[T]he possibilities offered by “interpretive tagging,”… enable the information about an individual writer’s life and work to be searched by time, place, genre and occupation. One can look at all the authors who were nuns or librarians; who wrote agit-prop, anthems or art criticism, who had links with Scarborough or South Africa. The biographers can also be interrogated in multiple further ways. Such options enable kinds of research quite impossible in a book. But they also indirectly help generate alternatives to more “mainstream” perspectives (50).
Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present is a highly dynamic textbase. It is a rich resource for researchers, for students, and for readers with an interest in literature, women’s writing, or cultural history more generally. With about 8 million words of text, it is full of interpretive information on women, writing, and culture. It includes documents on the lives and writing careers of over 1,305 writers, together with a great deal of contextual historical material on relevant subjects, such as the law, economics, science, writing by men, education, medicine, politics.
The Orlando Project has for the last decade been conducting research for a major project in literary history and an experiment in humanities computing. It has produced the first full scholarly history of women’s writing in the British Isles – but this is history with a difference. The Orlando textbase is designed to exploit the possibilities of computing for humanities scholarship. The Orlando team has developed computing technologies to meet the needs of its researchers and readers, who are able to manipulate in creative ways the information in the textbase.
Orlando‘s content and the means of its delivery are inseparable and essential elements of the one thing. They were built together, with the result that Orlando is highly responsive to questions its readers ask. The unique structure and searchability of Orlando allows readers to examine the information in a wide range of configurations. The textbase is open to the serendipities of productive browsing, but is also designed for searchers with a specific agenda —that is, for answering precise, complex questions.
The Orlando Project is based in the Department of English and Film Studies and Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, with a major site in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. Other members of the team are at universities in Canada, the UK, the US and Australia. Funding for The Orlando Project has been given by the University of Alberta, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the University of Guelph, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.