Hidden in the stacks: Nebraska hosts Book Traces project

Hidden in the stacks: Nebraska hosts Book Traces project

Book Traces
Courtesy of Walt Whitman Archive
“Dieskau’s Defeat and Death” was found with two leaves tucked inside.

What might be hiding in the stacks of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Love Library?

Readers of books, especially in the 19th century, often left behind bits of history in handwritten margin notes, photographs and other objects.

On March 30, Huskers are invited to a treasure hunt to find these unique markings, items and annotations and document them with the crowd-sourced digital humanities project, Book Traces.

The event will take place beginning at 10 a.m. in Adele Hall Learning Commons and is being led by Peter Capuano, associate professor of English and director of the 19th-century studies program, and Andrew Stauffer of the University of Virginia and founder of Book Traces.

Book Traces lets everyone become a digital humanist and aims to identify and document the unique marginalia and items left by readers long ago, and engage the question of the future of the print record in the wake of wide-scale digitization.

“With the help of students, faculty and librarians, we have discovered thousands of examples of 19th-century annotation in books in the circulating collections of academic libraries,” Stauffer wrote about the project. “Such marks and such reveries help us understand the particular place of books as domestic and social objects during the 19th century.”

Participants will go into some of the oldest collections in Love Library and document finds via digital photos taken with their phones.

Capuano was excited to bring Stauffer to initiate the project at Nebraska and to give a lecture on the project and the finds unique to Nebraska. The presentation is slated for 3:30 p.m. in the Peterson Room, Love Library 221.

“There is something to be learned from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s books,” he said. “We don’t know what we’re going to find. Undoubtedly, it will be unique to Nebraska’s place.”

The event is open to all students, faculty and staff, and those interested should contact Capuano by email at pcapuano2@unl.edu.