Fullerton: DePaul Humanities Center Goes Digital

Fullerton El Stop IconBy Ali Trumbull 
The Red Line Project

Posted: Friday, Feb. 25, 2011

The DePaul Humanities Center captured the future of humanities in its series of lectures about the digital age of literary works and archives. 

Joseph Viscomi, a James G. Kenan distinguished professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was the fourth speaker in the "Digital Humanities: The Future of the Book and Other Quandaries" series on Monday. Viscomi is the co-editor of the William Blake archives and author of the book, "Blake's Enlightened Graphics: Illuminated Books and New Technologies." 

He talked about how living in an age fueled by technology, it can be assumed that many works of an author would be stored on a digital archive online. With this accelerated look at literary works, there are many positives and negatives, he said.

"The gain is accessibility," he said. "The people here can see the works that are in Australia, Europe, England, and in different collections. Giving students and scholars access to very rare material that is increasingly restricted for use because of its rarity and its value." 

Another speaker in the Digital Humanities series, Nana Holtsnider, a past project manager for "The Leigh Hunt Letters" at the University of Iowa, agreed that there are benefits to digital libraries. 


Photo by Ali Trumbull

     Joseph Viscomi explains why these archives are important for the William Blake works. (Photo by Ali Trumbull)

"I think there's a lot gained, it's not the end all be all," Holtsnider said. "I don't foresee everything going totally digital, you still lose getting to actually see the objects but in a lot of ways it's making people even more aware now that these objects exist." 

Jonathan Gross, the director of the DePaul Humanities Center, said he believes the lectures allow the audience to decide for themselves. 

"I'm like everyone else," Gross said. "Waiting to see what happens. I personally know that a lot of money has gone to digital resources some of which hasn't always worked out." 

Viscomi has put a lot of faith into the idea of digital libraries for many years. He has been working on the archive since 1993.

“We started publishing online at the end of 1995 and regularly since 1996. Illuminated books, commercial engravings, original engravings, paintings, and now we’re starting to publish manuscripts,” he said.

Viscomi doesn’t plan on slowing down either.

“We just got a new NEH grant for three years that helps pay for the cost of graduate students and acquisition of new material so we are adding to it,” he added.

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