Evolving digital technologies continue to offer new and constantly changing approaches to the study of the past, and to generate data and products that become objects of study in their own right. This exhibition, which accompanies a 2022 Folger Seminar, brings together ten projects involving early modern studies from NC State University and its local partners, UNC Greensboro and Duke. Addressing a wide variety of materials and employing a diverse array of techniques, these projects represent the breadth of approaches that scholars are taking to early modern research and pedagogy and the many kinds of questions they are able to ask.
The projects featured in this exhibition use digital technologies to engage the past in ways that build on conventional archival research, but go beyond it to offer new forms of access to history. Technologies such as virtual reality and immersive projection probe the gap between archival or archaeological research and experience, allowing researchers and students to see, hear, and touch environments rendered inaccessible by time and distance, but also to ask new scholarly questions, like how sound behaved in spaces that no longer exist, and how that might have affected the experience of seeing a famous sermon delivered. Digital editing and analysis allow scholars to engage with texts and corpora at scales quite different from those possible in physical archives, and scientific techniques permit the study of the animals whose skins became the parchment for books, allowing entirely new approaches to the materiality of texts. And materiality itself becomes a locus of creative play, opening an exploration of how communication technologies in different eras shape and are shaped by personal connections.
These projects, like the Folger Seminar this exhibition complements, raise questions about how new and changing technologies transform scholarly objects of inquiry and the questions we can pose about them. How can we ask better questions about digital tools, and how can hands-on ways of knowing shape that question forming process? These ten examples of exciting digital scholarship and pedagogy invite us to expand our idea of the archive and consider how their forms of knowledge might help us frame new approaches both to early modern studies and to the technologies that underlie them.