extensive, with only 61 entries. However, the project seems to be live so perhaps it will expand in breadth over time. The design and entries so far constitute a promising resource for researchers in any field, that I will keep in mind going forward.