Scholarly Adventures in Digital Humanities: Making the Modernist Archives Publishing Project

Published in New Directions in Book History, 2017

Scholarly Adventures in Digital Humanities addresses the gap between print and digital scholarly approaches by combining both praxis and theory in a case study of a new international collaborative digital project, the Modernist Archives Publishing Project. The twenty-first century has witnessed, and is living through, some of the most dynamic changes ever experienced in the publishing industry, arguably altering our very understanding of what it means to read a book. This book brings to both general readers and scholarly researchers a new way of accessing, and thereby assessing, the historical meanings of change within the twentieth-century publication industry by building a resource which organises, interacts with, and uses historical information about book culture to narrate the continuities and discontinuities in reading and publishing over the last century.


With MAPP, we wanted to construct our digital archive—-an aggregation of the digitized materials held by numerous library-based archives—-so that we could answer questions pertinent to our scholarship while also transforming the materials into a network of relationships that future scholars might use. This goal meant that we needed to consider the standards for information organization and access. Rather than an archive in the strictest definition of the word, what we sought to build was a collection of related materials from geographically disparate (sometimes called ‘diasporic’) archives so that our team’s desired scholarly narratives can come more easily to the fore.

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How can we represent the material circumstances that have shaped modernist literary production and publishing in a digital form? How can we avoid providing just another content management system that divorces item from context? Clearly, a digital collection can never substitute for direct engagement with the print materials, but it can foreground the physical through metadata and newly digitized images of the material conditions.

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One goal behind our development of a critical digital archive is to promote the idea that building an archive is itself a form of scholarship that can be generative of new scholarly thinking and writing. The MAPP archive argues that material publishing practices shaped modernism and feminism, that these practices are critical for the comprehension of modernism’s context and development, and that the Hogarth Press is a particularly suitable and telling case study for the interplay between publishing and literary creation.

Claire Battershill, Helen Southworth, Alice Staveley, Michael Widner, Elizabeth Willson Gordon, and Nicola Wilson. Scholarly Adventures in Digital Humanities: Making the Modernist Archives Publishing Project. Palgrave, 2017.