Monday, April 20, 2009

The Boy Made of Meat

The University of New Hampshire has digitized three versions of William De Witt Snodgrass’s poem “The Boy Made of Meat” along with the images created by Gillian Tyler. Their site does a nice job of giving users a biographical introduction to Snodgrass and the poem’s creation but does not provide much information on the why and how of the collection. Readers simply know that Snodgrass created several drafts before publishing the final version with the wood cut images made by Tyler. It’s unclear where this piece could be found in their collection or what technology was used in creating the digital images.

It’s an interesting collection as it provides three separate drafts of the poem along with some correspondence sent between the author and editor. Unfortunately, there is no transcription to go along with the letters and many of them are difficult to read. But the content is interesting and the images are a nice quality even though they are not especially large. It’s a funny poem with interesting images but it’s unclear what the relevance is to New Hampshire’s collection. Additionally, there is no metadata for any of the images which is limiting.

UNH does have a page displaying their list of digital collections which is how I found the poem in the first place. This is the only place one can find metadata for the pieces in the collection but this information is sometimes incorrect or contradictory. For example, the introduction page claims Snodgrass wrote the poem in the 1960s but in some places the metadata lists his date of death in 1886. Additionally, the list which provides metadata only offers an abbreviated list of images rather than all the items in the collection.

It seems the project was completed in 2003 which may account for some of the problems but not all of them. Clearly cataloging problems could have been fixed making the data consistent throughout. If the project were much bigger these problems would have made the collection nearly impossible to use. Because it’s small it can still be a useful project but it certainly has much room for improvement.

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