Philly-DH@Penn is an annual event consisting of workshops, “unconferences,” and lightening talks. The event attracts a wide audience ranging from academic faculty and students to GLAM (Gallery, Library, Archive, Museum) institution staff and administrators. The event is informal; attendees collaborate at the start of the day to propose the unconference sessions around prescheduled one hour mini workshops. All participants are expected to share personal experiences and goals related to the topic at hand and work with fellow participants to evaluate existing resources and opportunities. This casual format facilitates the open exchange of ideas from all attendees.
The representatives from the Library Company hoped to gather general information about the developing field of digital humanities, as well as to discuss the specific application of this field to the collections. Peter Collinson’s annotated and extra-illustrated copy of William Maitland’s History of London (London, 1739) was the focus of one unconference session that raised the question “How do we make 18th century texts engaging to a modern audience?”
The extensive experience of those in attendance allowed for a very productive discussion that revealed a wide range of possibilities that we previously had not considered. Many of the ideas were derived from attendee’s experiences on comparable projects. The Chemical Heritage Foundation demonstrated the animated and interactive experience they developed with two books; Johann Conrad Barchusen’s Elementa chemiae (1718) and Epimetheus’s Pandora (1582)— “to reveal their hidden secrets.” The demo was engaging and the application’s extensibility was explored making it clear that it was a valuable model for future digitization projects at the Library Company. Attendees also suggested publishing a transcription of the annotations and marginalia while others saw the value in the ability to search both the published text and the added material simultaneously. Additional suggestions included crowd-sourcing annotations, creating a timeline of events, making a Twitter feed for Collinson, and using GIS technology to record data from the volume on both historic and modern maps. The Library Company is considering many of these options. As this project moves forward, we invite you to share your suggestions and experiences with us.
By Giles Holbrow, LCP Intern
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