by Maria Chappell, English PhD candidate and UGA HASTAC scholar
On Wednesday, April 5, the UGA’s Willson Center Digital Humanities Lab and the Folger Shakespeare Library hosted the THATCamp Shakespeare “unconference.” THATCamps (The Humanities And Technology Camps) are informal conferences whose agendas and content sessions are determined by participants when they arrive at the event, which contrasts with the usual pre-structured and planned out format of most traditional conferences. THATCamp Shakespeare coincided with the 2017 45th annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America, a scholarly organization that focuses on all facets of Shakespeare scholarship, from modern performances of his plays to studies of his contemporaries to virtually any topic connected to Shakespeare both in his time and today. Though the combination of the I-85 bridge collapse and the severe thunderstorm systems moving through Georgia made travel more challenging, several Shakespearians braved the tempest and traveled from the conference’s site in Atlanta to Athens to attend THATCamp Shakespeare.
After shaking off our umbrellas and coats, the conference began with the planning session where attendees both suggested topics they’d like to discuss and offered to lead sessions on these topics; the THATCamp topics do not necessarily have to be about Shakespeare, but with a room full of people preparing to participate in a major Shakespeare conference, the suggestions naturally had a Shakespeare and Early Modern flavor to them. After voting, the group decided on five sessions: learning how to tag essays and media in UGA’s own Borrowers and Lenders: the Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation; a series of “lightning talks” by participants about their current digital projects; split sessions on Early Modern paleography and using the ArcGIS mapping tool; and a discussion of digital humanities in the (Early Modern) classroom.
UGA English professors Dr. Christy Desmet and Dr. Sujata Iyengar led participants through the process of tagging essays and multimedia sources for their award-winning online academic journal Borrowers and Lenders. After that, Dr. Thomas Herron of East Carolina University, UGA graduate student Maria Chappell, Eric Johnson and Gabrielle Linnell of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Dr. Erin A. McCarthy of National University of Ireland, Galway presented short, 5-minute “lightning talks” on projects ranging from Centering Spenser: A Digital Resource for Kilcolman Castle to RECIRC: The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing 1550-1700.
The afternoon continued with simultaneous sessions on transcribing Early Modern styles of handwriting (also known as paleography) led by UGA graduate student Sarah Mayo and on using ArcGIS is research led by UGA librarian Meagan Duever. The unconference concluded with a a more informal talk about using DH in the classroom in which all the THATCamp Shakespeare attendees participated.
For a closer look at THATCamp Shakespeare, you can view highlights on the Storify story.