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Editorial Policy

We have chosen to identify The Vault at Pfaff's as an "archive" of art and literature because of the currency that the term archive has gained in digital scholarship for describing a variety of projects with sometimes disparate goals. A more precise designation for the work that we do on The Vault at Pfaff's would require differentiating between the purposes of individual sections of the site.

The Works section of the site is perhaps better conceived of as equal parts annotated bibliography and content aggregator, given that our primary work has been to index and annotate the bibliographic records of texts by and about the Pfaff's bohemians, and when digital surrogates of those texts are not housed locally in our CONTENTdm viewer to link to content found elsewhere on the Internet. We have chosen to focus our attention on those texts that are most central to the Pfaff's period (roughly from 1855 to 1865) and to those publications that feature the most work by and about the Pfaff's bohemians:The New York Saturday Press, Vanity Fair, and The New York Leader. As time and funding permit, we will broaden our focus.

The People and Bohemian New York sections of the site are similar to gallery exhibits one might associate with public humanities projects in that their goals are not to provide an exhaustive repository of texts, but rather to introduce scholars, students, and interested readers to somewhat broader topics. For example, the Timeline includes only those events that highlight the story of the antebellum bohemians as we currently understand it. We have conceived of these sections of the site as having more of a storytelling function, as opposed to the research function of the Works section of the site. The browsable lists of artwork, books, periodicals, theater, and manuscripts similarly provide a broad overview to the resources on the site, whereas the Search function is intended for specific research projects. 

In each instance, our goal is to draw connections between the people, places, and texts that constitute what we consider to be an undervalued moment in American cultural history. The Relationships section of the site connects people to people (while also connecting each relationship to the texts that define it); the Maps section connects people to places; and the Works section connects texts to people, places, and other texts. Our hope is that drawing these connections will lead to new knowledge about the contributions of the antebellum bohemians.

The Vault at Pfaff's has been peer reviewed by NINES, a scholarly collective of digital projects based out of the University of Virginia. A NINES search widget appears in the footer of this site, and the RDF that we export to NINES is available in the HTML header for every one of the Works and People pages. For complete access to RDF please contact Edward Whitley at

Work on The Vault at Pfaff's began in 2004, with an initial site launch in 2006. The current website went live in 2014, with work on all sections of the site onging.