Mara Wade, professor emerita in the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures, was recently recognized by the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) for her digital project, Emblematica Online.

The project received the RSA’s 2022-23 Digital Innovation Award, which recognizes excellence in digital projects that support the study of the Renaissance. This year, two prizes were awarded. Emblematica Online (project team: Mara R. Wade, principal investigator; Timothy W. Cole and Myung-Ja Han; Thomas Kilton; Hans Brandhorst; and Thomas Stäcker) made that short list.

“The Renaissance Society of America has a worldwide membership and is foundationally interdisciplinary and comparative,” said Wade. “For all of us involved in the project now for more than twenty years, this award represents a meaningful recognition by the leading international society of the Renaissance.”

Emblematica Online is a multi-year, international digital humanities research project, supported by SLCL, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, the University Library, and many more groups both on and off campus. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the German Research Foundation, the project’s initial goal was to present emblem books in an innovative digital environment and develop a portal for a key genre of Renaissance texts and images.

“Because emblem books are rare and held in several discreet collections worldwide, including a very important emblem book collection at Illinois, we wanted to make the research of these rare volumes more compact and efficient, while also addressing technical issues on how to accomplish this,” said Wade. “Building a corpus through digitization is a first step. We wanted to advance international scholarship by making the individual emblems inside the portal searchable across these world-wide collections. To this end, we developed workflows and protocols, community standards and best practices for digital emblem studies.”

In addition to the portal itself, scholars associated with the portal have published books and numerous articles and chapters, presented many scholarly papers, and led workshops from the portal research. The portal was also a training ground for graduate students from the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures and Library and Information Science, often leading to their first publications and conference presentation.

Wade said Emblematica Online is now a standard resource for emblem studies, and scholars worldwide rely on the portal for their publications. This recognition from the RSA only solidifies it as a durable resource.

“The receipt of this award signals clearly the continuing research value of [Emblematica Online] and the obligation to maintain [it] in the future for international scholarship and teaching,” said Wade.

Wade and the other scholars are being honored on two upcoming occasions. They were recently recognized at an in-person awards ceremony at the RSA San Juan 2023 conference on Thursday, March 9. They will also be honored at the RSA’s online awards ceremony in late April 2023.

Dania De La Hoya Rojas