2015: Bibliography for the 21st Century

Session #259 (Twitter hashtag #mla2015 #s259)
Friday, January 9, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., West 219, VCC West

Bibliographic Migration and Book Ecology: The SFU Lake District Rare Book Collection in the Twenty-First Century, Margaret Linley, Simon Fraser U

An English Short Title Catalogue for the Twenty-First Century, Benjamin Pauley, Eastern Connecticut State U and Carl Stahmer, U of California, Santa Barbara

The Digital Antiquarian: Remediating Archival Impulses, Thomas Augst, NYU and Molly O’Hagan Hardy, American Antiquarian Society

Bibliography has long been integral to literary studies, textual studies, and book history. Not only does it serve an evidentiary purpose through documentation of the consulted literature, as in an enumerative bibliography, but it also reflects a rich scholarly enterprise in the form of analytical or critical bibliographies. How, then, are scholars adapting the study and documentation of material texts in the twenty-first century? What affordances, opportunities, challenges, or obstacles are offered to bibliography by digital transmission, transformation, and augmentation? From established databases that provide access to facsimiles and their bibliographic metadata, to library and scholarly projects that document and annotate publishing and material histories a range of bibliographic projects are underway, and many more are being dreamed. This panel explores three bibliographical projects that seek to leverage the digital in order to explore and expand (to borrow from one of the panelists) the networked ecologies of researchers, bibliography, texts, and the contexts surrounding texts.

In An English Short Title Catalogue for the Twenty-First Century, Pauley and Stahmer, offer a brief (more conceptual than technical) explanation of the changes being made to transform the ESTC into a 21st-century research tool and will look ahead to the kinds of projects it will enable, including some already under development.
Conceived from the first as a digital tool, the ESTC is now poised not only to grow itself, but to enable the growth of new projects in the future. The Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue was conceived more than 30 years ago as a bibliography and union catalog of books printed between 1700 and 1800. Unlike the Short Title Catalogues of Pollard and Redgrave and Wing, which it resembles, however, the ESTC was developed from the first as an electronic database designed to be updated and enhanced, growing as our bibliographical knowledge grew. Through three decades of enhancement and growth, it is today the best available guide to publications in the English-speaking world before 1801.
True to its origins, the ESTC is embarking on another transformation that will open its rich trove of bibliographic data to new uses. By abstracting its data from the technical particularities of library cataloging and embracing new trends in linked data, the new ESTC will allow scholars to ask new questions (and to ask old questions in new ways). At the same time, scholars will be able to contribute directly to enriching the ESTC’s data and to re-use that data in novel ways as the basis for new digital projects.

In Bibliographic Migration and Book Ecology: The SFU Lake District Rare Book Collection in the Twenty-First Century, Linley explores the unique bibliographic challenges and opportunities of the digital humanities research project based on the SFU Library’s collection of rare eighteenth and nineteenth-century English Lake District travel books. The project aims to create an electronic archive from which to map roads of communication from the remote region Wordsworth immortalized in the English Northwest to the Canadian Pacific Northwest and comparatively analyze three networked ecologies: bibliographical, geographical, and digital. The project opens new methodological prospects and poses one of the most challenging problems of twenty-first century bibliography: the question of migration. Drawing on Jerome McGann, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Matthew Fuller, and Andrew Piper, among others, and confronting ecological metaphors embedded in bibliography and textual criticism (such as genetic text, media species, migration, and more recently, born digital), this paper considers both space and scale in the ecology of the book in the twenty-first century. Answering the question of the ecological evolution, migration, and adaptation of cultural artifacts from the localized English Lake District in a distant place like Vancouver is timely and important. Precisely from a particular location such as the Pacific Northwest we can begin to take account of the current high stakes in cultural heritage, the environment, and the globalization of space. Charting and analyzing a rare book collection as an ecology, one that is as fundamental to the archives of colonial memory as it is to today’s environmental and cultural heritage practices, this paper proposes to contribute to our understanding of the place of bibliography in networking and memorializing mobile spatialities from the local to the global, from a remote region in the Northwest of imperial England to the colonial Pacific Northwest.

In The Digital Antiquarian: Remediating Archival Impulses, Augst and O’Hagan Hardy,
using the American Antiquarian Society as a case study of humanist enterprise, explore both the institutional mission and the patterns of intellectual production that have shaped the design of metadata, from card catalogues to relational databases. Accounting for the historical and theoretical underpinnings of archival impulses, they will address the figure of the antiquarian to assess how those impulses get reconfigured in the digital age and consider patterns and protocols by which information architecture can be adapted to iterative processes of metadata curation made newly possibly by the digital age. Too often these processes forget their heritage in the work of twentieth-century cataloging and bibliography more generally, but the presenters contend that it is in fact useful to incorporate practices of sustainable management that have enabled the preservation and stewardship of cultural resources for decades. The tool being developed, “Digital Antiquarian,” looks to use databases and online catalogues to remediate the work of traditional bibliography through a series of case studies, including Ann Bradstreet’s bibliographical reincarnations from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, Mathew Carey’s voluminous financial records glued onto waste paper, and John Gough’s meticulously kept mixed media diaries. By integrating digital resources into practices of archival research, Digital Antiquarian seeks not to flatten out that practice — as for example with keyword searches in proprietary databases —but rather to explore the complexities that come with working in idiosyncratic systems of metadata construction. Drawing on catalogue expertise of the AAS, Digital Antiquarian aims to develop a collaborative research environment for curation of metadata and development of digital scholarship.

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