The Biography Project: Loy & Her Social Network

Mapping Mina Loy’s Social-Artistic Networks in Florence, Paris, New York

During the fall of 2017, each of us taught a course relevant to mina-loy.com, giving us an opportunity to pilot a cross-institutional digital humanities project with students and enhancing our collaboration with the digital librarians (Emily McGinn, UGA; Sundi Richard, Davidson; Gesina Phillips, Duquesne) and research librarians (Kristin Nielsen, UGA; James Sponsel, Davidson; Gesina Phillips, Duquesne) at our respective schools. The “Biography Project,” as it came to be called, involved students at Davidson, Duquesne, and UGA in researching and writing short biographies of figures associated with the historical avant-garde (chiefly Dada, Futurism, Surrealism) who were connected to Loy in Florence, New York, and Paris. In fall 2018, Linda and Susan resumed the cross-institutional project with students in their graduate seminars on modernism and the avant-garde.

A truly collaborative effort, we established and followed a shared template for the biographies and involved students in peer-reviews of at least two biographies authored by students from other schools. Students worked with research librarians to find relevant sources and to create annotated bibliographies of their sources. In workshops conducted by digital librarians at each school, students considered the technical and conceptual particularities of gathering and “cleaning” data, writing for a digital platform, and conducting peer review through the open platform hypothes.is.

The biographies were structured on a template that briefly summarizes each figure’s career and their relationship to Loy, along with a number of categories (birth, death, country of origin/citizenship, kind of artistic/cultural worker, dates and places of overlap with Loy) chosen with a digital humanities project in mind. Once the students had completed the research and writing of their figure’s biography, they learned how to enter information from the biography template into a Google spread sheet using a Data Dictionary (created by Dr. Emily McGinn, Director, UGA DigiLab).  An exciting outcome of this collection of data was the creation of visualizations of Loy’s social-artistic networks in Florence, New York and Paris (with the help of our wonderful digital librarians). Emily McGinn and Caleb Crumley created a preliminary visualization of this data for mina-loy.com using cytoscape (final visualization coming soon; click on the map to enlarge it):

Mina Loy social network visualization
“Mina Loy Connections Network.” Image generated by Caleb Crumley and Emily McGinn, Willson Center Digital Humanities Lab, University of Georgia Libraries. Cytoscape software platform. http://www.cytoscape.org/ (Shannon et al. 2003).

Once the biographies were completed for class, three graduate students at Duquesne (John Hadlock, English PHD; Rochel Gasson, English PHD; Taylor Maldonado, English MA) undertook final editing and uploading of each figure’s biography to the website’s “Bios” page. Additional biographies are in the works and will be completed and uploaded in Summer 2019.