Technology in the Classroom: Luna Insight

Jessica R. Frazier, The George Washington University

The second portion of “Shakespeare: From the Globe to the Global” investigated the dissemination of Shakespeare not only across the space of the globe but also into that of the World Wide Web. The Institute participants considered particularly the ways in which recent technological developments might enable new approaches to the playwright and his works in the space of the classroom. One of the resources to which participants were introduced was the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Digital Image Collection, enabled through Luna Insight software. This searchable database provides access to thousands of digitized images (Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean) from the Folger collection, granting those beyond the walls of the Library the opportunity to interact with rare materials. For educators and their students, this electronic archive holds much potential. I worked to develop an assignment for an introductory English literature course (to 1800) that would harness the possibilities of the Digital Image Collection to the kind of creative thinking in which I wanted my students to engage. The result was a final project that asked students to curate a collection of three images and to produce a rationale that placed the images into conversation with one medieval or early modern literary text that we had explored during the semester.

Object studies provided one of the primary paradigms through which the class reflected on literature ranging from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to The Turkish Embassy Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. For the final curation project, I wanted the students to encounter digital objects (or images) from the Folger Digital Image Collection and to consider how those objects might inform a re-reading of a chosen course text. For the purposes of the assignment, the students did not need to conduct extensive research into the production history of their selected images. Rather, they were to grapple solely with the images themselves, treating the digital objects as windows capable of (re)framing the text in question. After examining the images, the students were to compose a directed thesis about a question or theme pertaining to a literary work from the syllabus and subsequently to produce a five-page paper that developed this thesis in relationship to the given images. In addition to this Word document, the students also submitted PowerPoint files of their accompanying digital objects (a process rendered quite easily through Luna Insight). By way of an example, I showed the students a PowerPoint presentation consisting of four John Austen illustrations of Hamlet from the Folger’s Digital Image Collection. I then proceeded to posit associative links between the content of the drawings and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, modeling for the students the ways in which the images suggested an argument for Morgan le Fay’s power in the text through the natural world.

The goal of this final curation project was three-fold: 1) to introduce students to this unique technological archive; 2) to encourage rigorous visual and textual analysis; and 3) to remind students of the ways in which the visual and the textual are often implicated in one another through the material. The delight that the students expressed at culling through the archive and examining its digital objects has proved as rewarding as the innovative meditations that are emerging from the experience. Below are the detailed instructions with which I provided the students so that other educators may adopt and adapt this assignment and thus share in one of the benefits of “Shakespeare: From the Globe to the Global.”

Final Curation Project

For this assignment, you will need to select three images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Digital Image Collection, create a PowerPoint file of those images, and write a five-page rationale explaining the way in which your collection relates to one text from the course. Choose your images according to any object, theme, or question that has emerged from one of the readings and that you would like to explore further. For our purposes here, the original context of the images matters not. In other words, you do not need to research the production history of the images or the specific individual, object, or work to which the images refer. Instead, determine how the content of the selected images (or some aspect of that content) speaks to the selected text. Aside from the Folger’s Digital Image Collection, do not draw upon any other secondary sources (including Internet sources)! Below are instructions for using the Folger’s Digital Image Collection, creating the PowerPoint, and crafting the rationale. Read them carefully!

Navigating the Digital Image Collection:

The Folger’s Digital Image Collection houses over 48,000 images. To render the search process more manageable, I have narrowed the field to roughly 10,000 images.

  1. Go to the following address: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet . Create an account by clicking on “Register” (top right). To create an account, you will simply need to provide your name, an email address, and a password. At this point, you will be able to select how many thumbnails you would like per page and at what size. Select 250 thumbnails per page set to large.
  2. After registering, use this link to access the images available to you for this assignment: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/1f0a3m. Make sure you log in!
  3. Once you have accessed the above page, if you have not already made this request, change the thumbnails to 250 per page and select the largest thumbnail size available (above the images and directly next to the number of images).
  4. Scroll through the images. You will be best served if you allow an image to suggest something to you rather than coming to the images with a predetermined object, theme, or question. You will see that along the left-hand side of the page you can limit the images shown through categories of “What,” “Where,” “Who,” and “When.” However, I would not recommend this until you have selected at least one image.
  5. Once you have found one image that intrigues you, click on it. Just that one image will now appear on the screen, and you will be able to examine it in detail through a magnifying scale.
  6. If you think that this image might work, click “Add to Media Group” (in the bar directly above the image). The selected image will blink. You will automatically have a media group created for you. Adding images to your media group is the only way that they will be saved if you navigate away from the page or close the window. It is also the only way in which you can create a PowerPoint from the Digital Image Collection!
  7. Once you have found one image that is a possibility, you can then search for other images like it. When you click on an image and it appears by itself on the screen, on the left-hand side of the screen you will see information about the image. If you click on “creator” or one of the “subject” possibilities, you will be able to call up similar images.

Creating a PowerPoint Document from a Media Group

  1. Make sure that you are logged in to your account. Click on the button “My First Media Group:” in the top right (next to “Active Media Group:”).
  2. Once you have accessed your media group, you can change its title by clicking on “Properties” in the bar above the images.
  3. To create a PowerPoint export, simply click on “Export to PowerPoint” in the bar above the images in your media group.
  4. A PowerPoint document will be created for you, complete with the images and their catalogue details. Make sure that you save this PowerPoint under your full name, as you will need to email it to me, along with a Word document of your curation rationale.

Writing the Curation Rationale

  1. Reflect carefully upon both your selected images and your chosen text. Begin by allowing yourself to make all kinds of associations between your images and your text.
  2. You might find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What do these images have in common? In what ways do they differ?
  2. What do the images suggest to you about an object, theme, or question that appears in the text on which you would like to work?
  3. Does a careful study of these images make you aware of textual elements that before went unnoticed?
  4. Does each of the images encourage a distinct kind of thinking about the text and the element of it that you are investigating? If so, how do you negotiate these different approaches?
  5. Does one image serve as the primary engine for your thinking about an object, theme, or question as it relates to the text? If so, how do your other two images correspond to it?
  6. Is there one element that repeats in each image and that drew you to it? If so, how does that one, small detail speak to your reading of the text?
  1. Develop a thesis about the way in which your selected images speak to (or argue about) a given object, theme, or question in one of the texts from the course.
  2. Next offer a reading of each image, coupled with an analysis of a specific textual moment and quotation. Remember, this is about a conversation between two different mediums.
  3. In your conclusion, reflect more broadly upon the relationship between the material (even a digital image bespeaks materiality) and the linguistic. What are the benefits of recognizing an interaction between these two different mediums? What might be potential pitfalls?