Instructional Improvement Grant 04-05

Date: February 17, 2004


Ronald W. Tobin, Associate Vice Chancellor
Patricia Fumerton
Director, English Department Early Modern Center
Instructional Improvement Grant Proposal
Requested Amount: $24,563.88
Carl Gutierrez-Jones
Chair, English Department


The English Department's Early Modern Center requests funds to expand its digital archive in order to enhance its undergraduate specialization in early modern studies. The Center has already established the basis of a large, fully-searchable Picture Gallery, with Slideshow feature (mostly through Instructional Improvement Grants for 2001-2002 and 2003-2004). We also this year created a prototype for a new English Ballad Archive, 1500-1700. Beginning this summer, and during the requested grant period for 2004-2005, we plan:

  1. further work on the Picture Gallery: addition of more images together with their full identification and keywording (not only from the slide collections of English department faculty but also from the holdings of other Humanities faculty in early modern studies, such a those of Anita Guerrini in the History Department and Simon Williams in Dramatic Arts); and quarterly instruction to all interested UC early modernists in the use of the gallery database and slideshow feature.
  2. groundwork for the English Ballad Archive, 1500-1700. Funds would be used to gather together ballads from microfilm into a fully searchable database. This is preparative to mounting three undergraduate classes over a three-year period devoted to modernizing and editing the online ballads, as well as to composing and mounting online introductory essays that place the ballads in their full cultural context. The result would be a ballads archive usable by early modern faculty in many courses, especially the large English Department survey courses, 1500-1800.


The English Department's Early Modern Center, established in 2000, is the first of the many such proclaimed "Centers" on the web to create a space for collaboration between faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in the advancement of cultural studies of England, 1500-1800, through state-of-the-art computing resources. I should emphasize that the work of the Center (as of most of the English Department's faculty these days) is to advance cultural studies, that is, studies of literature in the context of cultural phenomena (painting, architecture, politics, religion, and the like). Such cultural study characterizes the very cutting edge of literary criticism today and is, by definition, involved in an interdisciplinary enterprise that often involves other campus departments, such as Art History, History, and Music. What makes our Center unique is the sheer number of faculty in the English Department engaged in such studies of the early modern period (no less than 9), our timely extension of the term "early modern" to include Renaissance as well as Eighteenth Century, and our placing the faculty and their students together in a facility that puts at their disposal the most advanced electronic equipment and databases available in the profession to date. But we do not aim merely to provide a "lab" for computing and collaborative work. We aim to provide (and have already laid the groundwork for) a large and deep archive of electronic resources that will continue to grow and be used by faculty and students for years to come. Our web page can be found at Since parts of the site, such as the Picture Gallery, are password protected, I have created a temporary username and password for reviewers of this grant, so that you may view the full site when you login. The username you may use is "senate" and the password is "grant04." Since you may not have a computer in front of you as you read this proposal, I have also printed out some of the pages from the site (these printouts include the Picture Gallery search page; a sample product of a gallery search; a sample Slideshow manager page; a sample page of a slideshow viewing; ; the mock-up home page of our planned Ballad Archive; a sample ballad entry in blackletter (gothic) and in whiteletter (roman) font, as well as a sample of completed categories from the header links for the ballad, "Anne Wallens Lamentation").

a) Picture Gallery

In 2000 the EMC was awarded an Instructional Improvement Grant in order to advance its 2001-02 theme of Early Modern Visual Culture (every year the Center mounts courses and events around a chosen theme, which culminates for undergraduates in a spring conference; at this conference undergraduates deliver presentations arising out of the theme courses they took that year). Part of the grant monies went toward mounting course syllabi, creating online readers, and developing online resources for the students' use on Visual Culture. All these materials remain in the EMC archive. But more importantly, in advancing the Visual Culture theme, the majority of the Instructional Improvement Grant went toward the creation of a searchable database of images, 1500-1800. The idea behind the creation of this database was to begin the process of housing, in easily searchable form, all images used in courses and research by UCSB early modern faculty and graduate students. The English department was and is in a unique position to do this because we alone, among the Humanities departments, have our own Server (Windows not Unix), which supports the sophisticated database program SQL Server 2000. It should be noted that, while LSIT would house images for a department or individual faculty member, it will not support and maintain a database. Our Server is maintained by a full-time staff person, Brian Reynolds, as well as by the faculty member Alan Liu and a small group of technologically-advanced graduate students. So the English department has the special means to answer the pressing call for a searchable database of images. It should also be noted that the demand for such a database for use in instruction is high. Our images cannot simply be accessed from other sites on the web because they represent the corpus of images our individual faculty and students use in their individual courses. My teaching of literature and visual culture, for instance, draws in one week on about 50 of the sketches made by Inigo Jones for the court masques of seventeenth-century England. Only a few of these images are available via other web sites and, even if I were only to need those few images, skipping around from one to another link would be cumbersome and time-consuming. Our goal, first and foremost, was to build an archive of images that would be quickly searchable and specifically suited to UCSB English Department courses.

During the grant period, we came a long way to doing just that. A graduate student computer programmer worked in SQL Server to create a robust database for holding and searching images, and other students worked on scanning in slides and book illustrations, which they stored on our Server. Over 1,000 images were mounted in 3 different sizes (thumbnail for quick viewing, medium for more detail, and large for up-close viewing). Every image was identified by artist, title, date, location, media, and keywords, and is searchable by these categories individually and in combination. Products of a search produce thumbnail images which include an ID number. If clicked on, the thumbnail presents a medium-sized image with full information about the picture, and if that image is clicked on the large-sized image appears. Though we began to run out of time and money by the end of the funding period, the programmer managed to put together a rudimentary interface by which slideshows could be created from the resulting Picture Gallery. In the course of 2002-2003, with about $2,500 in funding from the English Department and the College of Letters and Science, the EMC was able to create most of a new slideshow feature, which includes within it a search engine that draws on the gallery database. This is an extraordinarily sophisticated interface, which allows instructors to create digital slideshows in a matter of minutes.

In 2003-2004, with another Instructional Development Grant, the EMC completed the slideshow feature. Users can now not only search the Picture Gallery from the Slideshow feature, but can also edit information about the images without going to a separate area of the site. We also increased security of the site. Our intent was to restrict full access to the gallery and slideshow to UC faculty and students who are using the database primarily for instructional purposes (with occasional permission extended to faculty outside the UC system on a temporary teaching basis). We created three tiers of access: level 1, for administration of the site; level 2, for faculty and graduate students; and level 3, for undergraduates (this lowest level allows viewing access to all areas of the site for the period of one academic year). Fortunately, one of the graduate students in our department who is expert in SQL server is also specializing in early modern studies, and she was both able and willing to complete work on the gallery's slideshow.

Once the slideshow feature was complete and secure, we continued to build the gallery, adding more images digitized from the slide and book collections of English Department faculty and graduate students. In the spirit of the EMC’s goal to share its resources with all UC faculty, we then began our process of incorporating images of interested early modern faculty across the humanities, beginning with the large digitized collection of Sears McGee in the History Department. We have now scanned Professor McGee’s images into our database in 3 sizes and added complete information and keywords for each image. This took considerable time, since in many cases Professor McGee’s images were minimally identified (as is natural in a personal collection). We have now completed this task, and the EMC Picture Gallery has increased its holdings from about 1,000 to some 4,000 images.

With funding for 2003-2004, we wish to continue to build the Picture Gallery by adding more images of interested faculty, such as the holdings of Anita Guerrini in the History Department and the large collection of Simon Williams in Dramatic Arts. As time and funding allow, we will reach out to other affiliated faculty as well. We will also continue our practice of offering regular demonstrations of the gallery and slideshow database to interested early modernists across the humanities disciplines.

As I hope is evident, the EMC gallery and slideshow feature have the potential to reach and affect in significant ways the instruction of thousands of undergraduates at UCSB. In terms of the early modern courses affected within the English department alone, they include the 5 large lecture courses (of 200 students each)--English 15: Introduction to Shakespeare; English 101: English Literature from Medieval Period to 1650; English 102: English and American Literature from 1650 to 1789; English 105A: Early Shakespeare; and English 105B: Later Shakespeare–as well as the many courses of 35 students and the senior seminars of 15. This year, for instance, early modernists will have fielded four English 197s of 15 students each and eight courses of 35 students each: English 128: Satire; English, 151JA: Jane Austin; English, 151SP: Swift and Pope; English 157: English Renaissance Drama; English 160: Milton; English 165VA: Literature and the Visual Arts; and English 172: Studies in Enlightenment. As the pioneer of the new Slideshow feature, I myself by the end of this year will have used the database to teach English 105A (200 students), English 197 (15 students), English 231 (15 students), English 165FD (35 students), and English 165VA (35 students). As Professor McGee’s email indicates, he envisages that the Gallery (and our allied next project, the Ballad Archive, discussed below) will provide material for use in his large lecture classes History 4B, Western Civilization, 1050-1715 (over 300 students) and in History 140A, Tudor Britain, and History 140B, Stuart Britain (from 50-70 students each)–courses he regularly repeats. Without exaggeration, the impact of the EMC Picture Gallery and Slideshow on undergraduate teaching is enormous and growing.

b) English Ballad Archive, 1500-1700

Blackletter broadside ballads represented the largest percentage of published works in the early modern period. Printed on quickly degradable, cheap paper, decorated with worn woodcuts (so that they were pasted up on the cottage or alehouse walls as the poor man's oil painting), and sung to popular tunes, these ballads were sold on the streets in quantity along with other perishable items, such as fruit. Because of their cheapness and fragility, most such ballads have been lost. But there are still some 7,000-8,000 extant blacketter ballads. These are the most important of the early modern ballads for those interested in interdisciplinary studies because after 1700 the ornate blackletter print disappears in favor of plain roman type, and the number of woodcuts and other ornaments significantly decline (as does the size of the ballads, which often become little more than slips of paper). Despite their importance, however, blackletter ballads are scattered about in different collections and difficult–in some cases impossible--to access in their original format. About a third of the extant English ballads, 1500-1700, can be found in the Early English Books Online database (EEBO; to which UCSB subscribes). A large portion (from the Pepys collection) have been published in near-unreadable facsimiles, and another large portion (most importantly, the Roxburghe collection) are available in modern editions, which do not reproduce the original ornament of the ballad. The rest of the ballads can only be found on microfilm. The first stage of our project, then–the period for which we are requesting funding--is to make these scattered and only partially accessible ballads fully available to undergraduates by locating all of the ballads in a single online searchable database in their original format with the ability to enlarge the text and ornament for easier viewing and reading. We will begin with the two largest collection of blackletter ballads, the Pepys collection of 1,175 ballads (which reside at Magdalene College, Cambridge) and the Roxburghe Ballads of some 3,000 ballads (at the British Library, London). Using my own research monies, I have purchased the complete microfilm set of both of these ballad collections. Drawing on the same funds, I plan to have the microfilm converted into high quality TIFF images by the company Softfile, in Sacramento. During the period for which we are requesting funding, graduate student assistants will then render the digitized images in 3 sizes and mount them into the Ballad Archive as well as provide for each ballad basic citation (to title, author, printer, date, tune, etc.) as well as keywords.

Once we have the Pepys and Roxburghe ballads in the database in this rudimentary form, we can then begin the next phase of our project. In this phase, undergraduates will be trained, through a series of courses taught by myself, to transcribe the often difficult-to-read blackletter (or gothic) print into easily readable modern roman type. The latter will not replace the former, however. Rather, viewers will be able to toggle back and forth between the blackletter and roman letter ballad, without losing any of the original ornament. In addition, undergraduates, together with graduate students, will be involved in recovering the tunes to about a dozen of these ballads, which we play online. Finally, the students will write essays that culturally place the ballads, annotations that explain difficult terms, and links between ballads that illustrate the circulation of ballad tunes, woodcuts, texts, and the like. We have created a prototype of what the final Ballad Archive Project site would look like. You may visit the site at: (hardcopy printouts of some of the pages have been appended to this proposal).

The series of undergraduate ballad courses will teach valuable skills to undergraduates: editing, webwork, and critical analysis. The number of students that will be directly affected by the courses will not be huge: three such ballad courses might total some 100 students. But the product of these courses will be a ballad archive that could be used in teaching the English Departments two introductory early modern lectures courses (of 200 students each), English 101 and 102, our many Shakespeare lecture courses (since Shakespeare frequently cites ballads in his plays), as well as other early modern classes interested in popular or lower-order culture. Indeed, teachers at all levels of education will find much use of the Ballad Archive. For the first time teachers will be able to search easily the extant pre-1700 English ballads for curriculum materials on the early modern period as well as a wide range of subject matters. Because the ballads will be transcribed into modern roman print as well as fully annotated, they will be available as individual artifacts or as historical documents in courses of various kinds and at all levels. The relatively simple and direct language of the ballads makes it possible for even high school students to appreciate. To enhance their usefulness as curriculum materials, ballad images in the archive will be printable in readable form, with full ornament, on 8 ½ x 11 paper (an option unavailable to date on any online site).

I should add that our end goal is free access of our archive to all. The Pepys Library, which has withheld permission to reproduce its ballads from the Early English Books Online (EEBO), has granted such permission to the EMC, for the reasonable fee of 500 pounds sterling, which I have paid from my person research funds. With this important permission success, we hope more easily to obtain reproduction permissions from the British Library and other holders of early modern ballads as well, so that our Ballad Archive can be made freely available in the fullest sense. (Until we have such permission, we shall password protect the ballads as we currently do all the images in the EMC’s Picture Gallery.) The end product will thus provide scholars and teachers with, in the truest sense of the word, access: access in a single location to an as yet often unreachable resource, both textually, visually, aurally, and culturally. We will in the process open up new avenues for scholarship and teaching hitherto unavailable in early modern and modern studies.

I have included letters of enthusiasm for our planned Ballad Archive from Professor Sears McGee and Anita Guerrini in the History Department, UCSB; Professor Ann Jensen Adams in Art History, UCSB; Tim Cooley in the Music Department, UCSB; Professor Deborah Harkness in the History Department, UC-Davis; Don Wayne in the Department of Literature, UC-San Diego; and Shawn Martin, Project Librarian for the Early English Books Online at the University of Michigan.