Breaking the “Class” Ceiling: The Challenges and Opportunities of Creating a Digital Archive of Edwardian Working-Class Book Inscriptions

O'Hagan, Lauren (2022). Breaking the “Class” Ceiling: The Challenges and Opportunities of Creating a Digital Archive of Edwardian Working-Class Book Inscriptions. In: Schwan, Ann and Thomson, Tara eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Digital and Public Humanities. Palgrave, (In press).

Abstract

Book inscriptions are an important example of ‘ordinary writing’ that have the potential to reshape current understandings of working-class life in Edwardian Britain (1901-1914). Nonetheless, due to historical bias in collection policies and the perceived value of working-class writing, books containing these marks tend to survive largely outside of official institutions of power. Furthermore, when examples exist in libraries and archives, they tend to be scant and undocumented and, thus, are difficult to find. Without some form of intervention, these inscriptions face endangerment and entire narratives of working-class culture and history risk being eradicated. Digital preservation offers an important way to safeguard these inscriptions and make them available on a large scale. However, there are a number of challenges that prevent or hinder the possibility. This paper explores some of these difficulties and suggests ways in which they can be overcome in order to give a permanent voice to the voiceless and break the ‘class’ ceiling.

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