24-25 October 2013: First project meeting and knowledge exchange workshop Chawton House Library


  • Päivi Lappalainen (PI), Viola Parente-Čapková (Post-doc researcher), University of Turku;
  • Janouk de Groot  (Project assistant), Suzan van Dijk (PI), Huygens ING;
  • Arno Kuipers  (Advisory Board member), KB/ National Library of the Netherlands;
  • second day only Marie Nedregotten Sørbø (PI), Volda University College;
  • Katja Mihurko Poniž (PI), Aleš Vaupotič (Senior Researcher), University of Nova Gorica;
  • Stephen Bygrave, AP Chawton House Library/ University of Southampton – second day afternoon session;
  • Adele Patrick (Advisory Board Member), Glasgow Women’s Library;
  • Marina Cano López (Assistant Researcher), Henriette Partzsch (PL), Judith Rideout (PhD student), University of St Andrews.

Members of TTT in the gardens of Chawton House Library, October 2013 (photo MNS)

The first project meeting and knowledge exchange workshop of Travelling Texts, 1790-1914 took place over two days in the beautiful surroundings of Chawton House Library, our associated partner organisation in the UK (http://www.chawtonhouse.org/ ). The aim of the meeting was twofold: a) to discuss the organisational side of the project and b) to develop a better understanding of relevant sources in the different countries as the shared foundation of this year’s research. The KE workshop on the second day was an opportunity to explore how TTT could benefit from the expertise provided by libraries, for instance on classification systems and the use of metadata, and in which ways its research could in turn become relevant for libraries and their users.

CHL very generously contributed to the meeting by making available rooms and conference equipment free of charge. The welcoming atmosphere and professional organisation greatly contributed to the success of the meeting. Many thanks to Corrine Saint, Ray Moseley, Stephen Lawrence and their team!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The meeting broadly followed the programme which had been previously circulated (please see corresponding file). The first morning session was dedicated to organisational matters (please see minutes), followed by brief presentations about the characteristics of the literary systems in all five countries. PL, VP-C, JdG (reading a contribution by Janneke Weijermars), MNS and HP explained factors that had a major influence on the circulation of texts in the respective countries (e.g., literacy rate, languages read, political restrictions, technological developments, situation of the book market,…), with the aim of helping the team as a whole develop a better understanding of (a) the kind of sources that are available for each country; (b) factors to be taken into account when selecting sources; (c) the comparability of information yielded by sources and (d) the need for thorough contextualisation. One of the emerging themes was the importance of libraries as places of cultural encounters and agents for spreading literacy, an aspect to which we repeatedly returned on both days.

The afternoon started with an overview of the state of data entry for the five project countries, presented by SvD, an item adjourned from the first session (please see tables circulated prior to the meeting). A lively and productive discussion ensued so that we had to shorten the following session on specific examples of periodical publications. Although there was not enough time to look at each country the examples which were discussed, e.g. the Slovene press, nevertheless allowed the participants to share ideas about how to work with periodicals. The day closed with an open discussion of the progress so far, initiated by an intervention from Adele Patrick, who acted as critical friend throughout the meeting. AP underlined the paradigm-shifting potential of a hugely ambitious project, with the database as a gynocentric tool for mapping the agency of women in the dissemination and exchange of knowledge across languages. She identified the need to fine-tune our tool, making it a pleasure to use, and suggested to periodically test the critical development at different levels. She invited us to reflect on how to cascade down our discoveries to contemporary writers and other users and asked about connections to digitising communities outwith Travelling Texts. The following discussion touched upon sister projects like COBWWWEB, upcoming collaborations with literary festivals, etc.  The evening ended at The Greyfriar in Chawton (http://www.thegreyfriar.co.uk/ ).

First session of the Knowledge Exchange Workshop (photo MNS)

Friday, 25 October 2013: Knowledge Exchange Workshop

Arno Kuipers (KB/National Library of the Netherlands http://www.kb.nl/en ) opened the workshop with a presentation about the imperative need for an informed and critical use of metadata in order to create usable information. The insights on the art of cataloguing were of great relevance to the project given its reliance on metadata provided by third parties (such as libraries) and on its own use of metadata in the database. The talk informed the subsequent work in small groups: colleagues from different countries explained to each other the nature of the sources they use and the problems that arise, assisted by AK and members of the teams from the Netherlands. The results of the individual exchanges were then brought together in a general discussion about sources and their use in the database.

In the afternoon the group split into two parallel sessions. While JdG trained MCL and JR in the use of the database, surrounded by an exhibition of Austeniana, the rest of us discussed knowledge exchange and public engagement with Stephen Bygrave (who had very kindly agreed to represent Chawton House Library in place of Gillian Dow), Adele Partick and Arno Kuipers. StB reminded us that the basis of the collection of CHL was formed from previously discarded books, a fact that strongly resonated with Travelling Texts‘ ambition to rewrite the history of literary culture by placing women’s participation at the centre. Furthermore, he underlined the potential of collaboration at an academic level, with special reference to the library’s Research Fellowship scheme and its publication series. AP provided a fascinating insight into the work of Glasgow Women’s Library (http://womenslibrary.org.uk/ ). Strongly rooted in the present needs of a local community, GWL engages people in history and strives at recovering women’s heritage, for instance through the development of dedicated guided tours and a re-mapping of public space. Furthermore, the library houses relevant archives, such as the collection of suffragette material. AK focused on the potential for technical collaboration between the research project and KB/National Library of the Netherlands. While Travelling Texts could profit from open linked data and expertise in classification, the library in turn could welcome information and material questioning the still dominating (male, white, national) canon, thus bringing to live the cultural heritage looked after by a National Library. Clear potential for mutually productive exchanges (facilities, exchange of information, use of material, mutual learning from areas of expertise) between CHL, GWL, KB/National Library of the Netherlands and Travelling Texts could therefore be identified, which will enrich and inform the progress of the project.

The final discussion was used to summarise the meeting and to agree on the following Action points:


  • We agree that we will refer to the full proposal as a kind of memorandum of understanding as far as research objectives and procedures are concerned.

Data Entry and Sources

  • We agree that we will (a) document the existence of translations in our cultural areas (using modern repertories as well as modern catalogues); (b) work on  general, cultural and women’s press (information about serialised translations, review articles, mentions) and (c) historical catalogues (circulation of texts in the different literary systems)
  • Each team will communicate to PL and the other teams on which type of source they are working and keep them informed about their progress; each team will ensure that comparable data sets will be available for their country at the end of the project (or an explanation why specific sources do not exist/have been lost/cannot be used).
  • SvD will comment the list of sources from the Netherlands, explaining the reasons for the selection made, and circulate the document to all PIs in order to share best practice.
  • The teams will work on their list of sources in light of the Dutch experience
  • Each team should revise existing HERA related data in the database and clean entries where necessary (with the help of JvG and AK where necessar

Web presence

  • SvD will establish a HERA Section on the NEWW website
  • JvG will ask about wordpress page, to be located at Huygens
  • HP will ask about wordpress page, to be loacted at St Andrews
  • AV will provide information about Comparative Literature site and purchase of domain name ‘travellingtexts’
  • HP will ensure project presence on Facebook and twitter (starting by following AP and AK on twitter)
  • Once a decision about the webpage has been taken, each project member will link their institutional profiles to the project page

Next meetings

  • The meeting at Turku will take place on 5 and 6 May 2014, the meeting in Slovenia during the first or second week of September 2014. The Finnish and Slovene teams are organising the meetings, in dialogue with PL and the other PIs.

Homework after CHL meeting

  • Please send your presentation slides and other relevant material to HP! And your photos will be much appreciated, too.

The day ended with dinner at The Swan Hotel in Alton (https://www.oldenglishinns.co.uk/our-locations/the-swan-alton ).

Warm thanks to all participants, especially to Adele, Arno and Stephen!