The importance of the travel book in developing the iconic literary and environmental associations of the English Lake District is widely recognized. However, the extent to which the book ecology of the local English Lake District is informed by and linked to global geographic space is less well understood. Additionally, the scale at which the Lake District “picturesque” way of framing nature as landscape itself travelled the world has been difficult to assess without access to large quantities of books and images as well as the means for analyzing them.
Lake District Online mobilizes new digital humanities methods and tools to address this knowledge gap by studying the global reaches of the Lake District through an interactive and fully searchable electronic bibliographic database and full text archive. A unique feature of this project is that analysis of the Lake District takes place from outside – that is from a distant location in Vancouver, Canada, a former British colony located in the Pacific Northwest. A larger aim of the analysis is to understand the global effects of the picturesque way of viewing the world that was first refined in this local region of England, a place that has long been celebrated as a site both of natural and cultural heritage.
The project is based on Simon Fraser University Library’s outstanding Lake District Collection of rare travel books, a corpus too large for study through traditional means, but small enough to function as a test case for future research on large data sets.