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Hilary Havens

Hilary Havens Wins Major NEH Grant

NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundations Grant

$60,000 – awarded to Maria Edgeworth Letters, April 14, 2022

Hilary Havens
Headshot of Hilary Havens from English taken in the Communications Studio on October 01, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee

PIs: Jessica Richard, Wake Forest University; Hilary Havens, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Susan Egenolf, Texas A & M; Robin Runia, Xavier University. Digital Team: Carrie Johnston and Heather Barnes, WFU; Meredith Hale, UTenn Advisory Board: Pamela Clemit, Queen Mary University of London; Claire Connolly, University College Cork, Ireland; Tim Fulford, De Montfort University; Devoney Looser, Arizona State University; Susan Manly, University of St. Andrews; Patricia Matthew, Montclair State University; Clíona Ó Gallchoir, University College Cork, Ireland; Laura Runge, University of South Florida

Technical Consultant: Laura Mandell, Texas A&M

Funding duration: June 2022-April 2024

Grant program description from NEH website: “HCRR advances scholarship, education, and public programming in the humanities by helping libraries, archives, museums, and historical organizations across the country steward important collections of books and manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings and moving images, archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, art and material culture, and digital objects. The program strengthens efforts to extend the reach of such materials and make their intellectual content widely accessible. Awards also support the creation of reference resources that facilitate the use of cultural materials, from works that provide basic information quickly to tools that synthesize and codify knowledge of a subject for in-depth investigation. Projects may address the holdings or activities of a single institution or may involve partnerships between organizations. Collaboration between humanities experts and information professionals is essential to broaden the scope of, and audiences for, proposed collections or reference resources. You should design a project that facilitates sharing, exchange, and the interoperability of humanities information and products, as well as ensures their long-term availability. Projects should expand participation in cultural heritage and promote engagement with primary sources.”

Maria Edgeworth Letters Project: a collaborative digital edition of letters written by Maria Edgeworth and shared by over 30 archives around the world. We are currently in the process of transcribing these letters through the Zooniverse crowdsourcing platform with the goal of creating a TEI-encoded fully searchable database of her letters.

Who is Maria Edgeworth? The Anglo-Irish author Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) was “the most commercially successful novelist of her age,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and yet a comparatively small number of her letters have been published. Standard and complete correspondences of her literary contemporaries and predecessors – Jane Austen, Frances Burney, William Godwin, Samuel Richardson, and Horace Walpole – have been published or are in progress with major university presses. There are at least 10,000 extant sheets of Edgeworth’s correspondence, and this fact – coupled with the increasing reluctance of scholarly presses to underwrite major editorial projects – means that Edgeworth’s letters will almost certainly never appear in a complete print edition. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary and historical scholars have thus been deprived of an important female literary voice. The prolific Edgeworth developed educational materials for parents and stories for children, tales for laboring-class and elite audiences, as well as novels (four of them, Castle Rackrent (1800), Ennui (1809), The Absentee (1812), and Ormond (1817), set in Ireland and critiquing Anglo-Irish relations). Not only do Edgeworth’s letters contain important contexts for her novels and educational texts, they also provide key narratives of literary and historical figures (among them Sir Walter Scott, Madame de Staël, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Inchbald, and Frances Burney), places (including Ireland, London, and Paris), and events (such as the French invasion of Ireland, the aftermath of the Act of Union, and the great Irish famine), spanning the end of the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. The letters also reveal Edgeworth’s own engagement in nineteenth-century scientific discourse and her liberal-mindedness on issues of race and inclusion.

Grant-Funded Activities: The grant will fund professional database design and website wireframing. The grant will fund 2 workshops to teach TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) coding to undergraduates from Wake Forest University and Xavier University and will pay those students for 3 weeks of work coding transcribed letters. The PI and Co-PIs will explore and produce reports on a range of issues pertinent to the sustainable development of the project, including database structure, Zooniverse public engagement, technical editor skills and qualifications, the efficacy and cost of IIIF for images, and a memorandum of understanding regarding shared institutional responsibilities and roles. The team will continue to meet monthly and report at least twice to the Advisory Board during the grant period. Finally, during the Foundations grant period the team will produce and submit a proposal for the NEH Collections and Reference Resources Implementation Grant.