Digital Humanities Pioneer Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Janelle Jenstad.

For more than twenty years, Associate Professor of English Janelle Jenstad has quietly and dedicatedly laid the foundations for a revolution in digital scholarship and collaborative practices that promises to shape Humanities research for decades to come.

This month her contributions were recognized by the Canadian Society of Digital Humanities / Société Canadienne des Humanités Numériques (CSDH-SCHN), which granted her the Outstanding Achievement Award for Computing in the Arts and the Humanities — the esteemed group’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award.

“Dr. Jenstad has been a pioneer from her first days as a graduate student,” the award citation states. “The CSDH/SCHN Awards Committee was particularly impressed by the breadth of the reach of her pedagogical innovations, research, and training.... This kind of collaborative open-mindedness and innovation is indeed the hallmark of leadership in a career filled with substantial achievements.”

A member of UVic’s department of English since 2003, Jenstad has established herself as an internationally recognized leader in the fields of early modern literary studies, digital humanities, and book history. Her work focuses on building accessible, interactive digital editions of early modern texts for what is known as the semantic web — an extension of the World Wide Web in which all data is encoded with a well-defined meaning, to make that data more clearly understandable by both computers and other people.

She is perhaps best known as the creator and director of the Map of Early Modern London (MoEML), a richly interdisciplinary project hosted by the Humanities Computing and Media Centre that is widely hailed as one of the most important digital humanities projects in Renaissance studies. Launched in 1999, this SSHRC-funded, self-described “late first-generation digital Humanities project” opens users to the physical geography and cultural imagination of Shakespeare’s city through a digitized version of the earliest complete map of London. The map, which dates back to 1561, has been enhanced and interlinked with a robust encyclopedia, a gazetteer of 10,000+ place names, a library of early modern texts that refer to places located on the map, and a rich topographical survey of the city published in the late 16th century. The result is an indispensable hub and research tool for anyone studying early modern London, from students to specialists in an impressive range of fields.

Jenstad also sits at the helm of the recently-launched Linked Early Modern Drama Online (LEMDO) project, a cutting-edge hosting and editing platform for works and anthologies of early modern drama developed with co-creator Martin Holmes and a team of students in partnership with ten institutions and over one-hundred editors and research assistants.

All works prepared on the LEMDO platform follow protocols set forth by the Endings Project, another innovative initiative to which Jenstad is a key contributor. The Endings Project is a collaboration between librarians, programmers and scholars that develops tool-kits, resources, policies and best-practices for the creation of accessible, stable, lasting digital resources in the Humanities.

These endeavours build on Jenstad’s many achievements in the field of digital scholarly editing, including her work over the last decade with the Internet Shakespeare Editions, Digital Renaissance Editions, Queen’s Men Editions and the MoEML Mayoral Shows Anthology, all of which produce critical editions of early modern plays and related texts.

“That this award has been bestowed on Dr. Jenstad reflects the tremendous esteem in which she is held, her longstanding status as a path-breaking scholar, and her unparalleled capacity to inspire innovation and excellence in theory, praxis and training among her peers. Janelle is at the pinnacle of digital humanities in Canada. This award is a highly significant and well deserved national honour!”

Humanities Associate Dean Research Alex D’Arcy