5 Oct 2010

Thank you!

Carrie and I would like to extend our thanks to everyone who attended the Reclamation & Representation conference over the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of October. The standard of papers was excellent and were overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm and the extremely high quality of debate and discussion.
The event went off with very few glitches, and we are extremely grateful for the positive feedback and kind comments we received from many who attended.
We extend a final thank you to the University of Exeter for hosting the event, and to Exeter’s Special Collections and Centre for South West Writing for supporting this venture. Thank you once again, also, to our wonderful keynotes, Professor Helen Taylor and Dr Wim Van Mierlo.
We are keen to keep the project alive beyond the conference event itself. As such, we will be continuing to update this blog, and we encourage the continued submission of any research pieces, examples, questions or suggestions to be featured on the site. We welcome any information such as links to relevant press coverage, materials or academic news relating to the archive world in general.
Comments can be posted on existing blog posts, and any material you’d like featured can be emailed to myself or Carrie (lrs204@ex.ac.uk / crs202@ex.ac.uk).
We include below the concluding remarks from the event, along with a handful of photographs.
All the very best,
Lisa and Carrie

Concluding remarks (Lisa Stead, University of Exeter)

Archives tell stories, but also offer a multi-textual environment that invites a range of methodological tools and approaches.

Authenticity persists as a challenge and as a point of debate—whether this be the authenticity and authority of the source material, or the authenticity of the attribution of sources and texts.

Our work as researchers in varied literary fields, locations and timeframes engages different forms of re-representation—such as; the creation of new archives and new ways of collating and presenting materials; the reframing of biographies, of individual works and the historical significance of particular writers; and the recontextualisation of such writers and works within a network of interconnected individuals, locations, institutions and traditions.

The archive engages the researcher materially and theoretically. A range of speakers across the conference sought to deal with the nature of the archive itself through a theoretical lens. In doing so, the papers engaged with the concept and experience of archives, as social, cultural, material and intellectual encounters.

Some of the papers offered challenges to the ways in which we conceive of the structuring and collection of archive holdings and collections. A strong case was made generally for the precedence of archival coherence in the centralisation of author specific collections.

Economic factors are, as ever, a huge influence upon the shaping of archives and the kind of scholarship that we as researchers are able to undertake. The merits and demerits of the powerful American University archives are still very much a point of contestation! Economic restraints further dictate the digital future of archives.

The conference also asked what else the archive can or will be. Can it be a performance, or a history of performances? A cultural or textual ‘effect’? An organic entity, a creator in itself? --or an entity so focused upon the hallowed literary creator that, as some of our presenters suggested, other lines of research, other questions and other stories of equal or potentially greater value are closed down?

We hope to keep these insights and debates alive across this blog, continuing the productive and interactive atmosphere of the conference through research pieces, reflections, links and networking.

Woolf in the Digital World

Woolf in the Digital World

Karen V. Kukil, Associate Curator of Special Collections, Smith College


In June 2003 when Smith College hosted the thirteenth international conference on Virginia Woolf, we mounted an exhibition in Neilson Library. Woolf in the World echoed the theme of our conference and featured photographs from Leslie Stephen’s family album, manuscripts, drawings, and Hogarth press editions. I hoped to publish a catalog of the show for the conference, but I ran out of time. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

After the conference we had everything in the show professionally scanned by Pivot Media (http://www.pivotmedia.com/). This local company provided high resolution scans, which were also delivered in medium and large files for the web. Jessica Bumpous, a recent graduate of Smith College designed an online version of the exhibition with help from her library mentor, Sika Berger. This project cost less than one fifth the price of a published catalog and the high resolution scans continue to be purchased by scholars for fifteen dollars each, generating income for the library.

Before the digital show went public on the Mortimer Rare Book Room’s website, I applied to the copyright holders for permission to publish these rare photographs and manuscripts from our collection (http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/rarebook/exhibitions).Since our website is non-commercial, educational, and open to the public, the permission process was relatively straightforward.
Finding copyright holders can be tricky. The WATCH (Writers Artists and Their Copyright Holders) database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, photographers, and prominent figures in other creative fields is run jointly by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Reading Library. It is the best place to begin a search for copyright information (tyler.hrc.utexas.edu). Another good site for general information about fair use is the Cornell University Copyright Information Center (http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/). Peter B. Hirtle also provides a detailed guide to “Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States” on the Cornell site.

All of the literary agencies waived their normal permission fees for our project. At the bottom of our online exhibition Woolf in the World is a list of the copyright holders, including the Society of Authors, which represents the estates of Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, and Lytton Strachey, among others. We received a three-year license from the Society to display electronic facsimiles of over fifty images on our website. This license can be extended.

The following June during one of the functions in London at the fourteenth international conference on Virginia Woolf, I happened to sit next to Henrietta Garnett. She had a stack of mail in her hand and the top letter was addressed to me. Instead of mailing the envelope, she simply handed it to me. Her letter very kindly gave us permission to reproduce photographs, illustrations, and dust jacket designs by her grandmother, Vanessa Bell.

I have heard anecdotally that our online exhibitions and library guides are more useful to students and scholars around the globe than a limited run of an exhibition catalog. Mark Hussey added a link to our site in his introduction to the recent Harcourt edition of To the Lighthouse. Various Virginia Woolf societies have also provided links on their websites to “Virginia Woolf in the Virtual World,” our library study guide by Robin Kinder for students (www.smith.edu/libraries/fyi/woolf.htm).

Our online exhibitions have also attracted new gifts to Smith College. Last fall we received over twenty family photographs from the estate of Mary L. S. Bennett (1913-2005), who was the daughter of Lettice and H. A. L. Fisher. They include Pattle, Fisher, Jackson, and Stephen family photographs by G. C. Beresford, Gabriel Loppé, and O. G. Rejlander, among others.

These photographs and other additions to the collection will be displayed this spring in a new exhibition in Neilson Library. Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group: A Pen and a Press of Their Own (April 8-July 31, 2010) will supplement the traveling art installation in the Smith College Museum of Art—A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections (April 3-June 15, 2010). Between the shows in the museum and the library we will display hundreds of paintings, watercolors, prints, drawings, woodcuts, broadsides, photographs, letters, manuscripts, books, dust jacket designs, fabrics, embroidery, furniture, tiles, rugs, pottery, and sculpture associated with the Bloomsbury Group (www.smith.edu/artmuseum/exhibitions/index.php).

Other digital and media projects to which we have contributed during the past five years will also be featured in my library exhibition. They include the textual project begun by Julia Briggs in 2005 and now online (http://www.woolfonline.com/). Virginia Woolf’s corrected page proof of the “Time Passes” section of To the Lighthouse is on this site along with photographs from our Leslie Stephen album. With additional funding, we hope the Woolf Online site will eventually include the entire novel.
Over the past three years, Smith psychology professor Michele Wick and videographer Kate Lee have created a website on Woolf, Creativity, and Madness, which features streaming videos about Virginia Woolf and her family. The scripts are Woolf’s words from her journals and memoirs and most of the images come from the Mortimer Rare Book Room. Once permissions are secured, Professor Wick will formally launch the Smith website, complete with a genogram of Woolf’s extended family and links to reliable scientific websites.

Next spring we will begin an archives program for undergraduates at Smith College (www.smith.edu/archives/index.php). Senior projects in the program may be creative and practical. They can include online exhibitions and finding aids for collections, such as the Mary Bennett photographs. In the future we will be able to link images to the finding aids for collections in the Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections database (asteria.fivecolleges.edu/index.html)

Over the past thirty years I have worked with countless authors, artists, agencies, manuscript repositories, and scholars. The families associated with Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, and other members of the Bloomsbury Group are extraordinary in their generosity and support of scholarship. Jeremy Crow at the Society of Authors is the consummate professional. Bloomsbury scholars are unusually congenial and supportive of each other. Whenever I turn my attention to a Bloomsbury-related project, I feel as if I am entering a green oasis or coming home.