Proposal for the 2019 National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities Collections and Reference Resources, Implementation Grant


Holly Slocum, Project Manager; WSUV
Nicholas Schiller, Consultant; Librarian III, WSU Libraries, WSUV
Dragan Espenschied, Consultant; Preservation Director, Rhizome
Greg Philbrook, Technical Support; Technical and Instructional Support II, WSUV

List of works we propose to preserve:

Video clips of the process and animated gifs of a few examples of Flash works:


By the end of 2020 Adobe will discontinue its support for Flash. Already it has stopped supporting Shockwave. This means that all born digital literary works that used these software programs to create participatory, interactive, and experiential narratives, poetry, and multimodal essays––forms referred to as electronic literature, or “e-lit”––will become obsolete. Programmers and archivists may still find ways to access these works, but for the general public they will be essentially gone. Such a loss means that this particular form of experimental writing produced for and published on the web shortly after the introduction of the web browser will no longer be easily accessible to scholars researching digital literature in relation to textual studies, literary history, material culture, book history, digital and multimedia writing, publishing, and global communities of the late 20th and early 21stcenturies, among other areas of study.

This proposal for an implementation project grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “Humanities Collections and Reference Resources” seeks to address this problem by preserving the 447 works published in the 12 collections of online journals, anthologies, and showcases held by the Electronic Literature Organization in its repository. To accomplish this task, we plan to 1) preserve the works with Webrecorder, developed by Rhizome, that emulates the browser for which works were published, 2) make the works accessible with newly generated URLs with six points of access, and 3) document the metadata of these works in various scholarly databases so that information about them is available to scholars. The major output from this project is the creation of a collection of all recorded works that will be hosted at both the ELO Repository and at Washington State University Libraries Digital Collections and archived at Rhizome’s The total amount of our request is $348,212 for the three-year period of the grant.

The project is led by Dr. Dene Grigar, Professor and Director of the Electronic Literature Lab (ELL) at Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV) and President of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO). Assisting her as Consultants will be Nicholas Schiller, Associate Director of the lab and Librarian, WSUV Library; and Dragan Espenschied, Preservation Director at Work will be undertaken in ELL by members of the lab team and emerging scholars selected from the ELO Fellows program sponsored by ELO. Infrastructure needed for this project has already been built through foundational and organizational support: the development of the ELO Repository and its first seven collections were funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2018-19; ELO continues to fund the development of its repository through its annual operations budget. Rhizome’s Webrecorder was also funded by The Mellon Foundation. WSU Libraries Digital Collection is funded by the university. Grigar also received internal funding from WSUV for the data collection and timed runs of the preservation process needed for this grant application. Additionally, the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding to Grigar and collaborator Dr. Stuart Moulthrop (U of Wisconsin Milwaukee) in 2013 through a Start-Up grant from the Office of Digital Humanities (HD-51768) to develop “preservation strategies for born digital literature” (NEH, 2013), a project resulting in the Pathfinders methodology that focused on the use of video documentation, among other activities, for documenting the human experience in relation to this kind of literature.

The labor undertaken for this grant proposal took the Electronic Literature Lab (ELL) Team little over two months and a bit of seed funding to prepare. 

Thanks, first, goes to the five Undergraduate Researchers who helped to inventory all of the 447 works from the 2060 in the ELO Repository and, then, organize them into categories  of difficulty in regard to their preservation needs. We also thank ELL Project Manager Holly Slocum for helping to oversee this process and for her wonderful logo design for the project. Thank you, also, to Moneca Roath who produced the video and animation clips for the Vimeo site.

Nicholas Schiller, ELL’s Associate Director, was key to developing the accessibility and sustainability plans and acting as liaison with the WSUV Library. Greg Philbrook, our tech guru, made sure all of us had access to all of the local files and were set up for WARCIT. Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Graduate Education, Christine Portfors, provided funding during the month of May to prepare the inventory and do some test runs of the process. WSUV Library Director, Karen Diller, worked with us to develop the infrastructure needed for the collection to be housed at the WSU Libraries Digital Collections site. Dragan Espenschied of Rhizome provided training with Webrecorder and help with the portion of the grant relating to it and the process for using it. And finally, thank you to ELO for making this valuable resource––the ELO Repository––available to scholars. Without it, this project would not be possible.