27 August 2014

4000 items milestone: Featured researcher - Dr Nicole Hudgins, University of Baltimore

As we continue to highlight the recent contributions to our growing research repository, we are reminded how the streets of Paris looked 100 years ago this month.
Paris Police photograph captioned, ‘August 1914. Arrival of refugees from the Nord and from Belgium.’ MHC/BDIC.
[Image source: Identité judiciaire (August 1914). MHC/BDIC.]

This image comes from the latest Open Access book in the series St Andrews Studies in French History and Culture: Hold still, Madame: wartime gender and the photography of women in France during the Great War, by Nicole Hudgins. This volume presents a fascinating study of the way female images were used in wartime France, and how photography and captioning presented images of traditional and non-traditional traits such as distress, devotion and toil.

Nicole Hudgins, Assistant Professor of History at University of Baltimore, liaised for over 2 years (across the Atlantic!) with the series Editor, Dr Guy Rowlands, former Director of the Centre for French History and Culture at University of St Andrews, to bring the book to fruition. A significant amount of work was involved in ensuring the work could be made available under the Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND) licence. Nicole gave us an insight into this work:

The editors of the series posted a call for volumes on H-France a couple of years ago, which I happened to see.  I was interested in writing about French civilians during the war, and this interest evolved into a focus on representations of women:  There was little need to catalogue the new roles picked up by women during the war, but no one had written about how photographs were used to represent women in a particular light as part of the war effort.  Gender played a significant role in the French war effort.
Except for one meeting at a professional conference, Dr. Rowlands and I never saw each other, but racked up probably hundreds of emails over the course of my research, writing, and preparation for digital publication.  We used Dropbox to pass the manuscript back and forth.  Fortunately, the bulk of the photographs for this book come from French national collections and period magazines in the public domain., though of course we had to take extra care in preparing an open access work.  This being a book about photography, I’d venture to say that it contains more images than all the other volumes in the series combined.

The resulting book provides a fascinating visual narrative, from images of distress at the outbreak of war in 1914:

Agence Rol photograph captioned, ‘Refugees from Paris waiting at Dieppe for a boat to England’ (1914). BNF/Gallica.
[Image source: Agence Rol (1914). Bibliothèque Nationale de France/Gallica]

Devotion - capturing the fantasy rather than reality:

Photo-illustrated postcard by ‘J. K.’ entitled, ‘The dream of the Chasseur’ (postmark is 1916). Municipal Archives of Mussy-sous-Dun (Bourgogne).
[Image source: http://www.decouvrezmussy.org/rubrique%20histoire/cartespostales.htm]

To representations of women taking to the world of work (1917/18):

French Army photograph captioned, ‘Paris: Workshop of the Metropolitan [Paris subway system], rue des Maraîchers. Laborer [ouvrière] employed in the repair shop’ (1917).
 [Image source: SPA photograph in Album Valois (28 Mar 1917) MHC/BDIC]

Photo halftone illustration in Le Miroir magazine, entitled, ‘Responding to German Aerial Raids’ (1918). Subtitled ‘Acetylene welding of a large torpedo used with Allied aircraft,’ the caption explained how for ‘several weeks Allied aviation has affirmed its superiority not only on the front, during incessant offensive expeditions, bombardments and reconnaissance, but also in the numerous raids that are executed on German cities, train stations and factories, reprisals for enemy expeditions on our open cities. British aircraft, notably, deploy daily. Here is a torpedo of which our aircraft can take a number of specimens.’
[Image source: Le Miroir (21 July 1918, p7)]
Nicole went on to say:
My home institution, the University of Baltimore, and I are thrilled that my book can be studied by anyone in the world at any time.  Readers can enlarge the images for a closer look, or search the text for words and phrases.  I really think St. Andrews is at the forefront of academic publishing’s future.  They’ve seen how to reduce expense and bottleneck in order to bring the latest historical research to a wide audience.
We are delighted to see that the book has had over 70 downloads from our repository Research@StAndrews:FullText already and that she chose this route for publication. The full series is available from the repository and from Centre for French History and Culture website.

Learn more about the author at http://www.ubalt.edu/cas/faculty/alphabetical-directory/nicole-hudgins.cfm

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