Advanced Composition

Reading & Writing in Digital Environments

Tag: archive

Progression of the Archive Project

Starting off this project, I was pretty much lost. I had no idea how this project would end up in the long run or how the process would even happen. Of course, I knew my first step would involve taking a trip to the archive and just looking at the folders in which I had chosen to review.

From there, our group got together and started talking about ways that we would present our findings to the class. I honestly had no clue except for the fact that we would have to write a paper of some sort. After discussing with the group, we decided we were going to present the pictures in a power point and describe each picture.

But how were we going to organize the material in a sense that would be easy to follow? After this past Monday, my group and I made a layout as to how we would go about presenting the information and in what order we would do so. First, we plan on describing the journals and diaries we found and then we would dive into speaking of the books and articles H.A. Rey pasted in his diary. This will represent his inspiration. Georgie will then speak of her findings in which describes his work towards one of his first books as his work in progress. Finally, Mia will speak of the transactions he recorded in his journal entries.

Overall, I was a bit uneasy at the beginning of this assignment. After having several class and group discussions, I am becoming more at ease with the project. I hope the flow can continue flowing!

Into the Gothic Past

Gowran Church


Gothic Past is an open-access online digital archive of medieval Irish architecture and sculpture.  The research project that produced it is located at Trinity College Dublin and receives funding from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.  Images on the site come from physical collections of items and photographs, some as old as 80 years.  Researchers not only have footnotes on images of the artifacts, but detailed graphs using meta-data from the entire archive.  They utilize the Omeka software platform to house and display the database.  A collection of this size would be fascinating enough to visit in a museum, but I am very pleased with the conveniences and search capabilities of the website  Their advance search options are comparable, and even better than many websites I’ve visited in the past.  This, more than anything, drew me in when I started exploring.  I learn how to locate information on a new website quickly, and this interface proved very easy to use.

Open-access archives are extremely useful not only for academic purposes, but mind expanding for the riveted fan of the Gothic period.  Some may argue that the only way to grasp the beauty and power of these objects is to see them in person, but in the absence of that, we have a treasure trove of images, multimedia, expert commentary, and an interactive map.  Even to the well-traveled, many of these locations and artifacts are unseen.  The level of detail and commentary is similar to having a well-versed tour guide as you visit each site in Ireland.  We have the opportunity to travel from our computer chair any time we want!  Many photos linked to the archive are exported from collections outside of Trinity College.  The researchers also stated their intent to allow users to submit information and photographs of their own to allow the collection to continue to grow organically, rather than at the pace of the curators.


Notre-Dame du Folgo


My journey into this medieval library was a very exciting one, because of my love for Gothic sculptures.  They’ve been showcased in many of my favorite video games and movies.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours under the virtual shadows of these massive cathedrals and intricate pillars.  Now, I can take a closer look.  My wife’s ancestors are also from Ireland, so being able to show off to her what I find is a bonus.  Every culture has art worth preserving and studying, but I find Ireland a very unique and beautiful subject for this review.  The story begins with three collections: Stalley, Rae‘s medieval Irish architecture and sculpture, and O’Donovan‘s Irish Gothic moulding profiles.  These can be accessed from the home page, but selecting the ‘Collections’ menu navigation button at the top.  I will admit that at first glance three of the options seem very similar, and on my first visit I wasn’t sure of their distinction.  This could lead to more of a wandering exploration at first.

‘Archive’ lists over three thousand individual items with detailed catalogue information like the artist, location, tags, source file, etc.  Searching by tags keeps the site up to speed with most current blogs and social media sites by making individual pieces that interest an individual easily accessible.    ‘Collections’ gives a link to each of the major collections: the three mentioned above, and other smaller ones.  I did not find these links easy to locate.  They are the name of the collection, but the coloring is very similar to the rest of the text on the page.  I hope they’re able to make these the standard blue or point to them in some other way, even though it doesn’t impede progress completely.  Last of the three, ‘Exhibits’ showcases some of the connections that were found by the researchers by data mining the archive for keywords.  Having a good understanding of these three menu options made my search around the site more efficient.  I would like to see dropdown menus added so that viewers can get a sense of what the section is all about before investing in changing the page.  This sounds unimportant, but it doesn’t take long to irritate today’s browser users into going somewhere else.  How we would hope they’d check out some of the gems here.


Abbey Church of Saint-Pierre


Under Exhibits, there was one project that suggests a kind of ‘Medieval Social Networking’, the author creates an interactive association bubble map of the masons, patrons, and related persons of a certain age of architecture.  There are three association maps, each with clickable sub-bubbles, and this is by far my favorite exhibit.  In the others I browsed, I didn’t find any use of the ‘big data’ touted in the About section.  Here, though, the researcher found very interesting connections to prestigious families from the time period.  There are amazing possibilities to take advantage of if this type of data mining is done with more of the artifacts.  There is a popular idea that machines cannot create new information, only reiterate what we could find out for ourselves.  Waiting lifetimes for scholars to compile such research is not a pleasant thing, though.  We need results as soon as possible since we have other technology at our disposal to find some genuine insights in these chunks of culture.

Gothic Past has both feet in the digital revolution, taking many steps to ensure it stays relevant and accessible to all demographics.  Their presentation of the information is well organized, visually pleasing, and annotated by experts to give it credibility.  The researchers at Trinity College Dublin take great pains to preserve even images of ancestral buildings and carvings, since the originals often don’t look the same now as they did then.  The benefit for scholars and students that comes from the extensive search options cannot be overstated.  Neither can their generosity to make the artifacts and studies available to anyone that has internet access.  Rich discussion of past cultures and what they left behind is an important part of our learning process.  How appropriate that it takes place in a new forum, with a larger toolbox at the ready.

The Finding Aid Gives Me a Glimpse of the Past

Stumbling upon the finding aid, I was immediately overwhelmed with all of the accessible information of H. A. and Margret Rey. Of their works alone, I learned that there is a heaping 303 boxes of the Rey’s creative originality. Whether it is the rough drafts, manuscripts, sketches or side notes, all of the information and steps taken into publishing their works are absolutely remarkable.

After becoming more familiar with the primary principles of using the finding aid, I did not find myself to be as overwhelmed as before. Though there is an abundant amount of information to see, it is surprisingly organized. As I have mentioned before, the page I was initially directed to carried a lot of information and endless scrolls of words that seemed a bit foreign. After reading through it some more, I learned that the bolded scriptures placed on the left side of the page were titled according to one’s desired search. Following the bolded headings, there would be brief descriptions about what one may find under this listing.

One item that caught me by surprise foremost was the fact that there are even preserved audio recordings and videos found within this archive. Of the 303 boxes, H.A. and Margret Rey have saved audio records. I can only imagine how surreal such an instance may be to just listen to them. It is strange enough to have availability to everything else, but audio recordings really top it off. Another fascinating fact I came across pertains to the language of the works of the Reys. Though the main language in majority of the findings is English, some pieces are even written in German, French and Portuguese!

Overall, I am pretty excited to get the ball rolling and to start participating in some hands on research of the infamous archive.


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