Approach: Archive Development
Project: Don Quixote Interactive (http://quijote.bne.es/libro.html)
Don Quixote Interactive is an ambitious, well-thought-out, and well-designed project developed by the National Library of Spain. It is described by the Western Michigan University as an “interactive digitization of the original edition of Miguel de Cervantes’ cult 1605-1615 novel, Don Quijote”. Don Quixote Interactive is indeed a digitization, but it has much more to offer than just the electronic version of the original manuscript: it is an impressive project containing multiple historical records and materials that allows the reader to immerse in Don Quixote’s world. Everything – from the background music to the worn-out air of the digitized manuscript to the additional resources (that include maps, videos, pictures, and relevant background information), allows readers to access relevant material on and to better understand the sixteenth century Spain of Don Quixote.
The webpage is modern, has a sleek interface, and uses up-to-date technology. A possible downside to this, however, is that the user must also have up-to-date plug-ins and browsers to be able to access the site. Nonetheless, the entire page is user-friendly and very easy to navigate. All the different resources offered by the project are signaled by clearly visible icons located around the screen edge and are only one click away. The resources include an interactive “map of adventures”, a gallery depicting the different editions of Don Quixote over time, a side-to-side comparison between the approach to chivalric themes used by Don Quixote and the one used by other romance novels, informational texts on the daily life in Spain during the sixteenth century (including aspects such as gastronomy, dances, games, clothing, music, and theater), a gallery of illustrations and engravings that depict the book’s author and some of the relevant scenes, a music collection, and a video of a puppet-opera show based on an episode from Don Quixote. These resources allow users to obtain a better understanding of Don Quixote, for they will be able to place the book in its right historical and social context, and will also be better equipped to understand some references in the book that are not obvious to modern-day readers. Moreover, they are highly interactive, instructive, and engaging, in ways that physical archives could never be. For example, in the map of adventures, you can see the routes Don Quixote took on his different trips. These routes are connected by dots, where every dot represents an important place – one where a significant event took place. The user is able to click on every dot and read a summary of the event, along with a picture or illustration.
During class we discussed the importance of knowing your audience when developing a project. The creators of Don Quixote Interactive seem to have taken this guideline to heart, for the project is appealing to scholars and non-scholars alike. Users, for example, are able to choose whether they want to read the “original edition” or a modernized version of the book. Although the “original edition” is naturally only a digitization of the original manuscript, the project’s creators did an outstanding job in being true to the physical edition: the digitized book shows signs of wear, and you can even see what appear to be stains. The modernized version, on the other hand, allows readers who might not be as familiar with sixteenth century Spanish to access a transcription of the book into modern spelling and print. Moreover, changing from one edition to the other is extremely easy – it can be done with just one click. In addition, there are a number of features available to readers: high-quality zoom, text searches, full screen view, option to print, and option to share (either a page or the entire book through Facebook or e-mail).
It is no wonder that the initiative – with its top-quality content and resources that include over 1280 pages and more than 160 illustrations and maps, was developed by a collaboration of professionals from different fields and took 5000 workhours (a little over 208 days) to build. The project’s creators also did their best to conserve the “reading experience” – the flip page effect allows you to see the progress you make as you advance in the reading, and there is a real sound after turning every page.
The one big thing the project is missing is, in my opinion, a number of assistive technologies for the disabled. For example, the site does not provide an audio version for those with visual impairments. Yet overall, I think the project is an outstanding one. It does not only allow users to read Don Quixote as if they had the book in their hands, but it also provides invaluable resources and multimedia content to give users access to important background information, and improve their overall reading experience.
“Interactive Quixote”. Biblioteca Nacional de Espana. Web. 13 Feb. 2017
Popova, Maria. “Digital Humanities Spotlight: 7 Important Digitization Projects.” Brain Pickings. 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Feb. 2017
“WMU Research Guides: Digital Humanities: Examples of DH Projects.” Examples of DH Projects – Digital Humanities – WMU Research Guides at Western Michigan University. Web. 13 Feb. 2017