Practicum: The Shelley-Godwin Archive

Hi everyone! This week I will be showing you how to use the Shelley-Godwin Archive. This online archive, created by the New York Public Library and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, catalogs over 90% of known handwritten manuscripts relating to the Shelley-Godwin family. It also features a relatively easy-to-use platform and search functions to make research a breeze. As someone who majored in English in undergrad with a strong focus on Romanticism and the Romantic poets, this archive was super interesting to explore!

Off the bat, the archive features 5 highlighted tabs on the top of the page for easy navigation– “Home”, “About”, “Explore the Archive”, “Search”, and “Using the Archive.” I will be going through each and explaining its contents in this post.

The five front tabs featured on the Shelley-Godwin Archive.

The home page serves as the main landing site for the archive and includes introductory information on the database’s contents. This page is a good place to start if you know you want to use the archive, but are not sure yet on what to look up.

On the left, the main page features a short “About the Archive” section that is a shortened version of the introduction posted under the “About” tab. It also features a link to the “Using the Archive” tab page and to a short introductory video on how to use the database. Finally, an “Explore the Archive” icon is posted underneath the “About the Archive” section. This takes you to the “Explore the Archive” tab, which will be discussed later on in this post.

A look at the archive’s home page

There are two areas where featured archive documents are suggested– on a top banner slider and to the right side of the page under a “Featured Works” section. While the top banner focuses more on drafts of works and information on each of the writers within the Shelley-Godwin family, the featured works section shows completed works of the authors (for example, Frankenstein or Prometheus Unbound). Clicking on one of these works will bring you to the writing’s corresponding dedicated database page. This page features a short background on the writing and a dropdown menu with documents relating to the work, as well as fair copies of the work itself.

The About tab explores more into the legacy of the Shelley-Godwin family and explains the reasoning behind the project. This page is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the Shelley-Godwin family in general and their influence on English literature. Next, the technological infrastructure of the database is listed, as well as the reasoning behind the technological choices used.

The About page also lists contributors to the database as well as encoding contributors, or people who have worked on the technological side of maintaining the archive.

Under the “Explore the Archive” tab, users have the choice to browse the archive by work or by manuscript.

The Explore the Archive tab categorizes archive materials between “By Work” (left) and” By Manuscript” (right). Accessing a work by manuscript will show you page sequences in the order they are in in the actual manuscript, while accessing a page by work will show you pages in the order they appear in linear sequence the particular work (such as by acts or chapters). Clicking on a particular work (such as in the picture, Caleb Williams (William Godwin) or Bodleian MS, Abinger c.56) will bring you to the dedicated database page for that work.

Now, let’s explore these dedicated database pages a little more. As I stated before, each database page for a work includes a short introductory explanation of the work and its significance in the larger world of literature. On the bottom of a database page, you will find thumbnails of the manuscript’s scans. Clicking on these will bring you to a reader page, which will be explained in more detail later. On the right sidebar of the dedicated database pages are a plethora of possible helpful links depending on what text you are looking at. For example, academic resources corresponding to the work, reconstituted sequences that can be formed by linking several related manuscripts together to tell an overall story, or a link to other manuscripts a text is found in can be found here.

A closer look at the database pages. On the left, an introduction to the text and its significance is available. On the right sidebar (in red), helpful links to additional scholarly resources and corresponding manuscripts are posted. These links vary based on the text the database page is about.

Now let’s look at the reader pages. Clicking on a thumbnail of a manuscript scan will direct you to a reader page, which lines the manuscript’s scan up with a text translation.. There are also options on the top of the reader window. These options are “search translation”, zoom in and out (of scanned image), flip scanned image, “view image only” and”view text only.” On the top of the page, important information about the scan including the author, date written, title, state (draft/published), and institution where the manuscript is located is available.

The reader page for a scan from the Volume I draft of Frankenstein. This page allows the user to zoom in and out of the scan, search the text written, and view a typed translation of the scan.

As of the writing of this article, the search function, typically available by clicking on the “Search” tab, is no longer running as the website transitions to a new system. Because of this, browsing is limited to the tabs listed on the “Explore the Archive” page. However, based on the site’s introductory video, it seems like this function would have allowed users to search for specific manuscripts as well as search for particular words within a text.

Finally, the Using the Archive tab explains detailed instructions on how to use the database. If you are interested in exploring more about the Shelley-Godwin database, I would definitely suggest starting here! On this page there is a video that explains more in-depth instructions on using the archive as well as explanations on each of the site’s features.

Overall, the Shelley-Godwin Archive is an excellent place to research and explore more about the works of the Shelley-Godwin family. While the archive is definitely still an ongoing project, it still is an easy-to-use online resource for taking a closer look at these manuscripts. If you are a fan of Romanticism or just a literature lover in general, it’s certainly a treat to spend some time exploring the site!

–Claudia Faith Santa Anna

4 Replies to “Practicum: The Shelley-Godwin Archive”

  1. Claudia, this is such a fantastic overview of this archive. I had never heard of this before, but as a fellow English major, I’m sure excited to explore it. I appreciate that the archive explains its reasonings for its organization–I think we’ve learned this week that archival organization is a much bigger discussion than previously thought, so it’s helpful when archives provide an explanation for how they have organized the archive, and why they have chosen to do so. How do you see this archive being used in both educational institutions and the public in the future?

    1. Thank you! I personally think this archive is an incredible resource for students both in high school and college– I would have definitely benefited from knowing an archive like this existed during my time as an English major in undergraduate. Through just the features that allow the user to compare comments and edits, I see a multitude of research questions on the evolution of these texts and family influence on literature that could be explored by scholars.

  2. Great job on the tutorial Claudia! This archive is definitely more organized than the others I seen. I felt it was accessible and very user friendly. I liked that they gave reasoning for the choices they made on the archive. My question is how do we make archives made by small institutions and organization for accessible for the public, without the resources of larger institutions ?

    1. Hi Sherrell! This is definitely an important question to consider when evaluating these online archives, especially those that rely on subscription fees to maintain themselves. While on one hand, I believe that academia should be fully accessible to the public, I do see the need to provide greater funding to projects such as these as they are not easy to create. I do think that it is important that smaller online archives have greater publicity in the future, allowing for more traffic and potential revenue for those that work on these projects. As for now, I definitely see this as a balancing act between providing open access with the option for donations and subscription content.

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