Pedagogical Outreach for NINES

I’m happy to announce that I am now on the NINES Executive Council as the Head of Pedagogical Outreach! I’m honored by this new position, and I’m eager to start!

In the coming weeks and months, I hope to do a survey of how the projects NINES has peer-reviewed are used in classes and start creating a repository of lesson plans and assignments.

To start us off, here is an example of how I’ve used the crowd-sourcing project Book Traces in the classroom. For anyone who hasn’t yet used it, Book Traces is a site, sponsored by NINES, that collects 19th century marginalia from 19th century books located in the stacks (not special collections) of university libraries. Participants then photograph these examples of marginalia and upload them into the site to create an archive of readers’ markings in texts, helping scholars examine how actual Victorian readers responded to literature. In my introduction to digital humanities class, my students first read articles about Book Traces, then met with librarian Stephan Macaluso, who explained how to recognize different types of 19th century handwriting (Copperplate, Spencerian, and Palmer) and writing implements (steel-nip and fountain pen) so they could figure out which marginalia would meet the assignment requirements. Armed with this knowledge, we let them loose in the stacks. Even though SUNY New Paltz’s library only contains about 2000 books from the 19th century, most of my students were able to find examples to upload into Book Traces, and in fact, they uploaded the 400th unique volume into the site. Here are some of their most interesting discoveries:


One student found a handwritten letter in German from 1897 attached to the inside cover of Johann Gustav Droysen’s Principles of History, which was translated from the original German into English by E. Benjamin Andrews. The letter appears to be from the writer to the translator, giving him permission to translate the book into English.


lupinoAnother student found the book Shakespeare: The Man and his Stage with the inscription “To Barry Lupino . . . .a souvenir, Theatre Royal Huddenfield, July 16, 1923 from Alfred Wareing”: with some research, she was able to determine that Lupino was a British actor, and Wareing, a theatrical producer with a reputation for producing demanding productions and creating the Theatre Royal.

Book Traces gets students into the library, encourages them to rethink their definition of a book, and engages them in a large-scale scholarly project, while showing them that research can be fun. If you’d like to do an assignment like this in one of your classes, feel free to use my assignment as a model:

If you have assignments using digital projects that NINES has peer-reviewed, or if you have other ideas as to how NINES can bolster its pedagogical mission, please email, tweet, or comment on this post!

I look forward to hearing from all of you!