Collaborative Class Project

(Worth 15% of your grade; due on October 20)


As our first assignment made clear, most digital humanities projects are too big and too complicated to be created by a single individual. To help us get a sense of what collaborative teams can do that individuals can’t, we will work with our colleagues in Special Collections to build the second phase of a project that your English 5074 predecessors started in Spring 2014. This project will help you (1) develop your digital skills, (2) serve the Virginia Tech community, and (3) experience the process of doing DH work from start to finish.

The Gray Jacket is Virginia Tech’s first literary magazine, and we’ll be digitizing, cataloging, and republishing the original issues as if The Gray Jacket were a contemporary online literary journal. Special Collections has several volumes of the magazine in its archives, but to keep the project manageable, we’ll work with just five issues this semester. In small teams, you’ll scan an issue of The Gray Jacket, run optical character recognition (OCR) software on your scans, and create plaintext transcripts of the articles in your issue. Then we’ll use Omeka to publish a web-based archive of the digitized magazines, along with their associated metadata. We’ll try to include some archival photos on the site, as well. With some hard work and a little luck, I think we’ll be able to breathe some new life into these old documents.

Your Contributions

Each of you will be responsible for one issue of the magazine, and you’ll have a partner (or partners) who can check your work (and vice versa) every step of the way. Accuracy is essential on a project like this, so I would rather see us go slow and get it right than rush to produce a second-rate project. Our individual job descriptions might evolve as we work on the project, but, at minimum, you should plan on completing the following tasks:

  • Scanning your issue of The Gray Jacket (with assistance from Marc Brodsky and Adrienne Serra in Special Collections). This process will produce high-resolute .tiff files (which the Library will archive) and lower-resolution .jpeg files (which we will use on our site).
  • OCRing your scanned images using OmniPage (again, with assistance from Special Collections). This process will produce searchable PDF files.
  • Extracting the raw text from your searchable PDF files and editing it for accuracy and consistency with other issues of the magazine.
  • Adding your artifacts (images, text, etc.) and their associated metadata to our Omeka site.
  • Contributing to the design and functionality of the finished website.

The final component of the project is a short memo to me (no longer than a page, please) that evaluates your own work and the work of your classmates on this project. I would also be grateful for any feedback that might help me this project or other collaborative projects in my future classes. (What did we do well? How could I have managed or delegated our work more effectively?) You should upload your memo to your shared Google Drive folder (in Google Docs format) before you come to class on October 20.

Evaluation Criteria

I will evaluate your work on this assignment using the following criteria:

  • Have you and your teammate(s) republished your assigned issue in its entirety on the Gray Jacket website?
  • Did you do your share of the work? In other words, did you make a contribution to the project that was roughly equal to the contributions made by your classmates?
  • Did you get the details right? In other words, do your contributions to the site follow the naming and editing conventions that we have established for this project?
  • Does your final memo honestly and accurately assess your work and the work of your classmates?