Reviewed April 2020
Lindsey Taggart, Director of Resource Management and Discovery
Duane G. Meyer Library, Missouri State University
Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde is a free website that provides information about artist, writer, inventor, entrepreneur, and feminist Mina Loy. While the project is indeed a website, it is also an open educational resource (OER) specifically created for scholarly engagement with Loy’s work. The project consists of multimedia materials and original, peer-reviewed humanities scholarship authored by students, staff, and faculty at Davidson College, Duquesne University, and the University of Georgia. The project was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde is extremely well-executed, attractive, and user-friendly, but perhaps its greatest strength lies in the way it successfully draws readers to interact with the work in unexpected ways. The project’s Manifesto is an excellent introduction to this phenomenon. By reading the text, users understand that the project’s aim is to engage in a close study of a body of work that “defies conventions”. The manifesto appears almost like a poem, with text composed in a variety of typefaces and font sizes, flowing in multiple directions and spacings. Readers learn that the document engages with manifestos as a hallmark genre of the avant-garde, and hints at the ability of Loy’s work to resist what is usual: “our manifesto challenges you to read outside the norms of scholarly writing”.
Throughout the project, users will find ways to learn and interact with Loy in unexpected ways. The site is organized into three main sections: Read, Interact, and Time Travel. In Read, users can engage with deep-dives into Loy scholarship. This section includes the manifesto as well as “Close Readings”, which presents the full text of five of Loy’s poems directly alongside a scholarly interpretation of the work. Users can hover over poem text on one side of the screen, and the coordinating interpretation will be highlighted on the other side. This section also includes The Mina Loy Baedeker, a peer-reviewed ebook that “analyzes and interprets [Loy’s] shifting avant-garde affiliations, experiments with genre and media, and geographic migrations”.
The site’s Interact section includes links to student-produced projects; a slideshow and essay focusing on “Loy’s Signature Style”; postcards submitted via a digital flash mob; interactive art exhibits; and a text-based adventure game that guides users through Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto”. The site’s comprehensive coverage continues with the Time Travel section, which includes information on Loy archives and collectors; biographies of Loy and her connections written by undergraduate and graduate students; interactive maps (including a fascinating data visualization of Loy’s social network); and timelines.
While scholars of the avant-garde will find much value in this project, the material is also presented in an approachable way that broadens the audience. Undergraduate and graduate college students might also especially appreciate the inclusion of student research, scholarship, and creative work. The project itself can serve as a valuable example for anyone interested in the digital humanities and in creating something similar, including higher education faculty and staff; library, archives, and museum workers; information technology workers; artists, writers; and more. Especially notable here: Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde includes a DH Toolbox that shares the free, open-source code for the “DH Scholarship Theme” used on the website. The project also shares some great ideas for spin-off projects, links and instructions for using the theme on GitHub, and resources to encourage web accessibility.