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Patricia Clements, Isobel Grundy, Susan Brown
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The Dawn of Orlando
An innovative electronic textbase on the history of women’s writing is launched, changing the face of humanities research
The story of how Orlando
— the recently released electronic history of women writers that was
created primarily at the University of Alberta — came to be starts with
an ending. It begins with an index that was literally too big to fit in
In 1990, when Patricia Clements, ’64 BA, U of A professor of English, and her co-editors were almost ready to get The Feminist Companion to Literature in English
(Yale University Press) to print, they were told that the index they’d
prepared — which included the name and some abbreviated biographical
information on each author in the book — would fill 100 pages. The
publisher said there was no way it could fit in the book. “We couldn’t
print the index,” says Clements, “as the binding would collapse.” She
and her colleagues agreed to strip the index down to a basic
alphabetical list but were left with a collection of biographical data
and historical information on the writers — information not easy to
find anywhere else — and nowhere to put it.
To know what happened
next, you have to know a little bit about Patricia Clements, who
initiated the Orlando Project and has served as the project director
and a project editor since the beginning, and the two women who joined
her as project editors — Isobel Grundy, professor emerita of English at
the U of A, an expert in 18th-century literature, and Susan Brown,
’91 PhD, associate professor of English at the University of Guelph, a
specialist on writers from the Victorian period. All highly regarded
scholars with many academic publications to their credit, they have
often fought to get female writers the attention they deserve. They
were not to be easily dissuaded by the limits of print publication.
fact, those limits encouraged them to look to a different way to
present their information. They decided to tap into the potential of
digital media, which at the time was a nascent force in communication.
And so the online resource Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present was born, its name a nod to Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando, A Biography, which explores the changing conditions for women writing in England.
1994, Clements began to build a team of literary scholars and computing
scientists to create this experiment in humanities computing. Over 100
people have worked on the Orlando Project over the past decade, with
advances in technology making collaboration both possible and necessary.
As the possibilities of technology grew, so did the scope of the Project. Orlando
now is the equivalent of 55 large books, five million words of
information about the history of women’s writing and the contexts
behind it. “Going electronic has enabled us to produce a far more
extensive resource than we could have done in print,” the authors note
in an online introduction.
In its scope and interactive capabilities, Orlando
breaks new ground in humanities computing. The searchable textbase has
thousands of linked and dynamic portions of text, information about
more than 1,000 writers and their lives and times. (Updates to the
textbase every six months will increase this number.) A user can wander
through and discover information and connections about writers or take
advantage of Orlando’s ability to respond to precise, complex
questions. “We decided we would make the textbase full of all sorts of
particular and highly detailed information,” says Clements, “for people
who wanted to know about a writer, a period, a context legally — any
number of questions you can ask the textbase when you’ve learned how to
use the asking tool.”
For example, if you are reading Mill on the Floss
and are interested in the difference in the way the boy Tom is educated
compared to his sister, Maggie, you might wonder how girls were
educated in George Eliot’s time — just ask Orlando. Choose TAG
SEARCH in the ‘Lives’ category, pick EDUCATION as a search term, limit
to the author’s lifetime and you will get paragraphs about the
education of writers whose lives overlapped with Eliot’s. You can also
search in writings for specific themes or topics — try ‘education of
girls’ — and find all kinds of information.
unearth answers to such questions because the text is built using
Standard Generalized Markup Language. It is encoded with tags based on
the kinds of questions literary scholars ask about a writer’s genre,
time, education, political activity, and other topics. The technical
personnel worked closely with the literary team to develop the data
structure. By blending the strengths of literary scholarship and
humanities computing, Orlando is, among many other things, “an
example of the way in which the new technologies are going to
completely change the way we do research and present information in the
humanities and social sciences,” Clements says.
“Dynamic” is the best way to describe Orlando, says Andrea Hasenbank,
’04 BA, who joined the Project for two years as a research assistant
(one of dozens of graduate students who have contributed to the Project
over the years). “It’s dynamic both in terms of the way the users can
use it and the breadth it encompasses, the excitement. It’s on the edge
In addition to funding from the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Orlando Project received
support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and from the
University of Alberta, which has been “an outstanding environment in
which to do this work,” says Patricia Clements. “We’re deeply grateful
to the Department of English, the Faculty of Arts, and successive
vice-presidents (research), who have given outstanding support to our
TEC Edmonton, the University’s agent for technology
transfer assistance to researchers, helped arrange a licensing
agreement with Cambridge University Press.
Press offers this resource to subscribers and to public and academic
libraries and K-12 schools (subscription rates vary). In addition,
three companion volumes will be printed by Cambridge University Press
and will be available in both print and electronic format, interlinked
with the Orlando textbase contents.
—Shelagh Kubish, ’85 BA
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’56 BA, ’59 LLB, excelled at several sports during his high school and
university days and played for 12 years with the Edmonton Eskimos
football team, including on three Grey Cup–winning teams (1954, ’55,
’56). While he was with the Esks he also carried a full academic load
at the U of A leading to his law degree. In recognition of his
accomplishments on the football field he was honoured at Edmonton’s
55th annual salute to excellence awards and admitted to the city’s
Sports Hall of Fame.
Kruger was joined at the June 13
ceremony by several other alumni, faculty, and supporters of the U of
A. Recipients of the awards are inducted into one of three halls of
fame — sports; arts and culture; or community service. Many of the
recipients were affiliated with the U of A, evidence of the close
connection between the province’s vibrant city and its university.
Among those honoured with community service awards were former U of A chancellor, senate chair, and board of governors chair Sandy Mactaggart, ’90 LLD (Honorary), and his wife, Cécile Mactaggart, ’06 LLD (Honorary); and Stanley A. Milner, ’51 BSc, ’94 LLD (Honorary).
Receiving arts and culture awards were professor emeritus of drama Gordon Peacock,
’49 Dip(Ed), ’50 BEd, ’90 LLD (Honorary); professor emeritus of music
Fordyce “Duke” Pier; professor emerita of art and design Lyndal
Osborne, Tom Radford, ’66 BA, and Denise Roy, ’76 BA(RecAdmin), ’01 MEd.
Joining Kruger in receiving sports awards were alumni Shauna C. Miller, ’74 BEd, ’78 LLB, and Kem Tamke, ’72 BCom, ’76 LLB.
Salute to Excellence coordinator Mavis Snider,
’86 BA(RecAdmin), said inductees are nominated by a member of the
public who provides five letters of recommendation supporting the
nominee. “They’re looking for someone who has made a difference and
whose life has exemplified striving for excellence,” Snider said.
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Stamp of Approval
was the last time you thought so highly of something you just had to
have a stamp made in its honour? Never, you say. Well, not so the
Faculty of Pharmacy class of 1955. The brainchild of former U of A
student union president Bob Edgar, the stamp was made to commemorate
the Faculty and, says Lynn Holrody, “a very close-knit group of 45
classmates that have kept in touch over the years.” Not only have they
kept in touch, they also used their 50th class reunion as a springboard
to raise funds for a pharmacy student bursary — their goal was to raise
$12,500, but in three months they raised over $18,000. When asked how
the class of ’55 compares to more recent classes, former Alberta
minister of tourism Bob Dowling said: “I’m certain we did many things
that present-day students do, and probably not as well — except, of
course, the partying.”
(To find out how to have your own personalized stamp made go to www.canadapost.ca and click on “create your own stamp.”)
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We often hear about Henry Marshall Tory’s
original vision for the University of Alberta. Tory, ’28 LLD
(Honorary), the U of A’s first president, worked especially hard with
Catholic Archbishop John Joseph O’Leary on one aspect of that vision:
attracting a constellation of denominational colleges to stimulate the
intellectual achievements of a secular university. One of the first
such institutions was St. Joseph’s College, which is celebrating its
This year has been particularly
bounteous for the College as it welcomed a $750,000 donation from the
Kule family of Edmonton. The donation was pooled with money from other
major donors to establish the Peter and Doris Kule Chair in Catholic
Religious Education, named in honour of donors Peter Kule and Doris Kule,
both ’05 LLD (Honorary). Two more chairs are slated to follow — one in
Business Ethics and another in Health Care Ethics. The College is also
teaming up with the Faculty of Arts to launch a liberal arts cohort
program called “Academia” and will see its first women’s residence,
Kateri House, open in HUB Mall this fall.
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of A alumni were among the thousands of people who visited the “Alberta
at the Smithsonian” exhibits, part of the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife
Festival in Washington, D.C., which ran over two weeks starting at the
end of June. The event gave a snapshot of Alberta life through
presentations from a variety of sectors — including food, music,
business, and art.
Alumni from six post-secondary
institutions in Alberta gathered at the Partners Across Borders concert
held June 29 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Alberta
musicians Asani and Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans performed.
was a great reception,” said Lorna Arndt, project manager at the U of
A’s folkwaysAlive!, which partnered with Smithsonian Folkways
Recordings to present the concert, “and our performers did us proud.”
the festival the Alberta government announced a new program that will
allow Alberta students a chance to intern at one of the 28 Smithsonian
centers throughout the world. The five-year pilot program is a
partnership between the Alberta government, the Smithsonian
Institution, and the U of A, which will administer the program. Each of
the 10 yearly internships will be worth up to $6,000 to support
participating students with travel, accommodation, and other costs.
Students will be able to apply for placements in various fields
including arts, culture, history, and science.
Christopher Herd and the Tagish Lake meteorite now in U of A hands.
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Rock of Ages
University of Alberta recently welcomed a very, very old rock star into
its midst. No, it&s not Keith Richards. But it is, perhaps, the
most important rock on the face of the Earth.
Lake meteorite is the only one of its kind known to exist on Earth, and
may contain insights into the beginnings of our solar system, says
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor Christopher Herd. Because the
space-born rock fell on the frozen surface of a northern B.C. lake in
the middle of January and was collected without being touched by human
hands, it represents the most pristine sample of minerals from outer
“No other meteorite’s ever been collected in this
manner and I suppose that arguably makes it the most important rock
that’s ever been found anywhere on the Earth,” says Herd. “It can tell
us new information about the birth and evolution of our solar system,
and the very fact that it’s been kept frozen, essentially pristine,
uncontaminated by human hands, gives us an unprecedented opportunity to
explore new scientific avenues that were heretofore impossible. We can
do things with this meteorite that nobody’s ever done before.
can look for minerals in there that are not usually preserved under
normal circumstances,” continues Herd. “It even provides us the
opportunity to look for extraterrestrial ices. I mean, who knows
whether they’re there, but we can look because of the way this thing’s
The other thing that makes this meteorite
so special is its composition. It’s an extremely rare type of formation
that has preserved the goings-on of more than 4.57 billion years ago.
Of all the meteorites that fall to Earth, only two or three per cent
are of the same category as the Tagish Lake stone.
meteorite is a carbonaceous chondrite, which is quite rare,” says Herd.
“These meteorites represent the left-over material from the formation
of the solar system. This is in the broader context for the theories
that we have for the formation of the solar system, which is that the
planets formed from a rotating disk of dust and gas around the early
sun. So, this material is left over from that.”
meteorite came to the U of A through a partnership between the
University, Canadian Heritage, the Royal Ontario Museum, Natural
Resources Canada and the Canadian Space Agency.
For Herd, this is the something he’s been waiting a long time for.
after I started here three years ago, I thought this would be a great
meteorite to have because of its scientific value. It also fell in
Canadian territory. It’s a Canadian meteorite and it really needed to
be in a Canadian institution in order to maximize the science and to
demonstrate that we could do great science on this.”