Rossetti Archive Overview

Welcome to your overview of the Dante Gabriel Rossetti Digital Archive, devoted to providing free access to Rosetti’s works for students and scholars alike. For those of you–like myself–who have never heard of this Rossetti fellow, here’s a brief introduction:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a poet, painter, and translator in Victorian Great Britain. His family was expatriated from Italy prior to his birth, and so each of the Rossetti children made a name for themselves in Great Britain. Along with several other painters, Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. From my elementary understanding, the group was formed to discuss artistic practice and culture and essentially rejected the Classical art scene. Rossetti’s melancholic influence on Victorian poetry and art reflects the period’s sense of despair and social uncertainty.

Why was this created, by who, and for what?

Rossetti’s reputation as an artistic force of reckoning inspired scholars at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia to establish a digital archive containing images and textual works from between 1848 and 1920. The impetus for the archives began in 1993, however the final import of materials did not occur until 2008.

The site was published in four installments–the first launching in Spring 2000, followed by additional installments in 2002, 2005, and 2007. Each installment added volumes of digitized poems, translations, and illustrations with transcriptions, allowing for users to search through the database with ease. Additionally, there are scholarly commentaries for many of the materials, offering supplemental scope and content as well as historical context for less knowledgeable users (like myself).

The Rossetti Archive uses a platform called NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth Century Electronic Scholarship) and was fundamental in the development of the software. NINES allows scholars to link archives and develop software tools using Collex–an interface that gathers resources and provides an online collecting and critical analysis tool.

The website provides six main tabs:

  • Home
  • About the Archive
  • Exhibits and Objects
  • Search Engine
  • Bibliography
  • NINES

As you can imagine, the main place for accessing content is the “search engine” and “exhibits and objects” tabs.

Search Engines

In 2007, the Rossetti Archive launched a search engine that features structured searching, where users can manipulate the search terms for certain years, genres, phrases, etc.  

Exhibits and Objects

On the main page, the materials are separated in chronological and alphabetical categories–with a separate section provides contextual sources that historically situate Rossetti in 19th century Britain.

In the “Pictures” section, creators of the site provide interpretative information of Rossetti’s artwork, reminding us that his images were greatly influenced by his life as a poet. The images themselves can be sorted chronologically or alphabetically. I prefered chronologically, because it allowed me to see what Rossetti was focusing on during a particular period.

Some of the profiles do not have images uploaded, scholarly commentary, or current physical location–but most have imported metadata listing the date, physical description, and source of the image.  

Example: MacBeth Contemplating the Aerial Dagger has no image, but does have commentary.

Dormouse surnamed Dwanging has both an image and commentary.

In the “poems” section, each document is characterized by the known date as well as the intended genre, meter, and rhyme.

The Rossetti Archive also has a page devoted to a bibliography for further research.

Final Judgement: 5/10

The Rossetti Archive may have been magnificent in its heyday, however 2008 has come and gone, and despite the amount of content uploaded the website itself seems simplistic and like it hasn’t been updated since. While it is doubtful that Rossetti will return from the grave and create more materials, a possible revamp could include more options for interactivity. It begs the question as to whether a digital archive (or project) is ever really finished. And if it is, who is left using this outdated website? How can it be improved?

One Reply to “Rossetti Archive Overview”

  1. Hi Haley, thanks for the thoughtful post! I think you bring up a few great points in this overview of the Rossetti Archive.

    Your question about whether a digital archive/project can ever be finished is interesting to think about! I think in the case of this archive, it isn’t finished. If this was the absolute final product its creators had in mind, then a potential revamp might not happen without its users requesting it (especially since the developers haven’t updated it for over ten years).

    That leads to another really good question you asked: who’s still using this outdated website? I think improving the website might help the Rossetti Archive appeal to a broader audience, and get new viewers on their site. I think this is something archivists, or anyone else creating these resources, needs to think about. Continuous improvements to a digital archive/project will help keep it relevant. I think users would also trust it more if they see that its creators are still working on and improving its content.

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