Working on my digital capstone project has been a lesson not only in creating digital exhibits, but in flexibility. During the summer of 2022 I thought that I had developed the perfect plan for a digital capstone. I wanted to do a theatre archiving project using the works of Iowa-born playwright Susan Glaspell. My initial plan was to direct a production using one of her full-length scripts or a series of her one-act plays. I planned to visit UI Special Collections to view their Susan Glaspell papers. My hope was that this research would lead me to primary source documents that I could connect to the production and use to create a digital exhibit about Glaspell’s life and work, featuring a recording of my production and an annotated script.
As you may be able to guess, that project did not happen. During a visit to Special Collections over the summer I realized that the items they had in the Susan Glaspell papers did not fit my needs. I scrapped my idea for this theatre archiving project and spent the Fall 2022 semester trying to think of a new direction for my capstone. During this semester I took Dr. Jennifer Sterling’s Archiving Women’s History course. This class culminated in creating an Omeka exhibit using items from the Iowa Women’s Archives. The scope of my exhibit made it difficult to finish in one semester, so I thought that I could use it as the basis for my capstone project. My class project focused on materials from Catholic women activists within the IWA. I made a new plan to finish this exhibit and use it as a launching point to study other areas of Catholic activism. Unfortunately, I was never able to solidify a plan for how to make that connection. I floundered trying to figure out an angle for this project and left it to languish for a few weeks before turning to Digital Humanities Research and Instruction Librarian Nikki White for help redirecting my project.
At the beginning of the semester, my capstone cohort was told that we might end up changing our entire focus, and that was okay as long as we were exploring how to do digital humanities work. Knowing this gave me the freedom to be able to let go of my second project idea and go back to a focus on theatre archiving. While I scrapped my original plan of using primary sources from the Susan Glaspell papers, I had directed a production in March that involved doing dramaturgical work to understand the historical context of three one-act plays from the early 20th century. With Nikki’s support, I have been working on taking my research and turning it into an Omeka exhibit and LibGuide. This work has given me the opportunity to consider how digital humanities tools can be used to create educational resources that can be used beyond academic institutions. As I work to complete my capstone project, I am focusing on creating something that could be used by educators and theatre practitioners to explore women’s experience as playwrights in early 20th century America. I hope that this project will help inspire others to read and perform scripts that are often overlooked.