Nell Widger has recently completed a National Productivity Investment Fund Innovation Placement at the Scottish Poetry Library, where she has digitised a selection of artists’ publications and poetry objects. She gratefully acknowledges support from the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Centre for Poetic Innovation. Special thanks also to SPL staff, and poets Thomas A. Clark, Julie Johnstone, and Heather H. Yeung.
Eight months ago I undertook a pilot project at the SPL which sought to address the challenge of digitising innovative poetic works. The SPL’s archive is full of intriguing objects which express the rich Scottish tradition of small presses, artists’ publications, concrete and minimalist poetry established by avant-garde writers like Edwin Morgan and Ian Hamilton Finlay. Today the archive collection continues to expand, with the acquisition of works by Thomas A. Clark and Laurie Clark, Julie Johnstone, Alec Finlay, Heather H. Yeung, and others.
Many of these works require particular ways of reading and handling – for example, opening a box to discover something unexpected, reading pages in an unusual order, or holding a print to the light to reveal another level of text. This presents an interesting challenge in terms of digital documentation. How can libraries share these objects with online audiences? Would a simple photograph be enough?
Perhaps – but what if there was a way for remote audiences to get a sense of how these objects create their meaning through particular kinds of interaction? That’s what this project has attempted to do, using simple web features to promote interaction and provide a little space for contemplation. A small selection of works by Thomas A. Clark, Julie Johnstone, and Heather H. Yeung were chosen as test cases for digitisation at the SPL, and the results are now available on our Collections page. Browse, read, and get a glimpse of this wonderful archive.
Nothing like seeing the originals though – and the SPL will be exhibiting some of the digitised works (along with surprise items) from 31st July 2019. More info available soon; watch the Library’s social media for announcements.