The Complete Letters of Willa Cather: Metadata and Dialogue
A presentation about my work in the Willa Cather Archival image gallery and the subsequent, valuable conversations.
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
- [00:00:02.310]Hello, my
- [00:00:02.760]Name is Maggie Rickman and this is my
UCARE project for the academic year 2020
- [00:00:07.440]to 2021.
- [00:00:09.150]I'm a junior English and anthropology
double major with minors in film studies
- [00:00:13.080]and digital humanities from
clay center, Nebraska at UNL.
- [00:00:16.680]I'm a part of Anthrogroup, the DailyER, Laurus,
- [00:00:19.290]the English student advisory
board and the writing center.
- [00:00:22.740]My studies and other involvements allow
me to interact with humanities topics
- [00:00:26.040]from several perspectives making for
a holistic comprehension of my fields.
- [00:00:31.080]the opportunity to do UCARE has given me the opportunity
to carry out research in the Willa
- [00:00:34.050]Cather archive and has combined my values
of accessibility context and visual
- [00:00:39.030]incorporation into multidisciplinary
and multicultural spaces.
- [00:00:43.320]I have been working on my
projects since September 2020,
- [00:00:46.320]and I hope to continue into my senior
year after returning from my study abroad
- [00:00:50.040]experience in the fall.
- [00:00:52.320]My work in the Willa Cather archive
is specialized in image gallery due to
- [00:00:55.980]the circumstances of the pandemic
and the necessity to work remotely.
- [00:00:59.580]The research is part of the larger project
titled The Complete Letters of Willa
- [00:01:03.840]which aims to further the progress
of the ongoing digital and scholarly
- [00:01:06.960]collection of previously
- [00:01:09.840]complementary bio annotations,
and the image gallery.
- [00:01:13.380]This project digitally brings together
thousands of documents scattered in
- [00:01:16.740]nearly 100 repositories around the
world and has been possible through
- [00:01:20.250]cooperation of libraries, foundations,
- [00:01:22.650]and collections across the U.S. with
the letters of you, of Willa Catherine,
- [00:01:26.970]unknown to readers and scholars is
revealed as she is now visible and
- [00:01:30.720]unpublished more personal language.
The backdrop of family, friendship,
- [00:01:35.310]and other written interactions of her
life lend more understandings of her,
- [00:01:38.430]her published works and therefore
support the wide scholarships surrounding
- [00:01:43.500]The image
- [00:01:43.920]Gallery specifically consists of
photographs with various collections,
- [00:01:47.310]including those in the national
Willa Cather foundation,
- [00:01:49.920]historical societies, the
archive and family albums.
- [00:01:53.430]There are scans of black
and white photographs, backs
of photographs, postcards,
- [00:01:57.480]artwork, et. cetera,
- [00:01:59.280]in accordance with the established
goals of The Complete Letters of Willa
- [00:02:02.280]Cather Project,
- [00:02:03.150]I have collaborated with the team
and in our frequent zoom meetings,
- [00:02:06.810]We ask and answer questions, discuss
progress, and support each other's work.
- [00:02:15.110]The specific goals of the image gallery
work are to increase accessibility
- [00:02:18.620]through consistent labeling, coherent
organization, and captions that offer
- [00:02:22.640]digestible context for various readers.
- [00:02:25.010]Therefore viewers with limited
knowledge of Willa Cather's world,
- [00:02:28.160]or those with visual
impairments, for example,
- [00:02:30.110]can have access to descriptions that
clear the air regarding subject location
- [00:02:34.010]and other aspects of identification.
- [00:02:37.730]My methodology includes utilizing Google
documents and spreadsheets to track my
- [00:02:41.420]work as well as mark questions
or issues that arise.
- [00:02:44.570]The image gallery editing itself takes
place in Luna, an online application
- [00:02:48.230]connected to the image database through
categories like subject and direct
- [00:02:52.100]object identifiers,
- [00:02:53.420]which are the numbers attached to the
photographs. So far in my research,
- [00:02:58.040]I edited the entirety of the
subject line so that each person,
- [00:03:02.830]and there are hundreds can be found
in the same place through searches.
- [00:03:06.310]This process involves reordering
how the individual is listed,
- [00:03:09.250]including information such as birth
dates, death dates, nicknames,
- [00:03:12.250]and maiden names.
- [00:03:13.930]I have also had to identify
unknown subjects by
referencing the existing bio
- [00:03:18.910]annotations, ancestry websites, and
team members who are catheter scholars.
- [00:03:25.120]As for the descriptions,
- [00:03:26.800]I found that the main
issues are ambiguity,
- [00:03:31.300]vagueness, and accuracies.
- [00:03:33.580]So far I described over 230 photographs,
- [00:03:37.150]which includes writing up and revising
three to four sentence passages that
- [00:03:41.620]contextualize the visual
aspects of the images.
- [00:03:44.440]And majority of those photos are
portraits landscapes, event photographs,
- [00:03:48.400]et cetera.
- [00:03:50.860]An unexpected result of the project
is the prompting of conversations about
- [00:03:55.210]social and political climates regarding
race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality,
- [00:03:59.440]and the oppressive systems surrounding
the vulnerable identities and the groups.
- [00:04:02.890]For example, I shared photos during
meetings that feature nameless
- [00:04:06.520]American Indians, blackface,
- [00:04:07.990]and other controversial topics
through the contemporary lens.
- [00:04:11.260]I've also asked questions concerning
how I name vulnerable groups,
- [00:04:14.860]what aspects of the photograph to
address and how to categorize iconography
- [00:04:18.820]historically harmful for
groups. In the end, we question,
- [00:04:22.360]how much can we leave up to the reader?
- [00:04:25.270]The space of our meetings does not
have a hierarchical model, though
- [00:04:28.840]Cather experts and my advisors,
which are my superiors, are present.
- [00:04:33.550]We are able to talk
through issues together,
- [00:04:35.800]combining our perspectives
- [00:04:38.620]what would be the best
approach for online readers.
- [00:04:41.230]The environment of our project
allows me to apply conceptual ideas
- [00:04:44.170]I've learned in my coursework
to contribute to a productive
- [00:04:48.370]as well as take away
the insights of others,
- [00:04:50.260]whether from these types
of discussions or tangents,
- [00:04:52.270]I can genuinely say that I learn
something new every day. In addition,
- [00:04:55.630]there is a community outside
of work as just last Friday,
- [00:04:59.770]I was able to attend most of Melissa J. Homestead's,
- [00:05:02.560]who is one of the members
of our team, book release
- [00:05:06.880]about, um, the creative partnership
of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis
- [00:05:11.530]And it's amazing that, um,
- [00:05:13.990]I get to have insights into her work,
- [00:05:17.110]both in the Willa Cather archive and her
personal work with writing this book.
- [00:05:23.110]This experience has been valuable for
my current education and future academic
- [00:05:26.410]goals. And I'm confident that continuing
my involvement will lead to even more
- [00:05:29.950]enriching interactions with my team,
the image gallery and Cather's texts.
- [00:05:34.150]I hope that I will be able to be trained
on the encoding process and other
- [00:05:37.630]aspects of the project
- [00:05:38.950]as we move from online back to in-person
procedure in the coming months.
- [00:05:42.730]This is a multifaceted study, and it is
gratifying to know that my work is making
- [00:05:46.180]it more accessible for audiences to
consume and pursue projects of their own
- [00:05:50.050]relating to Cather. After I graduate
next spring and continue onto
- [00:05:54.850]grads graduate school and or education
opportunities such as Fulbright,
- [00:05:59.000]I hope to incorporate digital humanities
discourse into my curriculums to
- [00:06:03.200]enhance my and other's learning. Projects
- [00:06:05.600]like the complete letters of Willa
Cather opened up educational doors that
- [00:06:09.590]provide context and multiple forms,
sending a message that a photo,
- [00:06:13.010]cannot speak a thousand words without
knowing who captured it and why,
- [00:06:16.550]what they included and excluded, and the
identities of the subjects. Similarly,
- [00:06:21.350]even though letters can
speak a thousand words
- [00:06:23.870]literally, they still need the
context in their own right.
- [00:06:31.300]And I want to send a big, big, big
thank you to my advisors, Andy jewel,
- [00:06:35.710]and Emily Rau for their guidance
and support my colleagues, Shea, Paul,
- [00:06:39.580]and Jamison for the opportunity
to learn outside of my work,
- [00:06:42.370]Melissa Homestead and Kari for their
endless Cather knowledge, and lastly,
- [00:06:46.810]the UCARE program for the opportunity
in research in the humanities.
- [00:06:51.070]I owe a lot to you guys for granting
me this continued opportunity and
- [00:06:54.460]humanities research and recognizing
that we have
- [00:06:58.750]viable questions and subsequent
conversations to pursue.
- [00:07:02.560]Thank you.
Log in to post comments