Monthly Archives: March 2021

The Pulter Project

The Pulter Project
The Pulter Project;


17th century poet Hester Pulter’s manuscript of 120 poems on topics ranging from politics, mythology, royalism, war and death, and an unfinished romance was stored and unread for over 250 years at the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, UK. In 1996, graduate student Mark Robson, rediscovered the manuscript while working in the library. Subsequently, two scholars of early modern literature, Wendy Wall (Northwestern University) and Leah Knight (Brock University), along with an international team of collaborators, embarked on the Pulter Project to:

  • Make Pulter’s poetry public by adding her work to the canon
  • Create an ongoing, collaborative process by which audiences can see the making of Pulter as a poet and writer using multiple editorial voices in a digital landscape


The Pulter Project is unique in that it uses technology and scholarship to explicitly pursue multiple audiences simultaneously. The website presents each Pulter poem with multiple views: 

  • The “Elemental Edition” is intended for general readers of all levels who want to read the poems. The editors have added punctuation and minimal scholarly annotations and notes to create a basic springboard to further work on Pulter’s poetry.
  • The “Amplified Edition” is accompanied by more extensive editorial notes by experts for more advanced scholars.

One can view both editions side-by-side in a comparison view. Concurrently, one can view the original manuscript page and companion readings for the poems in poetry, literature and science, religion, literature, and women’s writing in sections titled “Curations” and “Explorations”.


The Pulter Project founders Wall and Knight had access to the original manuscript and conducted a workshop to explore different ways of editing, contextualizing, anthologizing, and digitizing Pulter’s poems. They collaborated and partnered with Northwestern University, Northwestern’s Media and Design Studio, and Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds, as well as established a digital team, and an editorial board of scholars in early modern writing, manuscript studies, poetry, early modern science, politics, poetry, and gender studies. Wall and Knight photographed the original manuscript and transcribed the poems to create the “Elemental Editions”.  A uniform set of editorial principles and style guidelines were established to aid in the “Amplified Editions”.


The project was created using a customized model of the Versioning Machine (VM) software from the University of Maryland which allows the project to present multiple—sometimes very different—versions of the same poem side-by-side. VM requires the XML coding language (human and machine-readable), so all of the poems are encoded according to the P5 Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). High-resolution images provided by the Brotherton Library are zoom-able. The website’s introductory page features animation and a professional “teaser” video. Another video on the “About the Project” page is longer but filmed in a similar format, featuring animations of period engravings, footage of the manuscript object and interviews with the project founders.


The Pulter Project is an innovative use of technology for an archival project which future projects can be inspired by. The first short animation and teaser video presented at the outset are mysterious and intriguing and invite the user to explore the website further. The video does a great job of showing the manuscript as an object that has survived centuries, an aged and imperfect historical object. The two “Editions” associated with each poem attract different audiences and allow multiple access points to Pulter’s poems. Interactive elements such as hovering over a word to get its definition, and the ability to have comparison views open and draggable to alternate positions makes the user feel like they are in control of the website and how the information is perceived. The additional scholarship found in “Curations” and “Explorations” is a wonderful opportunity to explore themes further. Another feature that makes this project unique among archival projects is that the user can see the collaborative process and editorial decisions involved in making verse accessible, a process which is often invisible. 

Jean’s blog post (1): review on Black Press Research Collective

Blog post on Black Press Research Collective

Archival Necessity

Black Press Research Collective (BPRC) aims to promote a digital scholarship centered on the subject matters of Black Diaspora and pan-Africanism through a digitization, analysis, and distribution of black newspapers (and at times, magazines) published by African descendants. BPRC believes, drawing on Colin A. Palmer’s notion of African Diasporas, African descendants are bound together in opposition to racial oppression in various periods and settings across the globe including the African continent. Also, modelled on The Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC)’s research service, BPRC, documenting global black press, seeks to generate new methodologies appropriate to this concept of Black Diaspora and a construction of pan-African communities, which evade or challenge the approaches in more traditional research methodology. In so doing, BPRC is intended to encourage new generations of scholars in the study of black newspapers and their significance in African Diasporic communities.

Audiences & Designs

BPRC’s audiences are primarily academic (and journalistic) scholars that are interested in global black press with their previous understanding of the concept and history of Black Diaspora. Also, BPRC provides digitized and analyzed resources for educators in this area of study. The level of knowledge and information (centered on the scholarship and publication of black press) appears directed toward a specialized audience rather than a general audience. The section of “Data Visualization and Multimedia” also is designed for academic educators (rather than students or unprofessional researchers). The section of “Resources” (which includes the information of conferences, call for papers, fellowship, and relevant organizations) is also specifically addressing the interests of specialized scholars and academics.

The Creator & Their Relationship to Materials?

BPRC’s founder/director is Kim Gallon, an Assistant Professor of History at Purdue University. At this time, the founder appears being in full charge of updating this archive though I’m not sure whether there are more members involved in consideration of the archive’s collective purposes in line with the modes of African Diasporas and pan-Africanism. It’s still unclear how the materials are gathered and distributed collaboratively. (The materials seemed accumulated, categorized, and displayed through Gallon’s scholarly investments.)

Technologies & Skills

BPRC looks like a conventional blog (without interactive function or anything multimodally complex.) I think, to create and operate this kind of archive (which mainly provides the written information with a bit of supplementary analysis of material using the methods in Digital Humanities), one needs to know HTML and Data Visualization tools.   

Learning from the BPRC (for future projects)

BPRC’s focus on global black press (tied to the historical conditions of African Diasporas) is admirably meaningful and ambitious, and its pursuit of new methodologies (for dispersed subjects and specificities) sounds adequate for a digital scholarship in that area of study. However, I’m not sure how much this project is materialized as a collaborative project of using researchers and resources from everywhere (in various languages) across the globe. I haven’t got in touch with the creator/director of the archive, but I’m curious to know the strategies of outreach for this archive as it appears that the archive couldn’t solicit decentralized contributions from other interested researchers and scholars.      

In the Spotlight: Reflections on the British Library’s Latest Transcription Crowdsourcing Project

By Evangeline Athanasiou. March 1, 2021

The problem: As we continue to make advancements in optical character recognition (OCR) technology, there are still circumstances that require the human eye’s capacity for nuanced visual recognition. In the case of hundreds of thousands of texts needing transcription, where can an organization find the time and resources to complete the task? The solution: crowdsourcing.

In 2017, the British Library acted upon their need to create transcriptions of a collection of playbills spanning the mid-eighteenth to twentieth centuries in order to make them easily searchable online. Because of their combination of different fonts, text sizes, and weights within single paragraphs and even sentences, these playbills rendered available OCR applications powerless. And, as an additional complication, even with the resources of an institution like the British Library, dedicating staff hours to transcribing these playbills (234,000 total) would cost too much and take far too long. However, without transcription, the metadata required to make these valuable resources accessible to researchers would remain incomplete. What now?

Enter In the Spotlight.

Image of the British Library’s In the Spotlight homepage. Screenshot by author.

Key personnel from the British Library’s Digital Scholarship and Printed Heritage teams came together to create a user-friendly crowdsourcing platform that invites curious amateurs and inquiring professionals to transcribe these digitized playbills piece by piece. By breaking down the transcription process into simple, clearly defined steps with plenty of examples as aids, In the Spotlight welcomes contributions ranging from the transcription of one title to a century’s worth of genres. Any contributors that are interested in sharing their findings, ideas, or problems while performing transcriptions are encouraged to do so through the discussion forum, which is also an excellent way to get feedback directly from the project’s founder, Dr. Mia Ridge.

In the Spotlight is part of the Library’s larger LibCrowds platform and uses an open-source crowdsourcing framework, PyBossa, in combination with a custom theme interface created through a JavaScript framework, Vue.js. The images of the playbills are made available through the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), which provides a set of standards for the optimal accessibility of digital images across various platforms. While these resources require their users’ understanding of the basics of their programming languages and standardized terminology, each provides a wealth of resources explaining their functionality and providing examples of their practical application.

By facilitating scholarly practice through transparent communication and meaningful engagement with the public, In the Spotlight exemplifies an impactful collaborative project in the digital humanities.