A January 2015 Independent Study Project

The work of this small group ISP will unfold in the archives of the Ringling Museum. We will succumb to archive fever, as Derrida so aptly put it, working with John and Mable Ringling’s rare books. The rare book collection represents the material trace of their desire to educate themselves in literature, art, history, landscape and interior design. Since the Ringling is consulted primarily for its visual arts and circus history materials, this ISP affords a rare opportunity to interpret the meanings of its almost entirely neglected literary holdings. As we examine the rare book collection as a record of the socio-cultural desires of its creators we will interpret the parasemantic meanings of material objects and determine how to represent these in a digital environment. In doing so students will gain practice with digital annotation, basic archival visualization protocols, and collaboratively designing a website. 

In our examinations we will look for annotations, markings, inscriptions, and signs of reading in the wear and tear, earmarks, and cracks in book spines. In addition to these examinations of reader use, we will consider broader questions about book history, fine press and commercial printing conventions, and early twentieth-century collecting practices. What networks of authors, editors, publishers, readers, and collectors does this archive construct?

 By the end of the term you will be able to articulate how bibliographic codes reinforce linguistic codes, the political implications of archives, and apply the terms of analytic bibliography. Depending on group interest we may also wish to consider Mable’s rose garden and the estate’s landscaping as vegetal archives that extend the textual archive.



To satisfactorily complete this ISP you will be expected to meet twice a week as a group at the Ringling Museum Library for archival work, read and discuss essays on theories of the archive, and contribute your own digital artifact page of a rare book of your choice to the collaboratively-constructed class website. As a group you will determine how to design the class digital archive so as to demonstrate the Ringling collection’s place in early twentieth-century intellectual and social networks, interrelationships between its documents, and the ways in which users might explore the website. Students who have not yet taken a class with me are encouraged to enroll in this ISP rather than proposing an individual ISP.