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Department of English

Internships: Digital Humanities


Picture of InternIntern: Chris Sims, MA Student, English 

Workplace: Digital Humanities Center, Kansas State University

Faculty Supervisor: Mark Crosby, Assistant Professor, English

Course: ENGL 797 English Internship (Internal)

Semester: Spring 2015

Chris completed his internship in spring 2015 with the Digital Humanities Center here at English Department, Kansas State University. Chris came to know about digital humanities when Dr. Mark Crosby, the Digital Humanities Coordinator on campus, came to one of Chris’ classes to give a guest lecture. From there, an internship opportunity was created for Chris to work on the World War I Poetry project for the Center.

The World War I Poetry project was conducted in partnership with the National World War I Museum in Kansas City. Its purpose is to create a digital archive of American World War I poetry that currently exists in physical format. To do so, Chris used Extensible Markup Language (XML) following and adapting Textual Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines, which are guidelines specifically developed to digitally archive scholarly texts. These guidelines specify a large number of coding tags, and Chris’ task was to customize these tags into a dedicated schema that best transforms paper-based artifacts into digital presentations. “The challenge to this was the visual aspect. This coding needed to be able to encapsulate not just what was written on the page in terms of poetry, but the typeface, any markings on the page, what kind of images and configurations the page possessed.” Chris recalled a particular piece that is a divisional breakdown of military units that also contains a typescript poem. The piece had five layers of surface materials, strange shapes, different colors, and texts on different locations. For archival purposes, all of these details needed to be digitally encoded. Dr. Crosby added that of all the examples of World War I poetry yet encountered, “Chris selected perhaps the most challenging artifact due to its visual and verbal complexity. By devising a schema for this particular poem, Chris has not only gained significant experience in textual and digital editing, but has also created the template for all of the poetry that we’ll be encoding for the archive.”

Chris said the project was both fun and trying at the same time. Chris had an interest in technology and computing growing up. Though he had not chosen that career path, he enjoyed this opportunity to use his technology experience toward graduate study. He did hit the wall at times trying to figure out the best digital components for the project, but he learned to navigate those challenges and eventually delivered a successful schema. Chris recommended that English graduate students “look everywhere and anywhere for internships,” which he believes are a rare opportunity for students to set their own learning agenda and take responsibilities for that learning.

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