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Digital History at Ursinus

About the Project

About the Project

“More than a Muse” begins to unravel the true intricacy of Mabel Dodge as a historical figure. The project as it exists is a portion of a greater overall goal of complicating and exploring the influence of one of the 20th century’s most influential women. The scope of the project is through the lens of Dodge’s influence in Greenwich Village portrayed in the platform of a digital humanities exhibit, and possible through the collaborative efforts of supportive Ursinus College faculty and artifact collections across the United States. The project refers to Mabel Ganson Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan as Mabel Dodge because during the span of time the project encompasses, ‘Mabel Dodge’ is the name she had published under and would come to be known by.  Dodge landed in the New York for this project because New York provides a short window of time when the diversity and depth of her influence can be closely analyzed and somewhat encapsulated for the purposes of an eight-week research fellowship. Further research revealed how little of her impact could even be showcased from just between the years of 1905-1918. Dodge’s extensive writings on sexuality and psychoanalysis have only recently become available and reveal a whole other aspect of Dodge in the city that this project was unable to provide the space for analysis of. The topics are touched upon but not delved into. The project by no means even has begun to cover the depth of her influence in New York, let alone her life in Florence prior and work in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico after her departure from the city. “More than a Muse” is not all encompassing, but rather fulfills its initial goal of displaying the complexity beneath the labels other historians have crammed Mabel Dodge into. Taking Dodge’s role in the development of and promotion of the radical “new” through the lens of her influence on the labor reform, art, and feminism movements brewing in Greenwich Village provides a glimpse at how and why Mabel Dodge is such an influential player in the formation of American culture in the 20th to the 21st century.

By using Omeka, created by  the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the project takes on the challenge of changing how Dodge is defined in history by allowing the full complexity of Dodge’s connections to be explored by each individual user. The use of this platform and the creation of a digital project not only allow for continued expansion of material and analysis but also helps the project  reach a wider audience and collaborate to understand the influence of a woman whose work was so far reaching. Dodge is not the kind of figure who we could write a thesis to properly summarize-- she is the kind of woman who we have to hunt down for ourselves. Her work is contradictory, effusive, and inspiring. Displaying and unpacking her primary documents and the documents and writings of her peers is the best way to approach such a figure so as to not under complicate or categorize her.

The project was made possible through the Summer Fellows research program at Ursinus College. Sarah Gow ’18 designed the project, conducted research, and developed content and design for the project under the guidance of Kara McShane of the Department of English. The work of various library collections such as the Mabel Dodge Luhan Collection of Beinecke at Yale and the Tamiment Library at New York University made possible the breadth of documents. Efforts of scholars before, especially Lois Rudnick, heavily shaped the trajectory of the project. Mark J. Gordon, currently working on the documentary Awakening in Taos, provided guidance for the project and helped connect Gow to the library collections. At Ursinus College, special thanks are due to Meredith Goldsmith of the Department of English, who also supported content development, and Christine Iannicelli of Library/IT, who provided support for Omeka.


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