Instructional Improvement Grant 2008-2009
I am requesting critical seed funds to launch the second phase of the Early Modern Center’s English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA) at UCSB, http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu: the digital archiving of the second-largest extant collection of 17th century English broadside ballads—approximately 1,500 ballads—held by the British Library. The first phase of EBBA—archiving the 1,800 Pepys Ballads at Magdalene College, Cambridge—is nearing completion. Instructional Improvement Grants were crucial in initiating this first phase of EBBA and securing subsequent large grants, most significantly a two-year NEH Reference Materials Grant for 2006-2008. I am fully confident that another strategic investment by Instructional Development—for initial cataloguing of the Roxburghe Ballads so that they can be added to the EBBA database—will be equally profitable. Such funding will allow us to nearly double the size of the ballad archive and will also facilitate future funding. The benefits to undergraduate and graduate education are immense, since EBBA makes a hitherto difficult-to-access form of early modern popular culture come alive as text, as art, and as song. Adding the Roxburghe ballads to EBBA will further allow students to experience again the excitement of being instrumental in the "hands on" making of an important archive.
The English Department's Early Modern Center, established in 2000, is the first of 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, music, 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 begun developing) a large and deep archive of electronic resources that will continue to grow and be used by faculty and students for years to come. The EMC web page can be found at http://emc.english.ucsb.edu/. Since parts of the web 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 "grant08."
The EMC's first digital project, begun in 2001, was its online Picture Gallery and Slideshow Feature, which was funded by previous Instructional Improvement Grants as well as by English Department and College funds. The idea behind the creation of this database was to house, in easily searchable forms, 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 host our our own Servers which support the sophisticated database program SQL Server 2000 and more recently the open-access MySQL. Our Servers are 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 was in a special position 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 remains high, even with UC's subscription to ARTstor. 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. Our goal, first and foremost, then, was to build an archive of images (in several sizes) that would be quickly searchable and specifically suited to UCSB English Department courses. We succeeded in doing that and much more. We also added an online 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. Then, in the spirit of the EMC's goal to share its resources with all UC faculty, we incorporated images of interested early modern faculty across the humanities, beginning with the large digitised collection of some 2,000 images held by Professor Sears McGee in the History Department. This process of extending and enhancing the Picture Gallery is ongoing. Our current digital holdings stand at approximately 4,000 images.
The EMC's English Broadside Ballad Archive, http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu, tentatively begun in 2003, was in a way a natural extension of its Picture Gallery with Slideshow Feature, since the ballad, especially the black-letter ballad of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is foremost a visual artifact. But ballads are also multi-media works, and that fact, together with their "lowly" popular status, gave them enormous cultural capital in their own time. In fact, ballads represented the largest percentage of published works in the early modern period, estimated to have been printed in the millions. Printed on quickly degradable, cheap paper, decorated with worn woodcuts (so that they were pasted up on cottage or alehouse walls as the poor man's oil painting), and sung to popular tunes (the titles of which were printed on the broadside), they were sold on the streets in quantity along with other perishable items, such as fruit. Because of their cheapness and fragility, most early ballads have been lost. But there are still some 8,000-10,000 extant black-letter ballads (printed in "gothic" type) and some two or three times that number of "white-letter" ballads (printed in roman type), a form which began to emerge c. 1650. The black-letter ballads are the most important of the early modern ballads for those interested in interdisciplinary studies because after 1700 not only does the ornate black-letter print disappear in favor of plain roman type, but also 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), and tune titles also disappear. Despite their importance, however, black-letter ballads are scattered about in different collections and are 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 Samuel Pepys collection) have been published in near-unreadable facsimiles, and another large portion (most importantly, the Roxburghe collection, for which I am requesting ID funding) are available in modern editions which haphazardly gather together the ballads and do not reproduce their original layout or ornament. Most of the rest of the ballads can only be found on microfilm. None are available as recorded songs.
The goal of EBBA 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. Our sights from the beginning were set foremost on the two largest collections of black-letter ballads: the Pepys collection of approximately 1,800 ballads (which reside at Magdalene College, Cambridge) and the Roxburghe collection of some 1,500 ballads (at the British Library, London). Since the Pepys is the most inaccessible collection (readers are no longer allowed access to the originals and the published facsimiles are very difficult to read), we began there. Using my own research monies, I purchased in 2003 the complete microfilm set of the Pepys collection as well as the unprecedent rights to mount these images online. Drawing on the same personal research funds, in the summer of 2004 I contacted the company Softfile in Sacramento, and had the Pepys microfilm converted into high quality TIFF images as well as large jpg files. With an Instructional Improvement Grant for 2004-2005 of $10,000, I then created a team of five graduate students who spent the summer adjusting the images in Photoshop (Pepys often cut his ballads into two parts, and thus ballads had to be digitally put back together to recreate the original look of the whole ballad; furthermore, because Pepys trimmed and then pasted his ballads into large album books, the album borders needed to be cropped so as to eliminate wasted white space around the edges of the image, which was not part of the original ballad). While one graduate student research assistant worked on adjusting the digital images, another worked on creating a searchable database for the ballads, and another three research assistants catalogued the images. The cataloguing was time-consuming and extensive: including volume and page numbers for each ballad (e.g., Pepys 1.158-159) as well as title, date, tune(s), first lines, refrain(s), page size, condition of the page, number of woodcuts, woodcut descriptions and keywords, number of parts, imprint, publisher, printer, license, author (when known; usually a ballad is anonymous), Pepys category (Pepys collected his ballads in each volume into a recurring set of categories), and ballad keywords. Yet another graduate student volunteered his time during the summer of 2004 toward researching the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) so as to make sure our database was TEI compliant and thus capable of supporting an XML schema (crucial to ensure the longevity of the database and to make our project eligible for larger grants). In July 2004, we applied for a large NEH Reference Materials Grant and were denied (we reapplied in July 2005, with more work on the project completed—thanks in large part to another small Instructional Development together with some UC MRG funding, as described below—and this time we were successful).
At some point towards the end of the summer of 2004, we began to run out of funds and thus despaired of completing the basic cataloguing of the Pepys ballads and therefore attaining the bare basics of a useable database. At this point, Professor William Warner stepped in, in his capacity as Director of the Digital Cultures Project (a UC Multi-Research Group initiative). Recognizing the important work being done on EBBA, and its potential impact on all UC campuses, Professor Warner pledged another $4,700 to the project. This money allowed us to complete the cataloguing of the Pepys ballads in the summer as well as to hire for 2004-2005 the graduate student researching XML and, further, to hire a work study graduate student assistant through FAFSA (we pledged $800 to her $1,900 in federal funds). As Professor Warner recognized, his MRG money was being well spent and, indeed, furthered the MRG initiative of cross-campus digital research. In the spring of 2005, the EMC won a UCHRI grant of $8,000 to host a ballads conference in the winter of 2006, titled "Straws in the Wind: Ballads and Broadsides, 1500-1800" (UCSB cost-share brought the total funding up to $16,000). The conference (held in February 2006) featured scholars at every level of their careers who have been working in this exciting new field of ballad study (including some undergraduates from my Fall ballad course) and brought together faculty and students from the UCSB departments of English, Music, History, and Art History as well as faculty and students from other UC campuses. A print edition, Ballads and Broadsides in Britain, 1500-1800, based on selected papers from the conference, and co-edited by myself and Anita Guerrini in the History Department, is forthcoming from Ashgate Press. I am convinced that we would not have been granted such a prestigious award if we had not been given the seed money to advance EBBA through the MRG funds and the Instructional Improvement Grants.
Having mounted and catalogued the Pepys ballads, as well as created a searchable database for them, I was positioned to be able to teach graduate and undergraduate seminars in the Fall of 2004 on Early Modern Ballad Culture, 1500-1800. The first half of these courses was devoted to reading a general sampling of ballads of the period together with the most important critical works on ballads (there was a flurry of such publications in the 90s, a sign that popular literature was becoming "hot"). During this first half of the course, both undergraduates and graduates delivered oral reports, which became short background essays about ballad culture generally. The graduate students= essays, once corrected by me, have been mounted on the EBBA website under "Background Essays." These essays include such topics as "Printing Practices and the Book Trade in Early Modern London," "The Emerging Broadside in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," "Ballads and Other Popular Print," "The Materials of Broadsides" (paper making, black-letter print, and woodcuts), "Ballad Measure," and "Ballad Music." In the second half of the course, both graduate students and undergraduates studied specifically the first volume of the Pepys ballads (some 550 pages of ballads). All students delivered oral reports and wrote essays about Pepys's categories for the ballads, and those essays by the graduate students are also included on the website. Finally, each graduate student and undergraduate transcribed two black-letter ballads of their choosing from black-letter (or gothic) to roman font, observing strict guidelines, upon which we all agreed (see the website page "Transcriptions"). I and the EMC Fellow carefully checked these transcriptions, and all 34 of them were then mounted on the EBBA site as "facsimile transcriptions" (these are created by opening up the ballad facsimiles in Photoshop and then replacing only the black-letter print with the transcriptions so as to maintain the original layout and ornamentation while still making the ballad text readable to modern viewers). Five out of the fourteen undergraduates who took my ballad seminar so enjoyed the process of transcription that they asked to continue such work subsequent quarters for course credit as Independent Research Assistants. A 6th undergraduate from the ballad course, who along with two others had chosen to sing one of her ballads in the course rather than transcribe it (see "Sample Songs" on the website), continued working for course credit recording about 20 of the transcribed ballads, also as an Independent Research Assistant. Meanwhile, two graduate students from the Music Department were hired to research the music for another 8-10 ballads, which they also sang and recorded. By the end of the winter quarter of 2005, we had about 154 transcribed ballads and 30 sung ballads. By the end of the spring quarter, with the graduate student work study hours, we had another 50 ballads transcribed. All 200 transcribed ballads were created into facsimile transcriptions and, together with the 30 song recordings, were mounted on the website by the end of the spring quarter, 2005.
By the time of my application for a second Instructional Improvement Grant (for 2005-2006), we had taken a major step toward archiving the 1,800 Pepys ballads, in the fullest sense of the word "archiving." The infrastructure for EBBA was in place, including fully mounted and catalogued ballads, a fully functional website, with background essays on ballad culture and the Pepys ballads, as well as sample transcriptions, songs, and TEI/XML encoding. By the spring of 2005, we had mounted online 200 facsimile transcriptions as well as some 30 songs. We were thus perfectly positioned to make some serious advancement on the project. With another small Instructional Improvement Grant for 2005-2006 of $5,000, combined with course work and volunteer work, we were able to complete the transcription of half the ballads (that's another 790 ballads) as well as complete another 170 recordings of ballad songs. This is labor intensive work. Transcription, we discovered, though enjoyed immensely by the students, is a timely process. Whether an undergraduate or a graduate student, it takes from 2 to 3 hours carefully to transcribe a ballad. It is also mandatory—even with graduate students—for the transcriptions to be checked by someone else, since it is very easy to make mistakes. Checking a ballad transcription can take another 30-45 minutes. XML encoding a ballad takes about an additional hour. And researching ballad tunes, practicing the singing of the songs, and recording them in Kerr Hall or in the Music Department, takes about 5 hours per ballad. But we were able to keep working, albeit at a slower pace, and most importantly, we were able to make enough progress on EBBA that we successfully won an NEH Reference Materials Grant for 2006-2008 of $325,000, with cost share from UCSB of $232,000, for a total funding of $557,000. I have continued to offer graduate and undergraduate courses on ballad culture that have allowed students to contribute to the transcription of the ballads and the making of facsimile transcriptions as well as to the cataloguing of the ballad woodcuts. Our EBBA music specialists have also offered ensemble courses in the Music Department by which undergraduates could learn to research and record ballad tunes for course credit. But the large grant also allowed us to hire graduate students and undergraduates in large numbers and thus to reach our goal of completing the full archiving of all 1,800 of the Pepys ballads by June of 2008: this includes full cataloguing of the ballads and their woodcuts, transcription of all the ballads, conversion in Photoshop of the facsimiles into "Facsimile Transcriptions," the complete TEI/XML encoding of the database, an upgrading of our image delivery and search mechanisms, and the recording of some 1,000-1,100 available tunes. A newly designed site will be launched in April of 2008 and completion of the Pepys Ballad Archive, the first phase of EBBA, will be announced June 30, 2008.
The benefit to scholars and students of the EBBA database of the Pepys ballads is immense. In the month of February 2008, there were 2,968 unique visitors to the site. The addition of the Roxburghe collection of some 1,500 ballads, which will be mounted in collaboration with the British Library and digitised in color images, will nearly double the database and thus its usefulness. The fact that the images will be in color will even more accurately render the albums and the ballads within them, and will make this material especially valuable to art historians. Since the collectors of the Roxburghe ballads cut and pasted the ballads into five album books, just as Pepys had done (with the exception that the Roxburghe album pages have decorated borders on them), our approach in creating facsimiles—of the album page but then also of the reconstructed ballads—will be similar to the one we adopted in working with the Pepys ballads. So will be the process of transcribing the ballads and creating facsimile transcriptions. Examples of a Roxburghe album page (with decorated album border), of a reconstructed ballad facsimile (in which the album border is removed and the cut-apart ballad put back together as a single sheet), and of a facsimile transcription of the same ballad—all made from microfilm not from color digital images, as will in fact be the case once the collection is photographed—are provided in Appendices 1a-1c. XML encoding the ballads and making recordings of all the ballads for which there are available tunes will also proceed according to established EBBA procedures. The end advantage of being able not only to study the ballads in color but also to compare ballads and their woodcuts and tunes across collections will be invaluable.
With start-up funds from an Instructional Improvement Grant, we can begin the crucial cataloguing of the Roxburghe ballads that will allow us immediately to incorporate the digital images of the Roxburghe album pages into the EBBA database (I already have funds allocated from the current NEH grant for covering the cost of the digital photography of the Roxburghe Ballads). See Appendix 2a for a sample citation page and Appendix 2b for a sample woodcut cataloguing interface (woodcut information for the Pepys Ballads will be searchable in the newly designed EBBA site that will be launched in April 2008). It takes about 30 minutes per ballad to fill in the general citation information, sometimes more if dates of publishers or authors need to be researched in order to more accurately date the printing of the ballad. It then takes approximately another 30 minutes to catalogue the ballad's woodcuts, including writing up descriptions of each woodcut and providing keywords for them—all crucial information for art historical research.
I should add that I have applied for another NEH grant to allow us to completely archive the Roxburghe Ballads beyond the cataloguing (creating reconstructed ballad facsimiles from cut ballads, transcribing the ballads, making facsimile transcriptions, XML encoding them, recording their tunes, etc.). That proposal is still pending. Even if it were successful, however, I have been hard so hard hit by increased expenses as well as by an increase in the UCSB tax on NEH grants (from 33% for the first grant to 45.9% for this second proposal, should it be successful) that I have had to streamline the budget to the point that not all necessary work can be done. I would add that, should I not win the second NEH grant, and receive simply the Instructional Improvement Grant, I will still be able to catalogue the ballads and minimally incorporate them into the EBBA database so that future work can be done on them in courses. I would also thus be well-positioned to apply for future funding from other sources, such as the Getty.
The number of students impacted by such a database just at UCSB will be huge, as the testimonies of the supporting letters from UCSB faculty in History, Art History, and Music testify (Appendix 3 includes supporting letters from Professors Sears McGee and Anita Guerrini in the History Department; Professor Ann Bermingham in Art History, and Dr. Kathy Meizel, lecturer, in the Music Department). Before we had even launched the first phase of the EBBA website, Professor Richard Helgerson found out about it and used one of the ballads in his 101 lecture class of 200 students. Last year Professor Michael O'Connell invited me and a troop of my ballad singers to give a lecture on ballads and sing the ballads sung by Autolycus, the roguish ballad-monger/peddler of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. 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. As Professor McGee's supporting email indicates, he envisages that the Ballad Archive will provide material for use in his large lecture class History 4B, Western Civilization, 1050-1715 (200-400 students) as well as in History 140A, Tudor Britain, and History 140B, Stuart Britain (from 30-50 students each), History 150P, Undergraduate Research Seminar (7-12 students), History 194AB, Senior Honors Course (15 students), and History 240AB, Graduate Research Seminar (5-8 students)—courses he regularly teaches. Anita Guerrini, another professor of History, projects use of the archive in History 106B, the scientific revolution (average enrollment 40), History 110D, Diseases in History (average enrollment 40), and also History 140C, 18th century Britain (average enrollment 40). Ann Bermingham, professor of Art History, cites its usefulness for her courses on 17th and 18th century British art and culture, AH 115C, AH 117A and C (each enrolling 40-60 students) and AH 258A, a graduate seminar (of some 6-10 students). And of course, Kathy Meizel, Music Specialist for EBBA, teaches each quarter a performance course in the Music Department in which some 12 undergraduates have participated this year learning to research and record ballad tunes. She has also guest lectured on ballads in Professor Tim Cooley’s course on American Folk Music, MUS 175K/293K (enrollment: 30). Without exaggeration, the impact of the Ballad Archive on undergraduate teaching at UCSB is enormous and growing.
But 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 extant early modern English ballads for curriculum materials that touch on a wide range of subject matter. Because all the ballads will be transcribed into modern roman print, fully searchable, and accompanied by background essays, they will be available as individual artifacts or as historical documents in courses of various kinds. The relatively simple and direct language of the ballads makes it possible for even high school students to appreciate them. To enhance their usefulness as curriculum materials, ballad images in the archive will soon be printable in readable form, with full ornament, on 8 1/2 x 11 paper (an option unavailable to date on any online site).
I should add that our end goal is free access of EBBA to all. As mentioned previously 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. With this important permission success, we gained the attention and permission of the British Library, which holds the Roxburghe and other ballad collections, and we expect other holders of early modern ballads now to come on board as well, so that EBBA can be made freely available in the very fullest sense. 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.
As Dr. Meizel's letter indicates, the additional rare opportunity of adding a new ballad collection, such as the Roxburghe, to EBBA is that undergraduates and graduates alike will not only be able to comparatively study collections but they will also be able to take part in actually making the archive. I teach an undergraduate and graduate ballad course every year (the undergraduate course is either a senior seminar of 15 students or a larger course of 35 students) in which, depending on where we are in the making of a particular archive, students learn the fine skills of reading and transcribing black-letter print and making facsimile transcriptions in Photoshop. In the Music Department's ensemble courses (the A70/170/270 series) taught by EBBA's music specialist, Kathy Meizel, students learn how to research accurate tune data and techniques of recording the ballads, mostly a capella. In addition, many undergraduates work for EBBA on a paid basis, often through work study. To date we have employed about 10 undergraduate in recording ballad tunes and upwards of 20 undergraduates in digital manipulation, making facsimile transcriptions, recording catalogue information, and other tasks. Undergrads learn as they work, even when they are paid, and they often find themselves knowing much more about early modern popular print and songs than they could ever have imagined.
The Early Modern Center asks in its evaluations of ballad courses for students to judge the success of the course and to suggest possible improvements in material and especially in the use of its digital resources. All evaluations have been enthusiastic with undergraduates and graduate students alike especially expressing their excitement at taking part in the making of something lasting that will have such a major influence on the education of others. In September 2007, the director of the Text Encoding Initiative, Juliet Fleming at Brown University, ran a series of seminars here at UCSB and evaluated the status of the TEI of the archive. Only a few minor flaws were discovered and have since been fixed. We further intend to include a "comments" page on the site for users to add observations and note errors in transcriptions, if found.