Final Project: Creatures of Comfort

My final project is titled “Creatures of Comfort: A Historical Interpretation of Domestic Animals in Victorian Art.” The path to this final iteration of the project was a long and winding one–along the way I entertained several different possibilities of how it might look, or what its ultimate focus might be. For example, one of ArcGIS StoryMaps’ most interesting features is the ability to create interactive maps that pertain to the project’s narrative, and I was quite tied to the idea of using it. However, after establishing the core of my research I realized the map feature would be all but useless for my particular approach. Ultimately, it became clear that alongside an abbreviated timeline, the focus of “Creatures of Comfort” would be the profoundly impressive works of art from the Victorian era (accompanied by relevant scholarship, of course). StoryMaps turned out to be the perfect platform for seeing this vision out.

Due to the relatively narrow scope of the project, I was only able to focus on the Victorian era’s most preeminent animal painters, including (in no particular order): Briton Rivière, Edwin Landseer, Charles Burton Barber, Henry Gillard Glindoni, William Daniels, and John E. Ferneley. These artists’ works revealed a few important things about Victorian society and its relationship with domestic animals. First, heavy sentimentality evident within most of the pieces points to Victorians’ increasingly emotional bonds with household pets as the practice became more common. Additionally, the types of pieces that featured domestic animals prominently were almost always representations of lifestyles of (or created specifically for) wealthy, upper-class Victorians–including the Queen herself. And finally, in the most broad sense, Victorian artists’ newfound obsession with creating artistic depictions of animals generated excellent examples of the near-impossibility of capturing them without using an overtly anthropomorphic lens.

Whether or not this project is useful or relevant to anyone outside of our classroom, the process of creating it has been a great exercise in thinking for a more general audience. Although I found myself unable to resist the urge to include actual footnotes, I did enjoy having the option to develop a visually interesting, digital media-centric presentation (that in no way resembles a traditional academic research paper!). And, similarly, this class as a whole has served as a wonderful introduction to the expansive and ever-complex field of digital history.

My project link is included below–do let me know your thoughts! ☺︎

7 Replies to “Final Project: Creatures of Comfort”

  1. Hi Karly!

    Your project is both so fun and grounded in academic study – what a great combo! I loved hearing about your journey of figuring out the best way to present your research. I think that one of my big takeaways from this class is being able to broaden my choices for how to convey our research. Quite exciting!

  2. Karly! Your project is so cool and also beautiful! I think it combines history and art really well and I can tell you did a lot of research. Like Caroline, I agree and think this was the best way to display your work! ArcGIS Storymaps is such a cool tool to use, but I definitely agree not using footnotes hurts me I love them so much 🙂

  3. Hey Karly!
    I think using StoryMaps was the right choice for your exhibit. Besides your timeline and text being so fascinating, I think that fact that art of the centerpiece of the exhibit keeps the viewer interested. Good work!


  4. Hi Karly! Your use of StoryMaps is effective and provides an appealing presentation. Would you ever consider broadening the scope and expanding the project to more time periods or geographic regions. It seems like the StoryMap has some great potential to expand on your already interesting work.

    1. Hi Carol! Yes, I would definitely consider broadening the scope of this project. For the purposes of this class it had to be fairly narrow, but I would love to look beyond this period and geographic region to create comparisons across time/space.

  5. Wow, Karly—what a great choice of format! I imagine that pivoting from your original plan was challenging, but as others have mentioned, it’s so visually compelling that I must say I think it was worth that challenge! This is a topic I really know nothing about as well as a format I haven’t really played around with very much, so I’m genuinely just in awe. If you had any hot tips for someone setting up their first project in StoryMaps, what would they be? I’d love to know how you overcame this pivot and what beginner’s mistakes I could avoid.

    1. Hi Lauren, thanks for your kind comment! Great question, too – I think if I had any advice for those using StoryMaps it would be to do a deeper dive into the available features before developing a firm project idea. I would’ve loved to utilize the map feature because it’s such a cool visual interactive addition, but had already narrowed down my project scope so much that it was no longer useful. I think there’s also an option to include narration and video elements which would be cool, too.

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