Press Release: Going for gold in the Cultural Olympics

Thursday 30 April 2009

The word on the street is that the Cultural Olympiad could turn out a damp squib (Charlotte Higgins, Guardian, 25 March). Researchers at the University of Buckingham are determined it won’t.

By celebrating the life and work of Charles Dickens, whose bi-centennial birthday falls on 7 February 2012, the team behind an ambitious project called Dickens Journals Online are planning to put British cultural creativity at the top of the year’s agenda. The project has as its aim the creation of a free online edition of the weekly magazines Household Words and All the Year Round that the great author-cum-journalist edited between 1850 and 1870.

“These magazines contain a cornucopia of articles representative of mid-Victorian curiosity about the world – not to mention three of Dickens’s best-known novels in serial form,” comments DJO Director, Dr John Drew of the English Department. “Material from these journals is often studied by secondary school and university students across the English-speaking world, so the fun of this lies in creating a resource that young people as well as scholars and academics internationally will find stimulating and useful.”

Now the Leverhulme Trust, one of Britain’s largest all-subject providers of research funding, has announced it will award a two-year Research Fellowship to allow Dr Drew to concentrate on preparing new and original content for the site, as well as high-impact forms of delivery involving AV technology. Competition for Fellowships is fierce, with over 680 applicants across all academic disciplines entering for this year’s awards.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to add new findings and resources to the DJO website, and to ensure it is of interest to the widest possible international community of readers,” Dr Drew comments. “Notwithstanding his unfortunate quarrel with Lord Lever, Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail was probably right when he hailed Dickens as ‘the best magazine editor either of his own, or any other, age.’ As we approach 2012, it is only fitting we have a really good and versatile edition of his weekly journals, which have never been reprinted in spite of their tremendous popularity.”

The Dickens Journals Online project was launched in May 2005, and has received funding to date from The Dickens Fellowship, The Dickens Society of America, the University of Buckingham Foundation, the Dennison Research Grant scheme, and from members of the public, who sponsor the digitisation of individual issues. Enquiries to djo@buckingham.ac.uk.

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