‘Lost Visions’ Workshop Report: Cardiff, 4th November 2014

‘Lost Visions: Retrieving the Visual Element of Printed Books from the Nineteenth Century’

lost visions logoWorkshop Report

Cardiff, 4th November 2014


‘Lost Visions’ is an AHRC-funded project led by Professor Julia Thomas in the School of English, Communication & Philosophy, Cardiff University. It attempts to tackle the challenges of big-data by working with more than a million illustrations from books in the British Library’s collection. Although many historical texts have been digitally stored, the illustrations in these texts are frequently without the information needed to help people understand them. The Cardiff team will devise methods that will enable the collection of illustrations to become fully searchable via an online database.

At the workshop in Cardiff, we were introduced to the scope and the challenges of the project, as well as the early version of the online database itself. Julia Thomas explained the vast dataset given to them by the British Library, with over 65,000 mixed-genre volumes c. 1528 – 1946, with the majority from the eigtheenth and nineteenth centuries. This gives a total of about 1 million illustrations in the database. Ian Harvey then gave us an introductory demonstration of the database in its current form, and Nicola Lloyd explained the many research applications that the database has already had for academics at Cardiff, but also beyond.

Ian Harvey then spoke in more details about the implemetationa challenegs faced so far in the project, not least the vast amount of images and the missing or inaccurate metadata that came with them. He demonstrated how dates, page numbers, and even names of illustrators need adding and/or correcting. They plan to use crowd-sourcing to encourage users (whether academics, teachers, or the general public) to tag images and help make the database more easily and accurately searchable.

After coffee, we all had chance to try out the search functions and the tagging. The closing roundtable discussion was full of praise for the project. It was noted how important it was to focus on visual culture when so many digital projects were text-based. It also became clear the ‘Lost Visions’ will enable us to rethink the author/artist hierarchy, especially in the context of the eigtheenth and nineteenth centuries.

The full database will be launched in March 2015, and once it has been launched RIN members are encouraged to try searching and tagging for themselves.

CFP: “Illustration and Gender,” Special Issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, Deadline: March 15, 2015

In Reading Victorian Illustration, 1855-1875 (Ashgate 2012), Paul Goldman calls for an “enlargement” of illustration studies; “[t]he breadth and depth of what exists and remains relatively unexplored is staggering” (15). In response to Goldman’s call and the increasing critical interest in nineteenth-century illustration, brought about by better digital access and the digitization of obscure materials, we are devoting the summer 2015 special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies to the topic “Illustration and Gender.”

The mechanization of print during the nineteenth century led to the proliferation of illustrations that generated cultural and aesthetic ideals and changed social perceptions on issues of identity such as race, nationality, class, and gender. Illustrations filled Victorian print culture, and accompanied novels in both serial and book form. British illustrated newspapers (The Illustrated London News and Illustrated Police News), advertisements (Pear’s Soap), satirical publications (Punch and Fun), and children’s literature, all served to foreground visual culture, ultimately redefining it. The intersection of illustration studies and gender studies occurred not only within the illustrations that accompanied nineteenth-century texts but also outside of them. Although illustrators of the period were largely male, there were several skilled female illustrators including the well-known artists Kate Greenaway and Beatrix Potter, as well as the lesser known Amy Sawyer, Mabel Lucie Attwell, Elinor Darwin, and Edith Holden.

Illustrations are complex and never synesthetic versions of written texts. They adapt texts by including their own content and exist on the unstable ground between written and visual signs. Combining aspects of art history, cultural studies, media studies and print history, illustration studies are innately interdisciplinary and an increasingly influential subset of visual-culture studies. This special issues seeks to advance not only an understanding of the relationships between illustration studies and gender studies but also ways in which digitization, including such resources as NINEs, Google Books, and Internet Archive, have increased both awareness of and access to nineteenth-century illustrations. We welcome articles reflecting interdisciplinary approaches and international perspectives on illustration and gender studies. We hope to address a variety of possible topics including but not limited to:

Studies of female illustrators of the period

Critical histories of illustrators marked by gender and sexuality

Depictions of gender, race, sexuality, and/or class in illustrated literary works

Depictions of gender, race, sexuality, and/or class in illustrated advertisements

Illustration and gender in periodical publications

Illustration and gender in the novel

Illustration and gender in poetry

Illustration and gender in the fin-de-siècle

The influence of scientific theories and discoveries (phrenology, evolution, ethnography) on illustration and gender

Avenues opened up by the digital humanities for visualizing gender in Victorian culture.

Please send articles of 5-8,000 words to both the guest editors, by March 15, 2015 (earlier submission is encouraged). Adhere to MLA style, using endnotes rather than footnotes.

Please include a coversheet that includes your contact information and a short (100-150 word) bio with your article submission. Please contain all identifying information to the coversheet.

Feel free contact us at the email addresses listed below with any questions or concerns.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

Kate Holterhoff, Carnegie Mellon University, kholterh@andrew.cmu.edu

Dr. Nicole Lobdell, Georgia Institute of Technology, nicole.lobdell@lmc.gatech.edu