Instructional Improvement Proposal, UCSB, 2003-2004

Date: February 17, 2003
To: Ronald W. Tobin, Associate Vice Chancellor Academic Programs
2150 Kerr Hall
Fr: Patricia Fumerton, Director, Early Modern Center
Re: Proposal for Instructional Improvement Grant, July 1, 2003-June 30, 2004

Abstract

The English Department’s Early Modern Center requests funds to expand its digital archive in order to enhance its undergraduate specialization in early modern studies. The Center has already established the basis of a large, fully-searchable picture gallery, with slideshow feature (mostly through an Instructional Improvement grant for 2001-2002). We now plan a three-pronged continuation of the Center’s archive:

a) further work on the Picture Gallery: completion of the slideshow feature; addition of more images together with their full identification and keywording (not only from the slide collections of English department faculty but also from the holdings of other Humanities faculty in early modern studies, beginning with those of the History department); and quarterly instruction to all interested UC early modernists in the use of the gallery database and slideshow feature.
b) Ballad Archive. Funds would be used to gather ballads from microfilm and the EEBO and organize them by theme. This is preparative to mounting three undergraduate classes over a three-year period devoted to modernizing, editing, and mounting the ballads online, as well as to composing and mounting online introductory materials about the ballads. The result would be an early modern ballads archive usable by early modern faculty in many courses, especially the large English Department survey courses, 1500-1800.
c) British Theater Archive, 1500-1800.

Narrative

The English Department’s Early Modern Center, established in 2000, is the first of the many such proclaimed “Centers” on the web to create a space for collaboration between faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in the advancement of cultural studies of England, 1500-1800, through state-of-the-art computing resources. I should emphasize that the work of the Center (as of most of the English Department’s faculty these days) is to advance cultural studies, that is, studies of literature in the context of cultural phenomena (painting, architecture, politics, religion, and the like). Such cultural study characterizes the very cutting edge of literary criticism today and is, by definition, involved in an interdisciplinary enterprise that often involves other campus departments, such as Art History and History. What makes our Center unique is the sheer number of faculty in the English Department engaged in such studies of the early modern period (no less than 10), our timely extension of the term “early modern” to include Renaissance as well as Eighteenth Century, and our placing the faculty and their students together in a facility that puts at their disposal the most advanced electronic equipment and databases available in the profession to date. But we do not aim merely to provide a “lab” for computing and collaborative work. We aim to provide (and have already laid the groundwork for) a large and deep archive of electronic resources that will continue to grow and be used by faculty and students for years to come. Our web page can be found at http://emc.english.ucsb.edu/. Since parts of the site, such as the Picture Gallery, are password protected, I have created a temporary username and password for reviewers of this grant, so that you may view the full site when you login. The username you may use is “senate” and the password is “grant03.” Since you may not have a computer in front of you as you read this proposal, I have also printed out some of the pages from the site, to give you an idea of the kind of archive and services we provide (these printouts include the EMC homepage; the Faculty page; the Undergraduate Specialization page; the Events page; the Picture Gallery search page; a sample product of a gallery search; a sample Slideshow manager page; and a sample page of a slideshow viewing. I have also included letters of enthusiasm for the Gallery from Professor Sears McGee in the History Department and from two distinguished faculty members from outside the UC system to whom I have extended temporary teaching use privileges (Professor Heather Dubrow of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Professor Meredith Skura of Rice University).

a) Picture Gallery:

In 2000 the EMC was awarded an Instructional Improvement Grant of $7,471.84 in order to advance its 2001-02 theme of Early Modern Visual Culture (every year the Center mounts courses and events around a chosen theme, which culminates for undergraduates in a spring conference; at this conference undergraduates deliver presentations arising out of the theme courses they took that year). Part of the grant monies went toward mounting course syllabi, creating online readers, and developing online resources for the students’ use on Visual Culture. All these materials remain in the EMC archive. But more importantly, in advancing the Visual Culture theme, the majority of the Instructional Improvement Grant went toward the creation of a searchable database of images, 1500-1800. The idea behind the creation of this database was to begin the process of housing, in easily searchable form, all images used in courses and research by UCSB early modern faculty and graduate students. The English department was and is in a unique position to do this because we alone, among the Humanities departments, have our own Server (Windows not Unix), which supports the sophisticated database program SQL Server 2000. It should be noted that, while LSIT would house images for a department or individual faculty member, it will not support and maintain a database. Our Server is maintained by a full-time staff person, Brian Reynolds, as well as by the faculty member Alan Liu and a small group of technologically-advanced graduate students. So the English department has the special means to answer the pressing call for a searchable database of images. It should also be noted that the demand for such a database for use in instruction is high. Our images cannot simply be accessed from other sites on the web because they represent the corpus of images our individual faculty and students use in their individual courses. My teaching of literature and visual culture, for instance, draws in one week on about 50 of the sketches made by Inigo Jones for the court masques of seventeenth-century England. Only a few of these images are available via other web sites and, even if I were only to need those few images, skipping around from one to another link would be cumbersome and time-consuming. Our goal, first and foremost, was to build an archive of images that would be quickly searchable and specifically suited to UCSB English Department courses.

During the grant period, we came a long way to doing just that. A graduate student computer programmer worked in SQL Server to create a robust database for holding and searching images, and other students worked on scanning in slides and book illustrations, which they stored on our Server. Over 1,000 images were mounted in 3 different sizes (thumbnail for quick viewing, medium for more detail, and large for up-close viewing). Every image was identified by artist, title, date, location, media, and keywords, and is searchable by these categories individually and in combination. Products of a search produce thumbnail images which include an ID number. If clicked on, the thumbnail presents a medium-sized image with full information about the picture, and if that image is clicked on the large-sized image appears. Though we began to run out of time and money by the end of the funding period, the programmer managed to put together a rudimentary interface by which slideshows could be created from the resulting Picture Gallery. In the course of the year 2001-2002, the gallery and its slideshow feature were used for teaching in their courses by Lee Bliss, Bob Erickson, Patricia Fumerton, Richard Helgerson, Mark Rose, Elisa Tamarkin, and Anna Viele. I presented the EMC website at a session of the Renaissance Society of America Conference in Spring 2002 and it was enthusiastically received. A programmer for the important Medici project in Italy came up to me after the presentation and told me that it was the best database she had ever seen. However, the slideshow feature that was mounted in 2001-2002 was a rushed job on depleted resources and needed revamping. In the course of 2002-2003, with about $2,500 in funding from the English Department and the College of Letters and Science, the EMC was able to create most of a new slideshow feature, which includes within it a search engine that draws on the gallery database. This is an extraordinarily sophisticated interface, which allows instructors to create digital slideshows in a matter of minutes. Though incomplete, it has already been used for undergraduate teaching by myself, Claire Busse, Laurie Ellinghausen, Cassandra Gniady, and Diana Solomon. As the attached email letters from Professors Heather Dubrow and Meredith Skura indicate, the EMC picture gallery and slideshow feature are receiving national attention and praise. These are just a few of the emails I regularly receive about the site.

The next phase of the Picture Gallery archive, for which the EMC is now requesting funding, involves, first, completing the slideshow feature. We want to include in the slideshow feature the ability to show dual as well as sequential images. Dual projection ability is very useful for comparison and contrast in teaching. We also need to increase security of the site. Our intent is to restrict full access to the gallery and slideshow to UC faculty and students who are using the database primarily for instructional purposes (with occasional permission extended to faculty outside the UC system on a temporary teaching basis). At the moment, no one can access the entire gallery without a password. However, since the slideshow feature was hurriedly added on late in the creation of the site, anyone can view the created slideshows. We need to password protect the slideshow viewing as well as the general gallery. Our policy for handling security is to create three tiers of access: level 1, for administration of the site; level 2, for faculty and graduate students; and level 3, for undergraduates (this lowest level allows viewing access to all areas of the site for the period of one academic year). Fortunately, one of the graduate students in our department who is expert in SQL server is also specializing in early modern studies, and she is both able and willing to complete work on the gallery’s slideshow.

Once the slideshow feature is complete and secure, we intend to continue to build the gallery, adding more images digitized from the slide and book collections of English Department faculty and graduate students. (This process requires less technological sophistication than the creation of the database itself and so can be tackled by a larger number of students.) I would estimate that the 1,000 images we have so far digitized represent only about 1/5th of the images used by the EMC faculty via conventional media (slides and xeroxes). As part of the process of completing digitizing, student assistants may often be asked to locate images by seeking them out in the Art library, since faculty often know of images they want to use in teaching but do not own them. In my budget, I do not separate out this retrieval activity from that of mounting images in the picture gallery since both locating and digitizing images are time-consuming. The labor-intensiveness of both activities explains the large number of hours I have allocated to the tasks. As an example, I myself mounted about 30 images in the picture gallery in order to set a template for my student assistants to follow. It took me about 45 hours to do so. The process involved me first scanning in a slide, then modifying the image in Photoshop, and then creating three different sizes. I then loaded the image in its different sizes into the database. But I wasn’t done yet. The images then needed to be identified as completely as possible, including in each case artist’s name, title, date, issues of content and/or provenance, size, medium, and location. Finally, I needed to think through a list of consistent keywords for each of the images. For most of the 30 slides I mounted, I had to hunt through several art books in order to find all the information I needed. This is onerous and time-consuming work. But once in the database, the image and all its details are instantly available on command. I should add that, though the Art Slide Library and the Department of Art History are engaged in their own projects of digitizing images, the EMC early on decided to go its separate way because we wanted to maintain independence over our image use, because images relevant to literary studies are often different from those that interest art historians, and because we wanted to complete our image database with a slideshow feature.

However, the EMC is very much devoted to extending the scope of its picture gallery beyond the English Department, precisely because our interests are interdisciplinary at heart and because we recognize that other departments do not have the technological resources we have to create their own gallery and slideshow feature. In addition to expanding the gallery with images important to the English department’s faculty and students, therefore, the EMC intends to extend its embrace to include images of interested early modern faculty across the humanities. As the attached email from Sears McGee, professor of History, testifies, many early modernists in other departments do work that intersects with the cultural work of the English department’s early modern faculty. Many, like Professor McGee, would be interested in our store of images and have relevant images of their own that they would want digitized and accessible through our searchable slideshow database. Professor McGee has himself already had his collection of some 5,000 images digitized, but he does not have a sophisticated database for searching his images and he has no slideshow function. Like many faculty, he is currently usually PowerPoint to show his images in his classes. But PowerPoint is a labor-intensive and inflexible way of handling images, as Professor McGee readily acknowledges. The EMC slideshow feature offers a much faster and elastic way of making and changing slideshows. With Professor McGee’s blessing, we intend to begin our reach beyond the English Department by mounting his slides in our gallery. In order to do this, we will need to convert his digitized images into 3 sizes and add complete information and keywords for each image. Of course, there are many other early modern faculty and graduates students in the history department and other departments who will benefit from our gallery and slideshow feature (Simon Williams from Dramatic Arts contacted me just this week expressing interest in our database). But Sears McGee’s already-digitized collection seems the best place to begin. As time and funding allow, we then plan to reach out to other affiliated faculty as well. We also intend to offer regular demonstrations of the gallery and slideshow database to interested early modernists across the humanities disciplines.

As I hope is evident, the EMC gallery and slideshow feature has the potential to reach and affect in significant ways the instruction of thousands of undergraduates at UCSB. In terms of the early modern courses likely to be affected within the English department alone, they include the 5 large lecture courses (of 200 students each) – English 15: Introduction to Shakespeare; English 101: English Literature from Medieval Period to 1650; English 102: English and American Literature from 1650 to 1789; English 105A: Early Shakespeare; and English 105B: Later Shakespeare – as well as the many courses of 35 students and the senior seminars of 15. This year, for instance, early modernists will have fielded four English 197s of 15 students each and eight courses of 35 students each: English 128: Satire; English, 151JA: Jane Austin; English, 151SP: Swift and Pope; English 157: English Renaissance Drama; English 160: Milton; English 165VA: Literature and the Visual Arts; and English 172: Studies in Enlightenment. As the pioneer of the new slideshow feature, I myself by the end of the year will have used the database to teach English 105A (200 students), English 197 (15 students), and English 165VA (35 students). As professor McGee points out in his email to me, his early introduction to the database has readily revealed to him images he intends to use in his teaching this year of History 4B (Wester Civilization, 1050-1715; 383 students), History 140B (Tudor Britain; 55 students) and History 140B (Stuart Britain; 50 students) – courses he regularly repeats. Without exaggeration, the likely impact of the EMC Picture Gallery and Slideshow on undergraduate teaching is enormous.

b) Ballad Archive, 1500-1800:

Blackletter broadside ballads represented the largest percentage of published works in the early modern period. Printed on quickly degradable, cheap paper, decorated with worn woodcuts (so that they were pasted up on the cottage or alehouse walls as the poor man’s oil painting), and sung to popular tunes, these ballads were sold on the streets in quantity along with other perishable items, such as fruit. Because of their cheapness and fragility, most such ballads have been lost. But there are still about 5,000 extant ballads of the early modern period. About a third of these can be found in the Early English Books Online database (EEBO; to which UCSB subscribes). A large portion (from the Pepys collection) have been published in near-unreadable facsimiles. The rest are available only on microfilm. My goal is to make a significant portion of these ballads available to undergraduates while at the same time teaching the students the value and skills of modernizing, editing, and critiquing early modern texts, and then mounting the materials online. Over the course of several years, I wish to run a sequence of courses for undergraduates to do just that. In the process, we will be building a ballad archive that will be available to faculty teaching survey courses of the early modern period. But in order to modernize, edit and critique the ballads in undergraduate courses, a lot of preliminary work needs to be done. I had planned to teach an undergraduate course titled “Ballad Art” last year, but had to cancel the course when I discovered that the EEBO online database held too few ballads. I cannot offer this course and its sequels without a student assistant to help me locate the extant ballads and organize them by theme, so that they can be presented to the undergraduates in manageable units.

Once the materials are available in an organized way, I expect my series of ballad courses will teach valuable skills to undergraduates: editing, webwork, and critical analysis. The number of students that will be affected immediately is not huge: each of my planned three ballad courses will be capped at 35 students, making for a total of 105 affected. But the product of these courses will be a ballad archive that could be used in teaching our two introductory early modern lecture courses (of 200 students each), English 101 and 102, in our many Shakespeare lecture courses (since Shakespeare frequently cites ballads in his plays), as well as in other early modern classes interested in popular or lower-order culture.

c) British Theater Archive, 1500-1800:

The EMC further proposes to begin the work of building a website on the history of British theater during the early modern period, 1500-1800. Currently, web resources exist for the earlier part of this period, particularly concerning the Shakespearian theater of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. But no web resources adequately address the theater of the latter part of this period (1660-1800), and the theater sites that do exist for those years do not combine a study of the theatrical players with the development of the theater as a physical and management structure. Most importantly, no web resources treat the theater of the entire early modern period in continuity. This web project breaks new ground in all of these areas.

The website would trace the history of play production from 1500 to 1800. It would include pictures of and articles about the development of the physical theater building; play composition; playwrights; and actors and actresses. Most importantly, it would demonstrate how these four factors influenced each other to create distinct yet continuous theater productions during the time period. The advantage of having such a history online, replete with images, is that it can be readily drawn upon for lectures by faculty and for course papers and exams by students. Mounting images side-by-side of a Renaissance stage and an eighteenth-century stage, for instance, would be most illustrative for understanding the developmental changes of theater construction. Being able to type in the title of a sixteenth-century play and find out when and where and by whom it was performed over the course of the next 200 years would be wonderfully educational and not something currently available on any web site (or in any printed book for that matter).

As theater is an essential literary genre of the early modern period, this website stands to impact hundreds of students enrolled in UCSB English Department courses. The website would be utilized in the department’s lecture series, English 101 (English Literature from the Medieval period to 1650) and English 102 (English and American Literature from 1650 to 1789), both of which are required for English majors and which are capped at 200 students apiece. The website would also be used in related early modern courses, including English 157: Renaissance Drama; English 197, Women Writers, 1550-1700; every Shakespeare class, including English 15: Introduction to Shakespeare; English 105A: Early Shakespeare; English 105B: Late Shakespeare; English 165VA: Literature and the Visual Arts; and English 172: Studies in the Enlightenment. All of these classes have approximate enrollments of 35 students. The approximate total of students taught in the English Department that would be annually impacted by this web site, therefore, is 645. In all likelihood the numbers impacted would be even greater, however, since this site would clearly be of immense use to faculty in Dramatic Arts as well. In fact, when Simon Williams, Professor of Dramatic Arts, recently contacted me about the EMC’s Picture Gallery and Slideshow feature, he requested to participate in our project, if funding for the Theater archive were approved. Dramatic Arts, he estimates, holds about 2,000 slides of the English theater, 1500-1800, just waiting to be digitized and stored in a searchable database. These images would be incorporated into the EMC’s Theater History for use by Dramatic Arts (and other interested departments) as well as by the English Department.