Visual Haggard is a digital archive created to support academic research and class room instruction. This archive preserves, centralizes, and improves access to the
illustrations of popular Victorian novelist H. Rider Haggard. Visual
Haggard aims to revalue and reintegrate the illustrations of Haggard's
novels as unique artworks and texts for contemporary audiences.
A number of digital archives focused on 19th C.
arts and culture have appeared in recent years, but scholars noted that there remained a real need to collect the complex and lush visual history of H. Rider Haggard.
Our team used a double diamond approach to determine the most appropriate form and content for this archive. To prepare for this project, I interviewed stakeholders, studied other successful academic digital archives, and researched the histories of illustration Haggard’s bibliography, and disciplinary conventions in design and digital humanities.
Prototyping & Design
In collaboration with co-founder and lead developer Joe Essey, we created an information
architecture flowchart on paper. Because the relationship between
books, edition, and serials is complex, we designed a sophisticated
data structure to manage this hierarchy. After settling on an
appropriate wireframe design, Joe built the web application using
Ruby on Rails. I populated the database with images I obtained,
scanned, and cleaned up using image manipulation software. I also
wrote metadata on the site including the date of publication,
artist, place, as well as encyclopedic summaries of all
illustrators, novels, and editions.
Since the archive's deployment in 2013, this project has gone
through several stages of iterative design. In addition to
gathering feedback at professional conferences, the team submitted
the archive for review with NINES, the
Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic
Scholarship. Reviewers asked for several revisions in the
content and structure. For instance, the alphabetical labeling
needed to ignore prepositions like “a” and “the.” Reviewers also
requested br /eadcrumbs to navigate the After collecting feedback
from peer review stakeholders, Joe and I revised the archive for
Handoff & Continued Iteration
VH won 1st runner up in the 2017 DH Awards for Best Use of DH for
Fun. The archive continues to grow, and is used in classrooms
internationally, including the University of Massachusetts at
Dartmouth, the University of Western Ontario, the University of
Wisconsin, Green Bay, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. To
read about how I have used this project in the undergraduate
classroom, see my post for the Chronicle of Higher Education's
ProfHacher blog: "Using
Digital Archives to Teach Data Set Creation and Visualization