Crosspost: Professor Hélène Palma on Lady Hester Stanhope

In this blog post, I had the honour of interviewing Professor Hélène Palma for “Cosmopolitanism in the Archive,” a blog connecting papers for the CSECS & NEASECS 2017 conference with holdings in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. Professor Palma provides a fascinating introduction to Lady Hester Stanhope, an eccentric female traveler who settled in the Middle East. Veronica Litt, who organized the blog, adds a description and photographs of Robert Wood’s The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise known as Tedmore in the Desart (1753; call number: FO-1 00302), one of my favourite holdings at the Fisher. Take a look!


Vintage “small data”: playing with an Index to Tears

I love indexes. They’re like spreadsheets in disguise, (and as previously established, I love spreadsheets). So when I was reading Henry Mackenzie’s Man of Feeling (1771) for my special fields exam, and I noticed that the Victorian edition digitized for Project Gutenberg included an “index to tears” for the novel… well, I got a little carried away.

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Spreadsheet tools as interpretive middleware

When friends ask me how to get started in “digital humanities” research, I usually suggest making a spreadsheet. Frankly, when my friends ask me how to think through any kind of problem, I usually recommend making a spreadsheet. This is because “spreadsheeting” is a particular way of thinking.

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My 2016 Reading Review

In my ongoing quest to make as many spreadsheets and graphs as possible, I pulled my reading history from Goodreads for 2016. Last year saw me through my last semester of coursework, and the entirety of my comprehensive exams, both of which I expected to have a pretty substantial influence on my reading habits. I’ll be curious to compare the stats to other years some time, but for now, let’s dig in to the 60 books I read last year!

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The importance of asking good questions; or, Reflections on “Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures” at the Art Gallery of Ontario

The Old Books New Science lab had a field trip to the Gothic Boxwood Miniatures exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario today, and I came away impressed and inspired by their example of “digital humanities” research that really delivers on the promise of new insights. I often talk with “DH” people — and even more often with researchers skeptical of “DH” — about the difficulty of producing something which is relevant in and of itself. All research is fundamentally exploratory, an attempt to discover something not yet known, but the risk seems particularly easy to imagine with computational or technological approaches, that one might invest enormous effort to discover nothing except that the effort required was enormous. The AGO exhibit, I think, reveals a way to use exciting new tools without getting stuck just researching the tools themselves.

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