Reply To: Project Evaluations

Home Forums Evaluating DH Project Evaluations Reply To: Project Evaluations

Daniel Fawcett

The second project at which I looked was The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, hosted by The University of Oxford. This project is far more what I would call a “traditional” DH project, if such a thing actually exists. Maybe it doesn’t… I’m still trying to determine that. But this project allows people to explore the UK in WWI through the lens of poetry and poetic experience.

One strength of this project is that it puts everything in an easy-to-access, intuitive framework. For example, if one were interested in the poetry of Robert Graves, all one would have to do is click on his well-marked picture on the project homepage. Following that link, one is led to a page with a biographical sketch, examples of Graves’ handwriting, etc.

Far more impressive is the robust search capabilities. You can search the archives by poem titles, first lines, etc. and also search for images only, text only, or both. This allows for scanned newspaper and magazine stories, hand-written manuscripts, etc. to all show up in the search.

Finally, the site also includes the full WWI context; there are archives of period music, film, photographs, and “war publications.” Understanding the work of the British poets of this period requires an understanding of their geopolitical context, more so than, say, the Romantic or Victorian poets.

One of the reasons that this project is particularly suited to a DH mode of preservation is that the WWI British poets have been, by and large, lost to us. The Victorians are well-known, and post-war American poetry is still fashionable. But WWI British poetry is a bit difficult to tackle. It is often stilted and self-consciously archaic, full of outdated praise for the project of Empire and bravado, despite its war-weariness. WWI poetry has simply lost favor. As a result, publishing a traditional anthology would be fiscal disaster, and academically risky. But by archiving and curating the works of this important period in British poetic history, the project allows the period poetry of some extraordinary voices to be preserved despite the fickle winds of academic literary fashion. It also enables students of this poetry to understand just how important the context is to the work; it is possible to, for example, read a poem about Galipoli and then search the archives for news stories about the battle.