Finding Creative Commons Images for Scholarly Work

I recently heard a scholar complain about the lack of images of disability available online.  Working on 19th C Disability:  A Digital Reader, I’ve become a bit of an expert at sussing out nineteenth-century images that are available under a Creative Commons License.  I thought it might be helpful to post about them for those looking to include more images in their blog posts, teaching, or online projects.

1)  Wellcome Images.  Run by Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in London, this resource is just plain amazing, and my first stop for images of nineteenth-century disability.  Many of the images from their vast collection in the history of medicine are available under a Creative Commons License for pedagogical use, online resources, and even academic publications. This resource makes me wish I’d dealt more with visual culture in my book!  Think of all the free images!  Almost the only thing you can’t use these images for without paying is a commercial book or project.  Be a little patient with your search, and you will likely find what you are looking for.

2) National Portrait Gallery, UK.  This is usually my second stop, and also a wonderful resource.  If you work on any British writer or public figure, there’s probably an image there, or even more than one.  Their Creative Commons license is a little bit stricter than that of the Wellcome (you would need to pony up to include one of their images in a professional academic publication), but it’s still great for blogging, online work, and teaching.

3) Library of Congress.  My work focuses on British literature and culture, so this is usually one of my last stops, though of course it might be your first if you are an Americanist.  It has saved me with lovely 19th C images of places like San Remo, where many English invalids (or at least those who could afford it) spent their winters…

4) Wikimedia Commons.  All the images on Wikipedia are available for re-use under a Creative Commons License.  I think the metadata and quality of the files on these other resources is a little better, plus I like promoting libraries and galleries, so I tend to go here last, but boy is there a lot here.

The one thing I would say is be patient with your search.  Not everything is tagged with the first word you put into the search box (in my case usually “disability”), but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Tagging is expensive, and those who do the tagging aren’t mind readers!  But there is A LOT in these archives.  I try to make digging in them my task for those low energy times in the afternoon, when it’s quite pleasant to sit with a cup of tea and look at all the images.

The Nineteenth-Century Novel, Anthropologie Style

Anthroplogie’s classics, re-wrapped.

[Reposted from The Floating Academy]

As a follow up to Jennifer Esmail’s interesting posts on the marketing of Victorian novels with classic status through new covers, I wanted to share these books from Anthropologie, which are nineteenth-century classics being marketed for the holiday season solely through their covers.  In the last post, Jen talked about how Victorian novels like Dracula and Wuthering Heights were being repackaged with gothic covers to  appeal to the Twilight generation, and how this underscored that  more traditional covers are also a form of marketing.

Anthropologie, it seems to me, is positioning these books above all as covetable objects to enhance on one’s shelf rather than something to be read.  I don’t mean that as a negative comment– I’m all for books as aesthetic objects.  Indeed, the audience for these “classics” re-wrapped is none other than me, judging by how many emails I get a day from them and how much I enjoy their sale rack.  The books are whimsical and colourful repackaged bits of nineteenth-century nostalgia.  (Could this be Anthropologie’s overall branding, and why I like it?)  It’s interesting to note that their choices–Wuthering HeightsJane EyreSense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice and Little Women–all feel safely mid-Victorian rather than more threateningly gothic in this packaging, even if one is American, two aren’t Victorian at all, and the ones by the Brontës are rather gothic.

What’s your take?  Would you buy these for the holidays?  I’m limited by shelf space and an aversion to buying books in the public domain that don’t have the added value of scholarly annotations, otherwise I might be tempted…  They are pretty, aren’t they?

Starting Over

When I started out with a project in the digital humanities, I knew that there would be frustrating moments where I’d have to scratch what I’d done and start over.  This is not my usual working process–I don’t ever recall trashing an entire term paper that I’d gotten well into, even in my undergraduate days.  While I often cut as many words as I have in a final chapter or article, everything seems salvageable.  I’m not used to starting over wholesale.

Until now.  When I began work on Nineteenth-Century Disability:  A Digital Reader, I decided to build a shell from scratch for the site using Dreamweaver, which essentially shows you what your HTML (or XHTML or HTML5, you get the picture) and CSS are adding up to, aka what your site looks like, as you go.  (I learned this is called a “what you see is what you get” or WYSIWYG interface.)  I thought using Dreamweaver would be like opening up Word, and that I would just intuitively know how to use the program as someone who more or less grew up with computers.  It wasn’t.  I had to follow the lesson plans in the manual I bought like I was back in grade ten computer science.  There were frustrating moments, like when I couldn’t figure out how to put a submenu below the main navigation (the answer, in case you’re interested, was to just use plain in-line lists for both menus).  But after about six weeks, I had a basic shell for the site that I was happy with, as well as a working knowledge of XHTML and CSS under my belt.  I learned with time and patience on my hands, I could figure these things out.

So, when I went to get some advice on what I’d done from digital humanists in my department, one casually mentioned that though what I’d done looked good for the needs of my project, I might consider migrating to Omeka, made by the same kind people who brought you Zotero, down the road.  Omeka is a content management system (another common example of a CMS would be WordPress) aimed at academics, librarians and museum professionals.  (There’s a great ProfHacker post by Jeffrey W. McClurken explaining it here.)  I went home and took a good look at it.  I mulled it over in the back of my mind as I was annotating and editing the first primary sources for my site.  It had a php database running in the backend, something I knew I could eventually do with Dreamweaver on my own, but which was going to be gruesome.  Moreover, the information in the database was organized according to the Dublin Core RDF, an academic standard that I knew I had to try and meet eventually.  And, their design was better than mine.  This last one shouldn’t have surprised met. While I had great ideas about the colours for the site (which, ahem, strangely matched my ideas for my wardrobe and paint colours–colonials blues, creams, maybe a shot of teal or red), and had learned about trends in web design (no more drop down menus!  they’re dated looking and not super accessible for people with motor and visual impairments), I had zero design experience.

So, I ripped the bandaid off, and migrated the site to Omeka, trashing the old one before it had any content.  Sigh.  At least my initial work taught me what the guts of a basic webpage look like, right?

What does your work process look like, for any project in the humanities?  Do you ever throw out what you’ve done entirely?

Digital Editions

Cover of Cora Kaplan's Olive
Cora Kaplan’s Olive, on sale new at Amazon for $137?! You could probably get a first edition for that!

I have been proof-reading the final version of the special issue of Women’s Writing on Dinah Mulock Craik this week.  It’s exciting to see it all coming together.  And though a typo or two doesn’t really bother me in a student paper (I think I’m more lax than a lot of my colleagues in that department), once I get into, there’s something tremendously satisfying about catching those last few typos for a publication.  For some reason, switching everything from American to British punctuation (forgot to tell the contributors about that one!) felt particularly good.  There’s something very zen about concentrating on moving commas and periods outside the quotation marks for two hours.  Plus, you get to feel productive.  And when you’re done, everything is finished and correct, a feeling one rarely gets from rewriting, say, a conclusion, which could always be better, couldn’t it?

One question that arose for me as I was proof-reading contributor’s bibliographies was which editions people cite as standard.  It’s pretty easy when it comes to an author like Charles Dickens, whose entire works are in print.  Scholars tend to choose the Penguins or the OUP editions, on the grounds that they want a reliable edition that is also easy for people to get ahold of and check out the passages they’re citing.

This is much more complicated when it comes to an author like Dinah Mulock Craik.  Sure, there are popular editions of The Little Lame Prince, and a Broadview edition of John Halifax, Gentleman.  And for those works that have never really been re-issued, like, say, A Brave Lady, people tend to use whatever copy is in their university library.  (Cornell had a giant run of Tauchnitz editions that I used in grad school when it came to popular books like G.A. Lawrence’s Guy Livingstone.)  I think Olive is a particular problem for Craik studies.  Cora Kaplan put out a great edition with OUP fifteen years ago, which the majority of people still cite, but it’s been out of print for over ten years.

Some of these editions obviously aren’t that easy for anyone to get ahold of, making it difficult for people to look up the passages you so brilliantly analyze.  So, my question is, if part of the selection criteria for editions we use is accessibility, should we be moving to editions that are available freely online?  If not the ones put out by commercial enterprises like Google Books, then maybe the ones digitized by universities themselves?