The Study of Digital Preservation


Michael Kuczynski


Michael Kuczynski
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of English

One of the most successful areas of graduate study in the Department of English is its popular Documentary Literary Studies Certificate, which since Katrina has given advanced undergraduates and Master's students the opportunity to work as interns in Tulane's rare books and manuscripts archives, where they develop both physical and digital research portfolios and exhibitions of some of Tulane's treasures.

Students learn to handle and process such materials as medieval biblical manuscripts dating to the 14th c.; handmade books produced at William Morris's Victorian Kelmscott Press (such as the Kelmscott Chaucer, shown below); oral and visual records of the fascinating history of New Orleans jazz (recorded interviews, which they transcribe, and posters of concerts, which they catalogue); and the letters of prominent African-American poets from the Harlem Renaissance, preserved on Tulane's campus in the Amistad Collection.

Students pursuing the certificate help to curate exhibits in Jones Hall, the home of Tulane's Rare Books collection and design electronic finding aids and online displays of digital surrogates of rare books and manuscripts at Tulane. These finding aids and displays entice local and global visitors to experience—on site and virtually, by way of the Internet—the wealth of Tulane's ancient and modern archival holdings.


A student doing research for the Documentary
Literary Studies Certificate examines a
fifteenth-century printed book.
A handmade book produced at William Morris's
Victorian Kelmscott Press - a part of Tulane's
rare books and manuscripts archive.
Two Documentary Literary Studies Certificate
students working with two 16th c. herbals used
by Shakespeare in writing his plays.

While completing such projects, students acquire a wide range of tactical skills in approaching culture by way of its material sources—an area of innovative growth within the humanities, encouraged by the Smithsonian Institution, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Library of Congress—that positions them for success in academic and non-academic job markets. They have also become excited about one of the Tulane English Department's new initiatives: Archives and Outreach, an effort to bring Tulane's archives physically and virtually into New Orleans' elementary and high school classrooms. This initiative builds on, among other principles, the university's belief that archives are not simply private areas for isolated, scholarly activity, but public venues for the community-wide exploration of our collective national and international past.

Tulane University, School of Liberal Arts, 102 Newcomb Hall, New Orleans, LA  70118, (504) 865-5225,