Inspiration for The Neihardt Projects first began with a serendipitous conversation in the summer of 2008 with Nancy Gillis, Executive Director of the Neihardt Center in Bancroft, NE. Early seeds of possibilities grew into ambitious plans with the further insights and imaginative support of Coralie Hughes and Robin Neihardt (grandchildren of John G.) and the Neihardt Trust (which reviewed and approved the full proposal for The Projects). Everyone at the Neihardt Center and Neihardt Trust has been unfailingly helpful and encouraging, with special “above and beyond” thanks to Nancy and her staff assistants, Mary Petersen and Norma Farrens, and maintenance staff, Rod Peters, all of whom braved record-setting snowfall – with 8-foot drifts up to the eaves of the Center – to enable us to begin work on the Projects over Christmas break 2009.
The initial construction of the Neihardt digital archive has been supported by a Plains Humanities Alliance Fellowship in Digital Humanities for 2011-13 and through a Pollock-Dudley Research Award from the Dudley Observatory, Schnectady, NY. Together these funds have supported research into the range and extent of Neihardt’s science writing and the scanning of over 9,000 images of original letters and photographs (so far) during the summers of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
A serious – and still accumulating – debt of gratitude is owed everyone at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, especially Co-Director Katherine Walter, Digital Resources Designer Karin Dalziel, and Metadata Encoding Specialist Laura Weakly who have all so generously shared their expertise, encouragement and patient teaching (and re-teaching) with the Project Director and Staff who have definitely been climbing a “steep learning curve.” We have also deeply appreciated the creative advice and collegial support of Wendy Katz, Director of the Plains Humanities Alliance and Associate Director of the Center for Great Plains Studies. It has been immensely beneficial to have The Neihardt Projects welcomed into the scholarly and educational community at UNL where everyone is so dedicated to working cooperatively to make the potential actual and in so many effective ways.
The Neihardt Projects are also grateful to the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas which recently designated an office in the Jonsson Building as dedicated “Digital Humanities Workspace,” providing file cabinets, whiteboards and several computer workstations. This dedicated office –shared with Dr. Jessica Murphy and the English Broadside Ballad Archive—will enable the directors of these two projects to train and consult with graduate and undergraduate research assistants and provide on-campus collaborative workspace for both research assistants and future DH interns. Both Drs. Gossin and Murphy are involved in the new and growing DFW-Area Digital Humanities Colloquium which aims to develop a community of DH scholars in North Texas.
The Neihardt Projects
Since 1976, the museum, library, and prayer garden of the Neihardt Center in Bancroft, NE have served as the spiritual heart of Neihardt studies, offering educational and commemorative events to the state and region year round. The five central components of The Neihardt Projects - the current digital archive and scholarly website, book projects as well as future curricula, exhibits and conservation efforts - are all intended to radiate out from this Center, expanding the influence of Neihardt’s works and ideas by bringing them fully onto the global stage through the use of new media and digital humanities. The central aim of The Neihardt Projects is to “un-hide” what have long been regarded as the hidden treasures of Neihardt’s contributions to the literature, culture and history of the American Great Plains, making his works and ideas more fully accessible to 21st -century readers and scholars around the world.
The efforts of The Neihardt Projects will supplement and complement long-established and highly successful programs of publication and education in Neihardt studies by many other committed individuals and organizations, such as the University of Nebraska Press, SUNY Press, the Neihardt Foundation and the Nebraska State Historical Society. Emphasis throughout all aspects of the Projects will be on working cooperatively with existing enterprises to create new bridges between academic communities and the general public, across generations and across cultures, following as empathetically as possible in Neihardt’s own diverse interdisciplinary footsteps and extending his mission to “translate and transmit” his poetic vision and wide-ranging thought and experiences.
While many of Neihardt’s creative works have long been in print (Black Elk Speaks, Cycle of the West etc.), he also wrote over 2,000 professional and personal letters and nearly 3,000 critical essays and reviews. Scattered in archives across the country, copies of many of these materials— and some originals—are housed in the Neihardt Center. Utilized by a small, but steady, stream of scholars over the years, these documents have never been widely accessible or searchable, yet collectively they offer transformative new perspectives on Neihardt’s life and times.
From his supposedly isolated rural surroundings, Neihardt created and maintained an active intellectual engagement in scientific and technological developments and world affairs, sharing his take on “western civilization” with the growing population of the Louisiana Purchase. In close cooperation with the Neihardt Center, the Neihardt Foundation, the Neihardt Trust, the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, Plains Humanities Alliance and Center for Great Plains Studies at UNL, the Neihardt Projects’ digital archive, print volumes and educational outreach will extend and connect Neihardt’s readership, so that more people worldwide will have access to Neihardt’s creative model for interdisciplinary and cross-cultural ways of thinking and being.
Pamela Gossin is Professor of History of Science and Literary Studies and Affiliate Professor of Science Education at the University of Texas at Dallas where she directs the Medical and Scientific Humanities (MaSH) program. Born and raised in Lincoln, she graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (BA, MA) and served as Curator of the Nebraska History and Literature Collections in the Heritage Room of the Lincoln Public Libraries before completing a double-PhD in the History of Science and English at the University of Wisconsin. The author of over 50 articles and reviews on history of science and the interrelations of literature and science, she has published two books, Thomas Hardy's Novel Universe: Astronomy, Cosmology and Gender in the Post-Darwinian World (Ashgate) and Greenwood's An Encyclopedia of Literature and Science. Her book chapter, "Lessons of an Interdisciplinary Life: Loren Eiseley's Rhetoric of Profundity and the 'Two Cultures' Classroom," recently appeared in Artifacts and Illuminations: Critical Essays on Loren Eiseley, edited by Susan Maher and Tom Lynch (UNP, 2012). Recently elected to the Executive Committee of the Modern Language Association's Literature and Science Division, she is currently working on two book projects for submission to the University of Nebraska Press: Neihardt on Science: Selected Essays and Reviews, 1913 - 1938 and Visions and Voices: Selected Letters of John G. Neihardt, both approved by the Neihardt Trust.
Julie Gavran – is a PhD candidate in the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas where she is researching the life and work of Benton MacKaye, the founder of the Appalachian Trail. Neihardt corresponded with MacKaye’s brother, Percy, and one of her first “finds” was an original letter from Neihardt to Percy in the Dartmouth Library. During the fall 2012 and spring 2013, she transcribed examples of Neihardt’s science writing from his early newspaper days in the first decades of the 20th century and supervised two summer interns. She also serves as regional coordinator for the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. This national organization works with university leaders, faculty and students to block legislation that would force colleges and universities to allow firearms on campuses.
Eric Johnson – a native of Blair, Nebraska, is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, where he majored in Anthropology with a double minor in Latin and Music Composition. As an RA for The Neihardt Projects during the summers of 2011, 2012 and 2013, he set up the organizational framework and databases for the digitalization and scanned over 6,000 images of Neihardt’s professional correspondence held in the Neihardt Center. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in archaeology.
Erin Pedigo is currently a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln working on a Master's degree in History, specializing in the 19th Century American West. She recently finished her Master of Arts in Journalism from UNL with her thesis "The Gifted Pen": the journalism career of Susette La Flesche Tibbles (1854-1903). Originally from Omaha, Nebraska via Houston, Texas, she obtained her undergraduate degree from Baylor University. For the Neihardt Project, she has transcribed approximately 4,000 letters written by Neihardt. Erin has been involved in a number of other digital research projects at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, including The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, Casting Digital Nets and the National Digital Newspaper Project.
Christian Wilson recently graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, where his studies focused on photojournalism. During the summer of 2012, he scanned images of correspondence and took hundreds of original photographs in and around Bancroft and the Neihardt historical site, including many that will be incorporated into this website. Currently working as a photographer in Boston, Christian has held positions as a photojournalism intern at the Pacific Northwest Inlander magazine, Spokane, WA, The Daily Herald newspaper, Arlington Heights, IL, and The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK. His favorite moment as a journalist: receiving his press pass to UNL’s Memorial Stadium to shoot NU vs. NU in the Fall of 2011 for the Daily Northwestern (a special challenge in journalistic integrity, since he’s a Husker fan). His work can be seen at: christianwilsonphotography.com.
Arman Zeljkovic is a recent graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor's degree in English and Psychology. He assisted with transcription and initial encoding of Neihardt's outgoing correspondence. In addition to his work on the Neihardt letters, Arman acted as an undergraduate student assistant on the Every Week Magazine project and assisted with metadata cleanup for Race in Children's Literature.
Melissa Stephens and William Szendrey, both undergraduates at the University of Texas at Dallas, served as summer interns (summer 2013), transcribing Neihardt's science essays and generating key search terms for the essays and correspondence.
CDRH Faculty and Staff:
Karin Dalziel is the Digital Resources Designer at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. She has several years of experience with design, web standards and encoding systems, and works with digital research teams to create attractive, accessible, and usable websites. Dalziel received her Bachelor's in Fine Art from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in May of 2006 and a Master's in Library Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2008. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Katherine L. Walter is chair of Digital Initiatives & Special Collections (DISC) in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, and co-directs UNL's Center for Digital Research in the Humanities with Kenneth M. Price. Walter has been co-principal investigator of two Whitman-related research projects funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services: A Virtual Archive of Walt Whitman's Manuscripts and Interoperability of Metadata for Thematic Research Collections: A Model Based on The Walt Whitman Archive. Walter was co-principal investigator of the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Online project. She currently serves as co-chair of the steering committee of centerNet, an international network of digital humanities centers.
Laura Weakly, Metadata Encoding Specialist, has worked on more than 30 digital research projects at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. She works with teams of digital humanities scholars to determine best practices for encoding innovative online scholarly projects and to ensure projects are in compliance with international metadata standards. Weakly supervises the Center's graduate research assistants and undergraduate student workers. In this capacity, she oversees students as they digitize, OCR and encode primary and secondary source materials and develop born-digital content. Weakly received her Bachelor of Journalism and Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
ADDITIONAL THANKS: The earliest stages of this project’s development benefitted greatly from the assistance of Victor Wilson and Will Gossin both of whom helped with the initial reconnaissance of the correspondence held in the Neihardt Center at Bancroft, provided expert technical support, organized materials, scanned indices and sample letters, and helped explore and inventory the treasure-trove we found there.
Thank you also to Paul and Don Hammel for providing appropriately rural, picturesque (and affordable!) housing for our summertime Research Assistants who thoroughly enjoyed exploring the hills and fields around Bancroft, the spectacular sunsets, and filling the farmhouse with the sound of their late-night folk guitar jams.