Enhancing DMVI: Illustration and teaching

One of the aims of the current Enhancing DMVI project is to explore the educational possibilities for the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration, beyond its primary audience of HE staff and students. To that end, the project team held a meeting with Professor Richard Andrews – of the Institute of Education, University of London – on Thursday 19 May. Professor Andrews has a wealth of experience in the theory and practice of teaching English in schools and of the education sector in general, and was able to suggest a number of potential avenues, as well as a give us invaluable practical advice on how to take this part of the project forward.

There are two broad ways in which DMVI and its methodologies might feasibly be utilised by schools and colleges. Firstly, the freely-downloadable Open Source Image Curation System, which will be developed as part of the project, will allow users (including schools) to create their own bespoke image databases. The choice of images will lie entirely with the user, and the pictures could relate to any subject – not only arts and humanities, but also maths, science or any other part of the curriculum. The development of an individual database and the creation of the associated tags, metadata and commentary could be undertaken by pupils as part of a range of project work.

Secondly, DMVI itself offers considerable scope for secondary and further education. Its hundreds of Victorian illustrations have obvious benefits as adjuncts to English Literature texts. Much more widely, the images hold significance for any number of subjects and questions. Illustrations can be used to explore the mechanics of narrative and storytelling; to teach history – particularly social history, but also the history of science, politics, warfare; in religious studies – to examine visual representations of different faiths and of the spiritual world; in art and art history – where wood engraving can be studied both as an historical technique and as a living medium. The possibilities are vast.

Our eventual hope is to hold two workshops involving teachers and pupils – one in Cardiff and one in London – and to develop these ideas into more concrete packages that would offer flexible teaching aids for a range of subjects. This is still some way off and this particular project strand is likely to remain in the developmental stage in the short term. What is clear, however, is that taking DMVI into schools has the potential to be an extremely exciting way to think about and promote the study of illustration.

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