Walt’s Archive, The Whitman Project

The Walt Whitman Project is a Digital Humanist’s dream. It contains in its virtual walls more than 800 of Whitman’s letters, his endeavors in journalism, and a concise biography of his life, just to name a few of the types of information the project offers on the man himself. The site itself is very minimal, providing only archive links, a small section dedicated to news updates, and a search bar.

Front Page of the Project

While the disruption of pure information is a source of complaint on almost every other website, the lack of ads or an about page or really anything in regards to the mission of the site seems a little off. Without some context to explain who created this project save for the pull quotation “The Walt Whitman Archive, edited by Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price, is published by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln under a Creative Commons License,” is daunting. Very little clear information is given about the editors themselves, which delegitimizes them in some form. That being said, all of the works that are posted within the eWalls of the archive are seemingly legitimate, after reviewing the site itself I took it upon myself to fact check with another site that contains the works of Whitman by comparing a work of his on both pages— the two were identical in content.

The Whitman Archive is an excellent template for what a Digital Humanities Project should perform like: simple interface, the ability to locate necessary information quickly and easily, and either a full set of completed works or the constant update of said works. The Walt Whitman Archive accomplishes all of those goals very concisely and without a lot of the fluff that surrounds other, more prolific projects. Finding a story or poem by Walt Whitman is simple in the archive, some even including texts in Whitman’s own hand. Navigation to anything one might want to read about Whitman’s life or works is incredibly simple to find, and just as simple to use in any possible projects one might have. Unlike some works collections that exist on the internet, the Whitman Archive allows for the use of copy/paste utilities.

How then, does this project stack up against the myriad of other digital humanities projects that accomplish similar goals? Very well, it would seem. Using other archives are somewhat clunky, works of a web1 age that don’t have the ability to provide quick information and weren't able to learn from the mistakes of their generation. The Whitman Archive is a new page in the verse of the old, without all of the pitfalls that cursed much older archive projects. By pitfalls, I mean the enormous walls of non-html styled text, the singular page that did not contain a table of contents or any real organizational structure to speak of, those types of archaic humanities archives.

All in all the Walt Whitman Archive is a piece of well coded and accessible art. It frames what it needs to frame in a simple manner and is growing in size thanks to a grant they received in August of this year. The Whitman Project picks up where many other humanities projects have been unsuccessful in the past and allows for other works projects to use as a template for what they might want to do in the future.

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