For Immediate Release
March 25, 2008
Contacts: David Ottalini, 301 405 4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org
MITH in International Partnership Shares New NEH/JISC Grant
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland's Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) will join national and international partners to create an innovative "freely-accessible, high resolution" digital interactive archive of William Shakespeare's pre-1641 quartos - living artifacts that tell the story of how Shakespeare's Hamlet, Henry V, King Lear, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet, to name just a few, first circulated in print.
The nearly $120,000 NEH grant will provide initial funds for one year to create a technical proof of concept "working model" for the project by digitizing all 32 pre-1641 versions of Hamlet held by the participating libraries. "The JISC/NEH initiative gave us the opportunity and the incentive to attempt a truly international, collaborative, digital project," says Folger Project Director Richard Kuhta. "The guidelines challenged us to think collectively about what was possible, and to realize a shared ambition. It was exactly the prompt we needed to launch a conversation that transformed geographically distant collections into partner institutions."
NEH Chairman Cole announced the Shakespeare Quartos Archive grant during a news conference Tuesday (March 25) at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
The Shakespeare Quartos
MITH Director Neil Fraistat says "The quartos themselves offer crucial evidence about what actually was performed" by Shakespeare's troupe.
Because Shakespeare himself did not authorize a printed edition of his plays, what was published at the time represented what others heard, memorized or took from the marked-up "foul papers" of a particular production. The quartos were essentially paperbacks produced soon after a play was produced and were meant to be read and thrown away. Fraistat uses the example of Hamlet's most famous soliloquy to show how different the published versions were:
Fraistat estimates that it will take approximately three years after completion of the working model to complete the project for the remaining Shakespeare quartos. MITH's interactive site will ultimately be housed at Oxford University.
Another exciting aspect of the project is that Washington-area high school teachers will be able to provide their feedback to the project as it progresses. "We also have one other partner in this grant - the Shakespeare Institute, which is in Stratford, but based from the University of Birmingham. Their teachers, scholars and students will also be working with the prototype giving us feedback and functionality about what they'd like to see," Fraistat says. He also hopes that English students at the University of Maryland will be part of the review process.
The MITH director says, "We are proud to have as partners such institutions as the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library, the British Library, and the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. This grant caps what has been an extraordinary year for MITH, in which it has received five major grants, covering the gamut from Shakespeare's Quartos to the preservation of Virtual Worlds."
Made possible by a major Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) is a collaboration among the University of Maryland's College of Arts and Humanities, Libraries, and Office of Information Technology. Since its founding in 1999, MITH has become internationally recognized as one of the leading centers of its kind, distinguished by the cultural diversity so central to its identity. Located in McKeldin Library at the heart of the campus, MITH is the University's primary intellectual hub for scholars and practitioners of digital humanities, electronic literature, and cyberculture, as well as the home of the Electronic Literature Organization, the most prominent international group devoted to the writing, publishing and reading of electronic literature.
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