Welcome to the Pre-Conference Conversations for the New England American Studies Conference. We're writing about the things we'll talk about the conference--join the conversation!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Workshop: "Samson Occom, Early American Archives, and Digital Humanities”

The digital turn has had an enormous effect on our ability to present manuscript documents, which predominate in the early period, as well as the literature, history, and culture of ethnic groups. At the same time, digital technology allows us to explore post-Eurocentric approaches to editing, presenting, annotating, and repatriation of sensitive materials. My current project, the Occom Circle, brings together these three elements of the digital revolution, which I will explore this coming Saturday afternoon in a workshop featuring the project. The Occom Circle is a digital scholarly edition of works by and about Samson Occom (1723-1792), a member of the Mohegan tribe of east-central Connecticut. Occom was a Christian minister and Indian missionary to various tribes, as well as an educator, pan-tribal leader, and public intellectual, and is considered the first major Native writer in North America. Many of his papers are in the Libraries at Dartmouth College, along with the papers of Eleazar Wheelock, a Congregational minister who was Occom's teacher and mentor and who parlayed his success in shaping Occom as a missionary into a veritable educational industry, establishing, first, an Indian Charity School in Lebanon, CT, which he later moved to the wilds of New Hampshire where it became Dartmouth College. The relationship of these two men is fascinating, and we will explore it through letters they wrote to each other. I will also talk about how digital editions can advance a post-Eurocentric paradigm for multi-ethnic projects (I am also eager to talk with the folks presenting on the Omeka software) and how digital humanities is radically changing how we do and define our work (this touches on Jonathan Silverman's blog post about the roundtable "The Misread Professor". But the really fun part will be trying our hands at transcribing, reviewing, marking up and validating letters from the the collection. Unfortunately, I cannot bring the originals along but I will have copies and access to pretty good facsimiles, (with a great zoomify applet) like the one below. It's the first page of what I call "the break-up letter" between Occom and Wheelock! (Occom was angry that Wheelock sent him to Europe to collect funds for the Indian Charity School and then absconded to New Hampshire with them but did not enroll many Indians at the College.) But don't worry, I won't assign this letter in the workshop--it's too faded and hard to read, and I have done a fair transcription already that we can examine. If you would like to learn more about digital editing, markup, and TEI headers, and try your hand, please join me
and BRING YOUR LAPTOPS. See you there. Ivy

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