Reviewed by: Emily Pagano, Miriam Moster, and Emily Maanum
Review started: February 24, 2021
Review finished: April 25, 2021
Data and Sources
- 15,000 digital images, including 3,000 spectral images of manuscripts
- 780 transcriptions
- Livingstone Online is a collective project which is the result of international collaboration. The material is sourced from a huge list of institutions all over the world but mainly libraries and archives in the United Kingdom. The material is also browsable by institution.
- Spectral imaging
- Metadata added to material in the digital collection that includes item’s date, creator, and location, as well as identifies which repository (institution) the item is a part of
- Transcriptions critically edited
- A highly curated online exhibit
- Contextualization of Livingstone and 18th to 19th century expeditions by Europeans
- Website is five levels, which includes the home page, the six section pages, the content pages of each section, the manuscript viewer, and the digital collection browser.
- The site contains a lot of metadata with the overview page for each section functioning as a site map.
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- Information not prominently displayed on site
Livingstone Online is a digital exhibit that allows users to encounter the written, visual, and material legacies of the famous Victorian explorer, missionary, and abolitionist David Livingstone who lived from 1813 to 1873. This website hosts 15,000 images and 780 transcriptions, which is one of the biggest collections on the internet related to a European “visitor” to Africa. This project deals with a contentious topic, that of Victorian British explorers traveling abroad and involving themselves in the society of those places. The website distances itself from Livingstone and his legacy, stating that the aim is neither to praise nor condemn the individual, but to recognize that the material here offers an important glimpse into global history and intercultural encounters. This controversial history, the team behind this project posits, is part of our shared cultural heritage and should be available for study, for better or for worse. There is also a section called Livingstone’s Posthumous Reputation that examines the changing ways he has been viewed throughout history. We think that this project does a good job of the stated goal—recognizing the importance of this history without lionizing the individual.
As far as the sources of this material, Livingstone Online is a collective project that is the result of international collaboration. The material is sourced from a huge list of institutions all over the world but mainly libraries and archives in the United Kingdom. The material is also browsable by institution.
There is a lot of metadata to get through before you access the project or any information on the site. The website is essentially six sections, including a section about the site and a section related to resources. Each section page has an overview page. If you click for more information related to a section, you are taken to a list of links directing you to that additional information. For example, the About this Site tab directs you to a page of links including overview. The overview page, instead of giving you an overview, takes you to a new list of links. One is an introduction which takes you to informational material, but the page is frontloaded with additional links.
The overview page for each section is really an annotated site map. Not a bad idea to include, but perhaps it would have made for a better user experience to have a clearer page title and not be the first link you’re directed to.
Looking at this from the perspective of a reviewer, we appreciate the amount of detail provided on the back-end of this project. The online code is made available on the website, as is the “methodological practices, data production standards, and hosting and backup arrangements” for the project. The project also makes use of spectral imaging of the manuscripts and offers detailed information on how this was done and why. This website is very informative and not just on the subject of Livingstone but on the background of the project.
Interestingly, this website is peer-reviewed by NINES (Nineteenth-century Scholarship Online). Additionally, it has a seal of approval from the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions. This is an uncommon but useful practice that allows for Digital Humanities projects to be more legitimized as publications.