The Walt Whitman Archive – Price 1
Kenneth M. Price
1What are the strengths of this archive? How would you use or refer to this site in your own work?
Kenneth M. Price
Co-Director, The Walt Whitman Archive Hillegass University Professor of American Literature – University of Nebraska-Lincoln
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 At this time, the Walt Whitman Archive is the single most extensive resource for the study of Whitman, and it has progressed steadily toward its primary goal: “to make Whitman’s vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers.” We take an expansive view of what is relevant “Whitman” material in a digital thematic research collection,[ref]Carole L. Palmer, “Thematic Research Collections,” In A Companion to Digital Humanities (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 348-65.[/ref] so we include both Whitman-authored pieces and incoming correspondence, reviews of his writings, selected recent criticism, and other materials not usually included in “collected works.” We aspire to produce the richest possible resource for the study of his writings, life, and reception. Our annotated bibliography, the logical starting point for scholarly work on the poet, includes all known critical writings about Whitman from 1839 to the present day—it comprises over 14,000 entries and continues to grow. The site receives a great deal of traffic: in a typical recent month (February 2010) we had nearly 39,000 visits to our site, more than 30,000 of which were by unique visitors.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 As a project co-director, I coordinate the ongoing work necessary to build it. (Ed Folsom and I work closely with Elizabeth Lorang, the current project manager, in this capacity.) The site is less used in my work than it regularly constitutes a major part of my work as a scholar. At times, though, I employ the site in much the same manner as other literary scholars, albeit with greater knowledge of the site’s strengths and limitations and with awareness of material now in the pipeline that isn’t currently available to the public. As a literary critic, I appreciate what the Whitman Archive makes newly possible. For example, those of us writing about Whitman can now trace the development of his poetry across multiple versions—in isolated manuscript drafts; in notebooks; in periodical printings; and in various book publications—in a way that was all but unimaginable before the advent of the Web. His manuscripts are dispersed at nearly one hundred repositories around the world. In some cases, what was once a single manuscript has become separated into parts, with different sections of the manuscript held in repositories separated by great distance. Such manuscripts can now be virtually reunited.
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The Whitman Archive has become fundamental to criticism, but citation of the Archive lags behind its actual use. A recent study by Lisa Spiro and Jane Segal indicates that many people use major American literature web sites, including the Whitman Archive, only to then cite print sources.[ref]“The Impact of Digital Resources on Humanities Research” available at
[/ref] This ill-conceived practice needs to change in order for digital humanities to get its due. To enable people to reference individual parts of the Whitman Archive more easily, all Archive pages will soon include additional metadata for use with Zotero and other reference management software. In my own scholarly practice, I have cited the Whitman Archive many times, and when Susan Belasco, Ed Folsom, and I compiled the collection Leaves of Grass: The Sesquicentennial Essays (University of Nebraska Press, 2007), we advised all contributors to cite the Whitman Archive when referring to Whitman texts.