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! ☺︎