I am excited to announce that for my CHI Fellowship project this year, I will be creating the Stratford Heritage Guide. This project will explore the subjective nature of Stratford-upon-Avon’s relationship with Shakespeare and examine how narratives about that town that are presented as completely objective have attempted to influence visitors’ perspectives. The presentation of Shakespeare’s legacy has evolved over the centuries, and narratives regarding the greatness of the playwright have been curated in very specific and intentional ways to cement him as an English cultural icon. However, the gravitation toward the playwright’s childhood home and grave site did not become popular until the 19th century. By analyzing guidebooks from this period, I hope to demonstrate how public understanding of the various monuments in Stratford has evolved and analyze how the information provided in these guidebooks has been continually reinvented over time.
Over the course of next semester, I will create a website that consists of four main sections: a map, a narrative with data visualizations, an account of methodology, and an access point for users to easily explore the guidebooks I used through Google Books. There will also be an about page with information about how the project connects to my dissertation and credits any contributors to the project. The map will be created using Leaflet and include a layer for each of the individual guidebooks. Each layer will demonstrate the way visitors are instructed to approach the town per that guidebook. Markers will include an image of that site and a brief excerpt from the guidebook about that site. The icons will be numbered so users know the order described in that guidebook. All popups will have a link to further information about that site on a webpage that compares how the site is described across the corpus. The narrative page will include an analysis of topic models I run on the guidebooks in Voyant. This narrative will include an analysis of a series of data visualizations created in Flourish from the data generated by the topic models. The methodology page will account for the decisions I made when data cleaning the OCR copies of the guidebooks, running iterations for the topic models, and deciding what choices I made when creating the visualizations to represent this data. Finally, I will have a page that links to each of the guidebooks in Google Books so they are more easily findable for users.
In contrast to the Stratford Memory Map, which I created last year, this project will be geared more specifically to a scholarly audience. However, it will still be accessible to the public. Ideally, the map will be useful or interesting to a wider audience while those who would like to explore the data in a more in-depth way could do so via the topic modeling analysis. I am also hopeful that this year (although most likely not until summer) I may have opportunities visit archives and libraries such as the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Folger Shakespeare Library, and Newberry Library to work directly with the guidebooks rather than via the inconsistent scans on Google Books.
I am looking forward to keeping the CHI community posted on this project in the coming months, and I am hopeful that I can take everything I learned from last year to create a website that is well-constructed and conveys a clear narrative.