Analog/Digital: Premodern Technology Meets Silicon Valley
By Jacquelyn Hendricks
On Wednesday, May 22, dozens of students, staff, faculty, and visitors came together to participate in a four-part event celebrating the convergence of multimedia, technology, and archival work. Organized by the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, and supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, Archives and Special Collections, and the departments of English and Art & Art History, the event allowed visitors to transport themselves to the past through interactive exhibits.
The event began in the Imaginarium as Prof. Brian Smith (Art & Art History) debuted a new program that allowed users to virtually visit the Globe Theatre, originally built in London in 1599. Donning their VR headsets, they were able to step on the stage like members of Shakespeare’s acting company did so many years ago.
Students from Prof. Kirstyn Leuner’s (English) and Prof. Kathy Aoki’s (Art & Art History) letterpress course introduced us to the idea of “slow tech” with hands-on demonstrations of the newly-acquired, early-20th-century letterpress. Attendees were able to print their own “text message” as a take-home souvenir, and they learned about the printing process by looking at the class’s projects and handling letters and spacers used to create print layouts.
Andrew Keener’s (English) Shakespeare students created an exhibit of Early Modern books in Archives and Special Collections. Visitors toured the exhibit and talked to the students about their research on each book, learning about the rich collection we have at SCU. This exhibit was accompanied by two mini-talks. The first, by Sean Oblak ‘21, discussed the Santa Clara Early Modern Book Initiative (SCEMBI). Oblak described the work of this team of faculty, students, and staff who research the history, production, and features of SCU’s holdings and record them in the English Short-Title Catalogue, making it easier for researchers and scholars to locate these magnificent texts. The second mini-talk was by Tim Shur ‘19, who presented his Computer Engineering Senior Design project, Questioner, that uses machine learning to create a program for studying Shakespeare’s plays. The program develops questions to quiz users by pulling information about characters, lines, and genres from Shakespeare’s vast body of work.
The capstone event of the evening was a keynote talk by SCU alumna Tanya Schmidt ‘12. She spoke about how her experience studying Early Modern texts in SCU’s English classes shaped her path to NYU’s doctoral program, and she gave us a glimpse of her current research on Early Modern epistemologies.
Analog/Digital was a fantastic event with something for everyone to enjoy. We were happy to showcase the broad scope of premodern work happening at SCU, and we hope this will inspire more students to explore the past in exciting new ways.