The Willa Cather Archive Team. The Willa Cather Archive. U of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2004-2021, Accessed 2 Apr. 2021.

Project Leads

Andrew Jewell, Director

Emily Rau, Managing Editor

Melissa Homestead, Associate Editor of the Complete Letters

Kari Ronning, Co-Diretor of the Willa Cather Journalism Project

Project Reviewer

Jessica DeSpain

Project Overview

The Willa Cather Archive is a comprehensive collection of materials including Cather’s works, correspondence, interviews, speeches, photographs, and biographies. The project also includes issues of the scholarly journals Cather Studies and The Mower’s Tree. The scholarship section includes bibliographies for Cather’s readings and translations of her works.

Project Review

The site’s technological design makes it not only user-friendly and accessible but also lays a groundwork for long term preservation. All segments of the project’s edited texts use well-formed XML validated with the project’s schema and transformed to HTML with the use of XSLT stylesheets. The published writings include a crisp, beautiful reader interface with easily viewable XML files. The project team made the decision to include links to relevant scholarship available on the Archive on the landing page for each novel. All sections of the project included user instructions and editorial rationales. Users can experiment with mining the corpus of Cather’s works using the Token X text analysis tool created by Brian Pytlik Zillig and also available for use on The Walt Whitman Archive.

An example of The Willa Cather Archive’s reader interface for the novel O Pioneers!

In 2018, The Willa Cather Archive released the first batch of Cather’s letters with support from a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholarly Edition Grant. To date, the project includes 2099 fully transcribed, edited, and annotated letters, with more to come. The letters are fully searchable and also indexed by recipients, people mentioned, places, works, and repositories. The pop-up annotations of people and places are especially dynamic and useful. Though Cather stipulated in her will that her letters not be published, a change in the terms of the estate provided greater access to this important collection of documents beginning in 2011. Additional context regarding the ethical implications of this change in access would be a useful addition to the letters’ apparatus.

An example of the person annotation pop-ups in the Cather Archive’s edition of her letters.

The Willa Cather Archive is one of the cornerstone projects for the University of Nebraska—Lincoln’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. The project team has set the standard for developing sites that effectively cross audience streams by engaging the general public and providing access to research materials for scholars. The site also has a robust groundwork laid for data preservation that can serve as a model for other projects. In addition, The Willa Cather Archive’s staff members are devoted to generating a vibrant user community through their production of short films, facilitation of book clubs, and their annual celebration of Cather’s life, called O Pie-and-Beers! The Archive now provides the anchor for a new body of scholarship in Cather Studies.