The ABC Books project makes available for research and analysis an interactive digital archive of rare children’s alphabet books. The overarching goal of the project is for students not only to interact with the archive but also actively to build and enhance it. In Phase I, with the assistance of staff from the Center for Digital Humanities, we developed a beta version of the archive for use in ENG 385: Children’s Literature (Spring 2014). During the semester students were given opportunities to work with the archive and also to learn the basics of text encoding. All students in the course completed an initial, archive-based assignment in which they had to select one of the books and analyze its morphology. At the end of the semester we asked students to complete a second assignment: to identify “three or more specific ways” a future version of the archive might help them as researchers or writers. They provided over 150 pages of detailed advice on how the archive might be redesigned or augmented to maximize its benefit to students.
The goals for the current phase of the project include improving the interface, expanding student interactivity, and enlarging the archive. The archive will again be using in the Children’s Literature course in the Spring of 2016.