The Archaeology of Reading, COVID-19, and online teaching

by Jaap Geraerts

Prior to taking up my current position at the IEG, I was based at the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL) at University College London where I served as the postdoctoral fellow on the digital humanities project “The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe” (AOR). An international collaboration between CELL, Johns Hopkins University, and Princeton University, the project team, consisting of historians, computer engineers, and librarians, aimed to enable a more structured analysis of historical reading practices through the creation of an online resource. The end result is a modified IIIF-compliant viewer comprising a corpus of 36 early modern books annotated by Gabriel Harvey and John Dee and the fully searchable transcriptions of all the “interventions” they made in these books. This viewer is accompanied by a WordPress site which contains contextual information of the scholarly and technological aspects of the project.

Although primarily conceived as a resource for academic research, the pedagogical application of AOR was one of the pillars of the second phase of the project. Nolens volens the use AOR in a classroom setting has become an even more important feature of the project due to the outbreak of COVID-19, which prompted many universities across the world to require that all the teaching  take place online for the foreseeable future. As a result, many academics have been scrambling to find online resources which they can incorporate in their teaching. The AOR team was contacted by Erin Schreiner of the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) with the request to hold a webinar in which we would discuss the possibilities of AOR in relation to teaching. In the end, we organised two webinars. The first webinar comprised an overview of the project (by Earle Havens), an explanation of the search functionality (by myself), possible teaching exercises (by Neil Weijer), and the use of AOR within the wider context of other online resources and platforms (by Matthew Symonds). The webinar and and a accompanying Word document with the outline of each of the presentations can be found here. The second webinar, held two days after the first, was a Q&A session and can be viewed here.

For me personally, it was really great to participate in these webinars. Apart from the fact that is nice to assist the academic community in their quest to find suitable online resources, it was great to relive the good old AOR days with several members of the team. While the project has come to an end, the bonds of collegiality and friendship continue, something which we all should cherish, in particular in trying times like these.

P.S. Make sure to check out the “Teaching with AOR” section, developed by Neil Weijer, on the AOR website.

Cite this article as: Jaap Geraerts, "The Archaeology of Reading, COVID-19, and online teaching," in Digital Humanities Lab, 06/04/2020, https://dhlab.hypotheses.org/1379.

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