The Walt Witman Archive is a project that aims to collect Whitman’s work in a comprehensive, accessible space for any purpose and all readers. Why go digital? As the creators describe, “his work defies the constraints of the book.”
I found the home page attractive and clear. In fact, the entire site is easy to maneuver and extremely organized. The organization of the site actually invites the user to explore the site. Without a specific subject in mind to search, I began investigating the contents of the archive and found myself overwhelmed by the amount of information available to the user. The simplicity of the site emphasizes purpose of the project: to collect and make available the works of Walt Whitman.
One page that has unique value is titled “Resources” that lists tools, addition links on Whitman, and even a teaching syllabus. Upon clicking the “Tools” link, I was presented with a text analysis tool called TokenX. The page offers a full description of the tool as well as instructions and suggestions for use. Pages such as this one offer an advantage to a researcher using digital archives over printed ones. The tool is explained and then can be instantly downloaded for use.
I am hesitant to call the site complete, as it is described as a “dynamic site that will grow and change over the years” by the authors, who mention the future addition of Whitman’s poetry to the archive. However, I found every time of source that I could use for my own scholarly papers or projects within the pages of the archive. Scanned photos of Whitman’s notebooks, transcriptions of his works, history of Whitman’s life, full books translated into several languages, published works, a gallery of images… the list continues. Honestly, I wish I had known of this resource in high school. The criticism is somewhat limited, due to copyright permission of the authors.
This project is fully developed, financially supported by several education institutions, including University of Virginia, as well as donations from researchers and other outside institutions. With an entire page dedicated to the creators and contributors of the archive, it is obvious that the site derived from a passion of literature and a great appreciation of Walt Whitman. Overall, the project is extremely successful in fulfilling their purpose, and serves as an excellent model for other digital archives.