I just read a fascinating article by Russell M. Wyland, Assistant Research director at the NEH, about the symbiotic relationship between the development of Victorian studies and the development of the NEH as a federal grant agency in the 1950s and 1960s. I had never thought about the vast amount of resources, especially financial, that it took to get a project like the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals up and running, or the impossibility of doing interdisciplinary work in Victorian Studies without these resources. The article also made me think of the place of collaborative scholarship that enables other scholarship, like editions and indexes and maybe now web-archives, in the academy. The NEH is now funding projects like the Nines, which are making scholarly editions and articles even more accessible by putting them online. I wonder if this is a modern-day equivalent to the Wellesley Index or something even more?
I am also reminded of the importance of scholarly indexes and archives in an era when the Google search can make them seem superfluous. But, if like me, you’ve ever spent an hour trying to Google whether a portrait of Dinah Mulock Craik still exists to no avail, when, if you’d just gone to the library and looked it up in the catalogue of Holman Hunt’s work you’d have had the answer in less than ten minutes, you know how valuable this work is.
Here’s the link, from the August 2009 issue of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, if you’re interested in following up:
p.s. Holman Hunt didn’t finish the portrait, and it doesn’t exist anymore!