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Internet Shakespeare Editions

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The ISE: A Brief History

The ISE version 0.9: the beginning

The Internet Shakespeare Editions project began in 1991 when Dr. Michael Best, a Renaissance scholar at British Columbia's University of Victoria (UVic), developed a HyperCard multimedia resource, Shakespeare's Life and Times, with design by graphic design specialist Roberta Livingstone. The work was published by Intellimation Inc. (Santa Barbara, California) on eight floppy disks. Within three years, a revolution took place in new media, and after further development, Shakespeare's Life and Times was published by the same company on CD ROM.

In 1996, Best and Livingstone created the first version of the website, Internet Shakespeare Editions. Over the next few years the Life and Times section was rewritten for the web, with funding from Athabasca University, and all Shakespeare plays were published in old spelling editions.

Version 1.0: evolution

In 1999, the ISE became a non-profit corporation. With the assistance of Dr. Tim Walzak, a technology transfer specialist, and other staff at the Innovation and Development Corporation (based at UVic) we developed our mission, determined our goals for the future, and established ourselves as a legal entity. The first Board of Directors consisted of three officers:

Best took mandatory retirement from UVic in 2004, but continued revising and updating the ISE website: a new version was launched in 2005 using database structures and XML, as well as an entirely new interface and design under the leadership of Livingstone. The board of directors was expanded at the same time; as of this date it consists of fourteen members representing a wide range of interests from the academic to business and the arts.

Version 2.0: A paradigm shift

These were significant years in the ISE's development; indeed, for many publishers involved in the new media, a paradigm shift was taking place. There was excitement, discussion, consultation and research: out of this dynamic period came our vision of the forces that would drive the evolution of academic resources in the new digital world. It was an opportunity to use our deep understanding of scholarly and pedagogical needs to build a new model for online publication.

"Our editors have selected your site as one of the best on the Internet when reviewed for quality, accuracy of content, presentation and usability." Britannica.com

By 2004, the ISE had achieved many of the early goals of the organization, had been reviewed by major institutions, and was now considered among the best and most trusted Shakespeare-related resources in the world: our online visitors numbered in the millions annually. In this second, more mature phase, the ISE's theory that student research was shifting predominantly to the web was vindicated, and our first complete plays and poems appeared under the editorship of senior Shakespeare scholars.

Editorial and professional guidance

We make a commitment to uphold standards you can trust—whether you are a student, teacher, or scholar. The ISE website's development has been guided by academic and professional advisory boards in the areas of editorial policy, Shakespeare in performance, and technical standards of programming. At present some sixty people of international stature participate as volunteers in providing resources, editing, and other professional services. From the earliest days, the ISE has hired student computer programmers and Humanities research assistants at The University of Victoria to work on the website. These students have brought innovation and a spirit of interdisciplinarity to the enterprise. We have also received outstanding support from the University Libraries at the University of Victoria, the Humanities Computing and Media Centre, and University Systems. Over the years 2000 to 2010, the ISE received funding through three grants to the Coordinating Editor from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

We have been fortunate in having the assistance of outstanding graphic designers: Chris Chong, and most recently John Valade. Our programmer, Maxwell Terpstra, has set a high standard in developing the open source code that runs the site.

Version 3.0 and beyond.

After a long search, the ISE has been fortunate to be able to appoint Dr. Janelle Jenstad as Assistant Coordinating Editor; she will be in an ideal position to grow into a leadership role over the next few years, and will provide a necessary continuity as the site continues to grow. Dr. Jenstad brings high academic qualifications in Shakespeare and Early Modern drama, as well as outstanding Digital Humanities skills evidenced in her highly successful Map of Early Modern London, also hosted at UVic.

Success brings its own pressures, both in terms of current research and development, and planning for the future. In order to continue development and maintain the resources that thousands of people count on around the world, the ISE organization needed a secure, university-based home. Towards this end, in 2009, the ISE signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Victoria. This agreement provides the organization with a stable home and essential infrastructure support: servers, technical support, and workstations for research assistants. In 2012, we established a partnership with the University of Victoria Libraries; the Libraries provide an office, and extensive support for our fundraising campaign.

The campaign—Making Waves—is a response to the ongoing needs that our organization must meet day to day:

The aim of our fundraising drive is to establish an endowment of 1.5 million dollars to enable the ISE to continue to be a leader in quality websites, to make Shakespeare accessible to all. We are committed to keeping our content fully open access, but we have created a number of research tools that become available to those who become Friends of the ISE. 

Both institutions and individuals can become members. Institutions make these enhancements available for all those who access the site from their domain. 

Are you a fan of Shakespeare's plays and poems? Do you care—as we do—about the future of good quality online resources such as the Internet Shakespeare Editions? Help us make a difference by becoming a Friend of the ISE.

Incubation of other projects, and international partnerships

We have undertaken to "incubate" two scholarly projects that are publishing Early Modern drama using our software and servers: the Queen's Men Editions (McMaster and Toronto universities) and Digital Renaissance Editions (University of Western Australia). Together with Broadview Press, we have developed a new model for learning, the "integrated text," bringing the best of both the print and web worlds together in joint editions.