As academic publishing increasingly “goes digital,” a professor at West Virginia University is developing the first search engine that would connect academic databases from more than eight countries.

The initiative, which is funded by a roughly $60,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, would allow researchers to cross-search a complete archive of digital literature.

“Before, (students and researchers) could go to these individual sites that were partial,” said Sandy Baldwin, associate professor in the department of English and director of the Center for Literary Computing.

“Now they can search across them, and that really gives the first snapshot of what this field is.”

Digital literature is a growing genre of works that originate within digital environments and is created specifically to be used in a digital setting.

“To work across multiple websites and databases is more complicated than it might seem because each of them is set up differently,” Baldwin said.

“You have to arrive at a common format, and a way of gathering all that information. That kind of management is what we are doing here at WVU.”

The project, Consortium on Electronic Literature, is an initiative aimed at developing partnerships among organizations, universities, and publishers for the purpose of sharing research in the area of electronic literature hosted by the Electronic Literature Organization.

Currently, there are 10 research centers worldwide, three in the United States, and others in Spain, Norway, Portugal, Italy and Australia.

The first generation of consortium partners are the University of Western Sydney (Creative Nation), ELMCIP, Po.Ex, NT2, Electronic Book Review, University of Siegen (Likumed), Hermeneia, and of Congress.

Baldwin said he plans to host a meeting at WVU in the fall, where representatives from each research center can come together to discuss future plans for the project.

Baldwin’s project is one of 20 recipients of a Digital Humanities Start-Up grant. The Office of Digital Humanities, a subset of the National Endowment for the Humanities, offers grant programs that address how digital technology has changed the world.

For more information, contact Sandy Baldwin at 304-293-9703 or



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