Day of DH, Step by Step

The first thing I did on Sunday morning is the first thing I always do, after getting coffee started: delete as much new email as possible.

Then I had my coffee and a little bit to eat before I went to a book talk about yoga and body image hosted by the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. This coalition is hoping to move yoga in the US a little further from the fashion-industry, body-obsessed culture that dominates so much of American culture. The book we were talking about is this one: Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories about Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body, edited by Melanie Klein and Anna Guest-Jelley.

The weather in central Minnesota was bad Saturday and Sunday. A tornado touched down about 5 miles away from us Saturday night, but while I noticed that it was raining really hard, we didn’t find out about the tornado until the next day.

I got back from the book talk and did a little work on my wiki, where I’m keeping track of social events in late-19th-century London. My thoughtful partner gives me a subscription to the British Library’s British Newspaper Archive for 19th-century newspapers every year, so I’m using contemporary newspaper accounts of social events — parties, dinner parties, garden parties, receptions, gallery openings, theatrical openings, funerals, conversaziones, public lectures, royal “Drawing Rooms” — to collect information about any event that the Victorians themselves would have considered to have had social implications.

By and large, people who study literature and the arts have not concerned themselves with social events, because often there isn’t any Art there. The same holds true for historians and political scientists: social events are not the kind of events most historians and political scientists look at, though I can see that history occurs, politics occur, artists converge, ideas move through the culture. So the field is essentially unplowed and the method is undetermined, which is an invitation it seems to me for digital humanities’ questions and methods.

Mostly, I’m collecting evidence of social events in newspaper articles, including who was there, where it took place, what the weather was like, who came with whom, what music was played, what the food was (if possible), and so on. These days, I’m attempting to assemble a list of everybody who came to a social event hosted by the Prince of Wales, Edward Albert (“Bertie”), eventually King Edward VII of England, and the Princess of Wales, Alexandra (“Alix”). Sometimes Queen Victoria attended, and sometimes she did not.

Here’s a screenshot of the top of the page that lists everybody I have identified so far as having attended:

Screen shot of wiki page showing list of names
People Invited to Social Events Hosted by Bertie and Alix, 1880-1901

Here’s a screenshot showing how many tabs I have open to check the names for each new event (in this case, a garden party at Marlborough House that took place on 14 July 1881:


I hope you can see the tabs in this image, which is kind of small: there are 15 tabs open right now, letting me see the page from the British Newspaper Archive, several pages in Vickypedia, my wiki, and some other web pages to help me identify the names when the newspaper copy is damaged. Here’s the home for Vickypedia:

Homepage of Vickypedia, or Social Victorians (Soc Victs)
The Social Victorian: Parties, Performances, Funerals, and Knots that Collected Eminent and Less-than-Eminent Victorians

Besides identifying the names of the people listed by the newspapers, it is also necessary to figure out who that person was. Between 1880 and 1901, the person inhabiting a title might change 2 or even 3 times, and so while the newspaper identify people by title, in order to graph this social network, I’m going to need to know the name of the individual herself or himself.

I worked on this, tracking the Viscount and Viscountess of Castlereagh, trying to figure out who the individuals were and what kinds of information about those people others at the event might be thinking about. It turns out that the Viscount Castlereagh is a courtesy title for the eldest son of Earl of Londonderry, and there were 2 Viscounts of Castlereagh between 1880 and 1901, so which one was present depends on when the party occurred, which will matter when it comes to building the spreadsheet to put into Gephi to graph the network.

Then my wiki quit responding. The server is in my office, and it has a battery backup, so I don’t know why I couldn’t save my work. The only explanation I can think of is that the power went off, so the server turned off and the battery backup couldn’t reboot it, possibly because the power on the server itself got shut off. So that stopped that.

I ended the day watching the weather on my iPhone and something I had DVR’d because the satellite dish by which we get tv also went down.

Here’s a photo of the large radar map, some time after the worst of the storms had gone through but showing the snow coming behind it. The second image shows a smaller radar map, with the big storms already passed and a new small one still to roll through.

BigRadarMap  SmallRadarMap

Between the unresponsive server, no satellite dish, one storm after another and the potential for snow, though this is now late May, I went to bed and read a print book — the selected letters of Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s 4th daughter, and the person for whom Arthur Collins worked. Arthur Collins (Courtier) was my first article in Wikipedia.

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