Hello there, dear reader. It feels strange to be writing to you on the NINES site, instead of on the UVa Scholars’ Lab blog where I spent all of last year as a fellow in the brand-new Praxis Program. It feels particularly déjà vu-ish to be writing about collaboration, because that was pretty much all I thought about in my role as co-project manager for last year’s Praxis team. I am grateful for this strangeness, because it reminds me that I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the way my DH education has progressed. Things keep falling into place, and I suppose I will just keep blogging about it. (So that you can envy me. Muahaha.)
This year, at least two (and possibly all three) of the NINES fellows are working in collaboration with people at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) to produce a digital resource called the Shelley-Godwin Archive. Essentially, the goal of the Archive is to make available, in one digital location, the manuscripts and early editions of works by Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Simply providing easy access to manuscript images would in itself be a worthy goal, but SGA has bigger plans. I won’t give it all away now, but I will just mention that at this stage a team of encoders are finishing the XML markup on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein manuscript. The next big piece slated for encoding work is a fair copy manuscript of Percy’s Prometheus Unbound. The Archive website is much more thorough about the long-term vision of the project, and I encourage you to check it out for yourselves.
I think I can speak for the other fellows when I say that we’re pretty dang excited to be part of this undertaking. Not only have we been welcomed on board at the earliest stages of project planning, when all the exciting decision-making happens, but we’re also earning major experience points in the cross-institution collaboration department. To be perfectly honest, I think the dual institution situation has been more challenging than any of us at first suspected it would be. Of course, anybody who has ever tried to plan meetings around the very busy schedules of twenty-five professionals will understand this. But the problem is not simply one of scheduling: it’s also one of communication. We haven’t quite figured out how to efficiently ask or answer questions directed to a group (i.e. “What do you all think of this charter?” “When can we all meet for a conference call in the coming week?”).
In spite of the fact that we are still trying to figure out the basics of workflow and communication, I am optimistic. An SGA team charter is in the works, and I am pretty sure that if we can appoint a project manager on either side of the institutional divide (I nominate Eliza) we will have a much better time keeping everyone up to speed and on-track. Perhaps then we can start getting things done in earnest. Both of these strategies (the need for a charter and the equally exigent need for project management) are takeaways from my time in Praxis, by the way. See what I mean about how seamlessly my DH education is progressing?
Hopefully the next time you hear from one of us, we’ll have some exciting news to report on the SGA front. In the meantime, we’ll be working on our collaboration skills. If you have good advice (or if you’ve ever been involved in a cross-institutional project like this) we’d love to hear from you in the comments.