Dr. Patricia Clements, founding director of the Orlando Project, has received an honorary D.Litt. from the University of Alberta. Dr. Clements, along with thirteen other outstanding individuals, will participate in celebrating and encouraging the University of Alberta graduating class of June 2015.
What is Orlando?
The Orlando Project is an experiment in the integration of text and technology. It has designed and continues to enhance digital tools to harness the power of computers for critical literary and historical research. The project's constantly expanding and improving storehouse of knowledge about women's lives and writings, the Orlando textbase itself, is rendered uniquely searchable and sortable by its encoding. Its widening of the knowledge base in cultural history goes together with the training and professional development of generations of students.
The project began when Patricia Clements, Isobel Grundy, and Susan Brown proposed to research and write a much-needed literary history and to deliver it electronically. It was a bold move: such an undertaking had not previously been attempted in kind, scale, or complexity, and at this stage in the development of humanities computing – the mid 1990s – it was by no means clear either that text encoding (markup) could produce meaningful results in so complex a field as literary history or even that an extensively encoded text could be effectively deployed and accessed on the internet. Nevertheless, Brown, Clements, and Grundy, traditionally trained and hitherto non-computational professors of English, set out to create a multidisciplinary team which could both produce a major history of women’s writing in the British Isles and conceive and build this as a digital history.
The Orlando Project is collaborative and multidisciplinary. The venture at its core brings together literary scholars, digital humanists, and computing scientists, and from the beginning the team has benefited from the generous collaboration of distinguished digital humanists from across Canada and internationally. Orlando research is cross-cultural, and student colleagues – of whom the Project has trained upwards of 85, and rising – learn about both editorial and archival research, and document analysis and markup. Professors and student researchers alike are excited by the experimental environment.
The history the team built is the product of massive scholarly research, of Orlando’s tagsets (built in-house), and of the Orlando production system. Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present was published online by Cambridge University Press in 2006 at orlando.cambridge.org/. It is an unprecedented work of literary scholarship. Not a book, though in length the equivalent of about 80 scholarly books, and not a digital edition of an existing text, it is a richly searchable textbase that caters to the individual research interests of readers/users. Orlando’s unique encoding system enables users to search and recombine detailed accounts of authors’ lives and writing careers, plus extensive contextual material in a way that has never before been possible.
The Orlando Project team continues to explore ways in which the digital can enrich the textual, and its technologies have enabled other innovative projects. CWRC, the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (www.cwrc.ca), led by Susan Brown and built on Orlando as a web-based service-oriented platform, combining a repository and a toolkit, empowers scholars through new ways of pursuing research into Canadian writing and culture.
Searching in Orlando
The first three entry points to Orlando are People (for author entries singly or in groups, and other names), Chronologies (timelines by word, date, or tag), and Tag Search. Tag Search offers picklists of tags, with explanatory diagrams showing relationships between tags. This starburst represents the chief tags in the Production section of the Writing schema developed by Orlando. Some of these have subtags not represented here. For example, the Mode of Publication tag can be narrowed to subtags about subscription, or limited edition, etc.
CONFERENCE NEWS: Digital Diversity 2015: Writing | Feminism | CultureWhereas the Orlando textbase was first published by Cambridge University Press in 2006, the Orlando Project itself began in 1995. This May, the conference Digital Diversity 2015: Writing | Feminism | Culture will take place in Edmonton to mark the Orlando Project’s 20th birthday and to explore ongoing advances in the fields of digital literary and cultural studies. We look forward to welcoming an international, multidisciplinary group of delegates, who will participate in workshops, panels, and poster and demo sessions. For more information about the conference, including its featured speakers, check out its website at digitaldiversity2015.org and follow its Twitter account @digdiv2015.
Orlando in the Media
Orlando’s Design Research
Explore in Orlando
24 May 1655
Hester Biddle issued her two first tracts on the same day: the almost identical Wo to thee City of Oxford and Wo to thee Towne of Cambridge.
24 May 1675
Anthony Wood, passionate collector of historical ephemera, carried off for his collection a petition to parliament which he found provided as toilet paper in a London privy.
24 May 1689
The Toleration Act (or Act of Toleration) declared that statutes against Protestant Dissenters would no longer be enforced; it did not, however, take them off the books.Dissenters, though not Catholics, were now free to worship in their own way. At the same time episcopacy was abolished in Scotland, where the established religion was Presbyterianism.
- 24 May 1655
May 21, 2015 ·
February 28, 2015 ·
The Orlando textbase was on free access for March 2015 (Women’s History Month). We hear this was much enjoyed.
January 19, 2015 ·
Dr Michelle Levy of Simon Fraser University is to use data from Orlando for The Women’s Print History Project, 1750-1830 (awarded a SSHRC Insight Grant), the first comprehensive bibliographical database of women’s contributions to print for this crucial period. This project will build on the now extensive body of qualitative historical scholarship on women’s writing to enable rigorous quantitative analysis of patterns in women’s print history and to foster better . . . Read more
November 27, 2014 ·
The Orlando Lecture series was launched on 4 November 2014 to
celebrate the feminist achievements of the University of Alberta’s
Department of English and Film Studies, including both the Orlando
Project and the Orlando textbase. The inaugural lecture was delivered
to a packed and appreciative audience by Larissa Lai and Rita Wong.
Opening up Orlando reminds me of first seeing Judy Chicago’s installation The Dinner Party (a work likewise remarkable in form as much as content)—three decades later, it is still thrilling and affirming to have women’s countless contributions to Western culture and society made visible. What is new in the twenty-first century, however, is that now the guest list of history-making women is electronic—and there are always more seats at the table. In this sense, Orlando goes beyond earlier constructions of alternative canons, whose printed form tended to reproduce hierarchies of “major” and “minor” writers, not to mention the naturalization of a fixed tradition (143).
We might say, then, that Orlando’s narrative is grand not in its seamless hegemony but rather in its tireless productivity. Ceding narratorial agency to each user, this is a women’s history intrinsically committed to a process of continual revision and multiplication of variants (144).
Flexible, practical, and worldly in its approach to identity politics, Orlando is a good example of what I have optimistically begun to call the New Women’s Studies: feminist scholarship willing once again to proceed under the sign of “women”—not in defiance of theoretical work disaggregating “women” and destabilizing “identity” but precisely through having engaged with and processed this work to the point of making it our common sense (146).
Like most scholars today, I make frequent use of digital databases . . . . Most of these sessions have left me jaded about the motivations (grant capture before research questions) and limitations (potential obsolescence) of such initiatives. Orlando is, and hopefully will remain, one of the exceptions in this landscape. . . . the term textbase rather than database signal[s] the myriad ways the text and electronic structure can provide qualitative responses to complex research questions. This is not digitisation with extras but literary scholarship and history that is searchable and adaptable to the needs of individual researchers.
Melanie Bigold. ABO. Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 3:1 (April 2013).
Because of the ways in which the extensive data can be mined or formulated, Orlando offers the best access to information on British women writers and serves as a model for similar databases that will supplant printed literary dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks (187).
Wernimont takes Orlando, together with Women Writers Online, as “exemplary instances of digital literary scholarship.” Orlando’s DTDs or interpretive markup, she writes, are tools which are generative and transformative, not merely declarative. They "can be read as paratextual with respect to the absent primary texts — the literary texts written by women that Orlando articles discuss. Consequently, we can see this markup as generating a feminist and materialist hermeneutic space through which a reading of primary texts is enabled.”
Jacqueline Wernimont, “Whence Feminism? Assessing Feminist Interventions in Digital Literary Archives” (Digital Humanities Quarterly, 7: 1 (2013), http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/7/1/000156/000156.html#fraiman2008.
The Orlando textbase is one of those online resources that can swallow hours of your life in pleasurable, work-related browsing. This seductive capacity to devour time may or may not be a good thing, depending on whether you should actually be planning a lecture or marking essays, but it is certainly enjoyable and, joking apart, Orlando is also undoubtedly useful. Those working in the long eighteenth century will find it an informative and in some respects unique research tool, with much of interest for scholars of the period.” (277).
Bibliographic citation links allow you to see where just about everything has come from, and also mean that anyone coming fresh to a particular writer has a useful starting-point for building up a bibliography. This is one of the many ways in which Orlando provides something very different from the various printed dictionaries, encyclopaedias and guides to women’s writing available (277).