This site contains two different kinds of exhibits created by students in my English 486 course (Fall 2016). The Exhibit Essays make use of Omeka's museum-like plugin allowing for an annotated display of digital objects. Rather than just display objects, however, my students were assigned multi-media essays. A few of the stronger Exhibit Essays are displayed on the site and can be accessed by clicking the links below. This section includes a second type of exhibit, an interactive time line built as a full-class collaboration. The timeline is titled, "A.S. Lyon: Travels Across Time" and charts moments in Lyon's second diary (1826-1839) which my students interpreted as transformational in Lyon's progress. The timeline was built using the Knight Lab's Timeline JS.
In both exhibit types--Exhibit Essays and the Interactive Timeline--students were charged with the task of creating multimedia arguments supported by evidence from the text and evidence collected in The Lyon Archive. My students had to consider not only how the archive might support their interpretive claims about the diary, but how to juxtapose word-image correspondence to persuade audiences of the value of their interpretive claims. To this end, we studied successful and not-so-successful examples of digital exhibit essays in preparation for this assignment. If appropriate objects did not appear on this site, students had to locate and add them to the archive. Ultimately the archive of objects/items expanded once students began thinking through their essay topics and arguments. Through this process my students began reading digital objects in new ways--that is, with an eye toward their power to tell stories, persuade audiences, or interact with other objects. The experience of building the archive was, therefore, one of learning to read and see texts with a new gaze; and of learning to revise one's thesis with an understanding of visual rhetoric and the form of multimedia essays.
My students were interested in the way meaning shifted when texts changed forms from paper to digital object. They began thinking through the logic and aesthetics of linked digital objects. And they raised important questions about the differences between editions of the texts we studied. Several students confessed that prior to this class they had never considered how a print edition might produce meaning differently than a handwritten page. By the end of the course they insisted on working with photographs of the original diary pages alongside the transcriptions produced in a Word Document.
The following exhibit essays offer a sampling of successful projects created by my students. Over the course of ten weeks they learned Omeka basics, Dublin Core metadata, and digital exhibit building using Omeka's exhibit plugin. Simultaneously, they studied an unpublished nineteenth-century diary, which was the first time many of them had ever worked with manuscript materials and primary documents. The course content helped to place the diary in cultural context as we studied the nineteenth-century East End; other examples of diary writing from the period; and the relations between England and Jamaica, where Lyon eventually settled.
When the course ended several students expressed an interest in continuing work on The Lyon Archive. Since then, several other students have contributed to the project by transcribing hand-written diaries; collecting digital objects for the archive; lending their voice to my podcast recordings of A. S. Lyon's diaries (for the Soundscapes Map); and proofreading/standardizing metadata. Be sure to see the Acknowledgements tab for biographical details about both students who contributed the following exhibit essays, and those who have contributed to the archive in other ways.
I English 486 Exhibit Essays
“All the World’s a Stage: A. S. Lyon’s Appetite for Theatre” by Rachel Elkins
“A Brush with Fame: Lyon’s Celebrity Circle” by Sarah Wyer
“Naomi Cream and the Power of Transcription” by Madeleine Jones
II English 486 Interactive Time Line
by English 486 (Fall 2016)