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News and events from Skillman Library's Digital Scholarship Services
Updated: 37 min 10 sec ago

DSS contributes to developer community at HydraConnect 2015

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 11:55

Lafayette’s Digital Scholarship Services is once again in the forefront of library repository development. At this year’s HydraConnect Conference, DSS developer James Griffin shared his work with the burgeoning community of Hydra developers.

Hydra is an Open Source software that, together with the repository system Fedora, forms the basis of many institutional repositories and is the foundation for preservation and discovery for many digital archives. Griffin is part of a working group looking to expand the uses of Hydra to include the preservation and display of GIS data within library repository systems. While this kind of work is largely invisible to the casual user, it can make a lasting impact on future development.

DSS Developer James Griffin presenting on Geospatial Data in Hydra

In designing the architecture of this new functionality, Griffin finds himself in excellent company working with a handful of other like-minded developers from Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Alberta, who form the GIS Data Modeling Working Group. The conference provided the occasion for the group to present their initial data models. In these initial stages, the group has begun to break down the complex data components of GIS files into a structure compatible with the repository’s internal organization and consistent with existing data models for other types of information.

The group participated in a poster session and also sponsored an “unconference” session, a free form discussion whose topics are determined by the conference goers. In addition, Griffin presented a lightning talk on their data model. “Our presentations have generated a lot of interest in how we have addressed our use cases using linked open data in the Resource Description Framework,” explains Griffin. “While few are working on GIS related projects our project gives weight to the idea that Hydra is flexible and versatile. It’s more than just a repository solution.” This work, now cutting edge, will help to guide future development in Hydra and expand its potential applications in digital library infrastructure.

Through Griffin’s work, Lafayette is an increasingly important player in this arena and the working group will present their latest developments next month at the Digital Library Federation conference in Vancouver, and at the Geo4LibCamp at Stanford University in January.


Putting the Teacher-Scholar Ideal into Practice: A Liberal Arts College Model for Digital Humanities

Fri, 10/09/2015 - 09:42

Neil Fraistat, Alison Byerly and Paul Barclay

On October 1, President Byerly joined Professor Neil Fraistat, Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, and Professor Paul Barclay (History, Asian Studies) for a public conversation about Digital Humanities, and more specifically, how DH fits into the liberal arts. The event was sponsored by Skillman Library and the Digital Humanities Steering Committee and is part of an ongoing initiative to enrich digital scholarship on campus.

With the benefit of a $700,000, four-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Steering Committee has launched a number of new initiatives on campus, including the DH Summer Scholars internship and DH in the Classroom program. These initiatives are in addition to their continued support of large-scale faculty research projects. The broad spectrum of these programs reveals the Committee’s goals of creating a holistic approach to Digital Scholarship that fosters collaboration across disciplines through project-based learning. In addition, these programs work to build a reciprocal relationship between teaching and research in which digital methods open new research questions while transforming the nature of engagement with humanistic objects of study for both students and faculty.

Alison Byerly and Neil Fraistat

Professor Fraistat joined us to discuss the future of these initiatives as we work to strengthen digital engagement with research and the curriculum. The event prompted an energizing conversation that elucidated the shared goals of the college, the steering committee, and the field of Digital Humanities.

We have included here the full transcript of Professor Barclay’s opening remarks and we look forward to continuing this conversation with the Lafayette community.


Opening Remarks by Paul D. Barclay

Good afternoon. Thank you everybody for taking time out of your busy Thursdays to attend this forum. My name is Paul Barclay—I’m a member of the history department–and I’m here today as the chair of the Steering Committee for the Andrew Carnegie Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities grant. This four-year $700,000 grant was awarded to Lafayette College to promote and develop methods for Digital Humanities Teaching and Research. We are currently beginning year three of the grant-period. I’d like to thank Dean of Libraries and Director of the Mellon grant Neil McElroy for orchestrating this event. It also gives me great pleasure to introduce President Alison Byerly, who joins us this afternoon in her capacity as a Professor of English, and noted participant in the national conversation about the place of Digital Humanities in higher education.[1] Last, but of course not least, we are joined by our keynote participant Professor Neil Fraistat, from the University of Maryland. Professor Fraistat is an organizer, advocate, and leading figure in the digital humanities movement. He is currently director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, and has served as Chair of the international Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations. Professor Fraistat is a founder and Co-Chair of centerNet, an international network of digital humanities centers as well. I should also mention that Neil Fraistat is prolific scholar in his own right, in addition to his multiple national leadership roles.

A full account of Professor Fraistat’s publications and projects would exhaust our 90-minute program, but I’ll give you a few highlights to indicate his range of interests and accomplishments. He has published widely on the subjects of Romanticism, Textual Studies, and Digital Humanities in such journals as PMLA, Studies in Romanticism, Digital Humanities Quarterly, and Literary and Linguistic Computing. He is also author of the books The Poem and the Book, Poems in Their Place, and The “Prometheus Unbound” Notebooks, and he is the coeditor of Reimagining Textuality: Textual Studies in the Late Age of Print; The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley (3 vols. to date, and counting); and the Norton Critical Edition of Shelley’s Poetry and Prose.

The Steering Committee thanks you heartily for coming to Lafayette College to share your wisdom and experience with us, and to inspire a new generation of digital humanities scholarship.

Our goal this afternoon, as a panel, is to initiate a discussion with members of the audience about Digital Humanities in the four-year college setting. I’ll make a few prefatory remarks. Then Professors Byerly and Fraistat will each speak for about ten minutes, to provide a context and provoke questions and comments around the issue that brings us together today. Namely, What might a liberal-arts college model for the Digital Humanities look like?

So first off, what is digital humanities anyway? I would consider any approach to humanities scholarship that involves the use of digital tools to query, systematize, analyze, or visualize data, to be Digital Humanities scholarship. From my viewpoint, and we can argue about this in the discussion, digital humanities projects harness the power of computers to ask questions, discern patterns, discover relationships and solve problems that are otherwise nearly intractable. Although digital tools make new modes of inquiry possible, and this is important to emphasize from the outset, they do not necessarily save time—digital humanities research is not in its essence a way to use programming and machines to expedite research that would have taken longer using analog techniques. In fact, as pioneering digital humanities scholar, and previous keynote speaker in this series Willard McCarty has noted, DH projects complicate our approach to texts and data. They are by their nature labor-intensive.[2] Often, it is the collaborative and team-based labor that goes into making texts, images and other materials machine readable, for the purpose of humanistic inquiry that provides the biggest intellectual pay-offs. My own work with librarians, students, and other faculty on digital humanities projects has borne out Professor McCarty’s contention.

Before the Mellon Grant commenced in the fall of 2013, Lafayette College’s Digital Scholarship Services Division had already launched a number of long-term faculty projects. Director Eric Luhrs is here with us this afternoon, and will able to field questions or add more detailed accounts of various projects in the discussion portion of the program. But for now, I’ll just outline the core mission of Digital Scholarship Services at the college.

As a rule, faculty DH projects built in conjunction with Digital Scholarship Services are generative, to borrow a term from Edward Ayers. “Generative,”[3] in this instance, means that DSS projects are made public so that they can be used by anyone with an Internet connection to discover their own patterns and relationships, or draw new inferences, from the texts, images, and other materials that form the core of a faculty DH project. Academic integrity and persistence are other important concerns of the division. The Digital Scholarship Services division launches and maintains DH projects that other scholars can reliably cite with confidence, in the knowledge that this information will be accessible for the foreseeable future. Thus, faculty DH projects require a long-term commitment to digital preservation, which of course involves resources and labor.

In the course of implementing these long-term faculty DH projects, dozens of Lafayette students have been brought on board as researchers, coders, programmers, and translators. These projects are also used in classrooms. So, while the projects are faculty-led and inspired, they do end up having a large impact on students. For the purposes of these prefatory remarks, I call this the “generative scholarship” model for Digital Humanities in a Liberal Arts College.

A more student-centered model, which has demonstrated a number of synergies with the longer-term faculty-led projects, has gained quite a bit of traction in the past year. In large part thanks to the Mellon foundation grant and our DH Post Doc Emily McGinn, a thriving student-led Digital Humanities scene can be said to exist at Lafayette College as we head into year three of our grant period. These are projects designed from the start for classroom use, or as student research projects. “Student-centered” projects do not require the customized programming, or long-term digital preservation, and these projects have considerably widened the scope of DH scholarship at Lafayette College. As a result of this newer approach, we can now say that our classroom projects have reached 14 classes across 9 departments, and over 10% of the student body and 15% of the total faculty have worked on DH projects in some manner.

In my mind, each of these models—the “generative” and “student-centered”—has helped us put the teacher-scholar ideal into practice at Lafayette College. To date, they have complemented each other well, with personnel and projects from one side crossing over to the other as occasion dictates. One of the purposes of tonight’s forum is to maintain the momentum, and to garner support, so that our efforts to build a “liberal-arts college model for the Digital Humanities” at Lafayette College can thrive well beyond the life of this four-year grant-period.

[1] See Alison Byerly, “Digital Humanities, Digitizing Humanity,” Educause Review (May/June 2014), 8-9.

[2] Willard McCarty, “Getting there from here. Remembering the future of digital humanities Roberto Busa Award lecture 2013,” Literary and Linguistic Computing 29, No. 3 (2014), 289.

[3] Edward L. Ayers, “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?,” Educause Review (July/August 2013), 34.

GIS Workshop: Exploring Google Maps

Mon, 10/05/2015 - 12:12

There is a lot more to Google Maps than meets the eye. Join John Clark, DSS’ Data Visualization & GIS Librarian, for a glimpse of what goes on “under the hood” of this online mapping resource and how you can use it to make your own customized maps. Participants will learn how to contribute their own content to a Google Map as well as many other tips and tricks for creating useful and well designed maps with nothing more than a web browser. Windows laptops will be provided for all participants, but feel free to bring your own.

This workshop will be held twice, first on October 16 and then repeated on October 21.

Friday,  October 16 12:15 pm to 1:00pm Skillman 003 Wednesday, October 21 12:15 pm to 1:00pm Skillman 004

Lunch provided. Please RSVP John Clark (, indicating the date you would like to attend.

DHLaf Lunch Series Kicks off with Student Presentations

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 11:41

Ian Morse describing his research

Fifteen students and six faculty and administration members of the DH Mellon Steering Committee gathered for presentations of digital humanities research projects on September 23, 2015, in Kirby 107 as the first of the monthly DH Lunch series of the year. The research grew out of the Digital Humanities Summer Scholars Program funded by the Steering Committee and launched in the summer of 2015. Mellon Foundation Fellow Emily McGinn coordinated the summer research program, and facilitated discussion at today’s event. First up were Vincent DeMarco and Benjamin Draves. Their project, Tempo of the Times, began with a family conversation about depression-era films and how popular arts reflect their historical contexts. To extend this inquiry into the realm of popular music, DeMarco and Draves searched for existing databases of music and ways to break songs down into measurable components. They located several massive datasets, adapted the variables and quantifiers to their own questions, and then went to work. Their current site, as they explained with interactive graphs, presents correlations of economic indicators such as GDP, political indicators such as levels of military spending, with musical variables such as “acousticness” or “loudness” to determine which types of music thrive under what types of epochs.

Ian Morse gave the second presentation. His project is the Solution Based Press Freedom Project. Ian recently studied abroad in Turkey, and his project is an attempt to use a corpus-based methodology to analyze the content of Turkish journalism. Morse mentioned that many global press-freedom indexes fail to control for such variables such as national development, and pay insufficient attention to the quality and tone of reporting as it is affected by political upheavals. Morse has been converting newspaper data to machine readable text, and then using a variety of digital humanities tools find patterns in the data. One of Morse’s next moves is to present his data and preliminary findings to experts on Turkish politics and journalism at a conference at the Bucknell Digital Scholarship Conference “Collaborating Digitally: Engaging Students in Public Scholarship” in November of this year. DeMarco and Draves will also be on the program, as well as other DH summer fellows Feevan Megersa and EXCEL student Jethro Israel.

Dean of Libraries Neil McElroy, Professors Wendy Wilson-Fall (Africana Studies), Tim Laquintano (English), Ben Cohen (Engineering Studies), Paul Barclay (History), and Jessica Carr (Religious Studies), as well as Research Librarian Sarah Morris, were also in attendance to ask questions and participate in the discussion.

The next DHLaf Lunch will be on October 29th in Skillman 003 from 12-1 and will feature a discussion of History Professor Paul Barclay’s recent work in connecting his East Asia Image Collection with a complementary collection at Kyoto University in Japan. 

GIS Workshop: A Very Brief Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 15:11

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a powerful, yet easily accessible technology, used for analyzing and mapping information about the world around us.

In this workshop participants will be given an introduction to basic geographic and information science concepts followed by a demonstration of ArcGIS, a popular desktop GIS application available to the Lafayette community at Skillman Library.

A second, optional workshop (Part 2), will be available the following week and will offer hands-on training using WorldMap, a simple, intuitive and free on-line GIS application. You may take the first workshop as a complete, albeit brief, introduction to GIS or you may sign up for the series of two.

Part I: Introduction Weds. Sept. 23 Part II: Workshop (optional) Weds. Sept. 30

Both workshops will take place in Skillman 003 from 12:15pm to 1:00pm. 18 seats available. Lunch provided.

Please RSVP John Clark and indicate if you would like to take one or both workshops and which dates you would like to attend.


Summer Scholars Program Introduces Students to DH

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 11:21

This summer Skillman Library launched Lafayette’s first undergraduate digital humanities internship program. The Digital Humanities Summer Scholars program, funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and supported by the Library’s Digital Scholarship Services, offered an internship opportunity for seven students to work on a digital research project of their own design.

The program offered students the space, the time, and the resources to become content creators in their own right. Our call for proposals tapped into the creative energy of the Lafayette student body and yielded proposals that demonstrated exactly the type of inquiry and ingenuity we were hoping for. These seven students were selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, and represent disciplines from across Lafayette’s academic community:

Ahmed Malik Braxton – Government and Law
Vincent DeMarco – Mathematics
Benjamin Draves – Mathematics
Feevan Megersa – Liberal Arts
Ian Morse – History; Math
Peter Todaro – Government and Law
Miranda Wilcha – Environmental Studies; Anthropology

The six-week course was structured as a workshop during which the students would meet as a group under the instruction of Emily McGinn, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at Skillman Library. In the group setting each would present updates on their work, ask for feedback, and troubleshoot any obstacles they might have encountered. Together this group functioned as a microcosm of all digital projects, tackling questions of copyright, access, and authorship in addition to confronting the difficult task of data collection and cleaning.

Most important, the workshop served as a model for project management. Our summer interns deconstructed their proposals and sharpened them into accomplishable tasks and focused hypotheses. In taking the time to define a realistic scope for the project early on, they were able to identify the tools, the resources, and the technical skill they would need to accomplish their goals. Though many digital humanities projects are large scale, long-term projects that take years to build with teams of developers and researchers, our students were able to scope and build smaller scale, yet complex, well-structured projects in a few short weeks.

Each student had their own goals in mind for their project. For some, it will serve as the basis for a senior thesis, for others a sample for a grad school application, or publication. Feevan Megersa and Ian Morse will be joined by EXCEL scholar Jethro Israel to discuss their work as student researchers and project developers at Bucknell’s Digital Humanities Conference this fall. Ian will also present his work as a part of the NextGen Plenary session highlighting student projects and Vincent DeMarco and Ben Draves will be presenting their project during the poster session at the conference.

Lafayette’s is working to provide additional opportunities for undergraduate engagement both on campus and in the wider digital humanities community. As we continue to build the DH community at Lafayette, student engagement is and will continue to be a vital part of our initiative. We strive to cultivate the intellectual curiosity and autonomy our students showed us this summer and look forward to seeing where they go next.

For more information about this program visit

Our Projects

Tempo of the Times
The aim of this project is to discover connections between music and society. Artists set out to create music that entertains, but also seek to create art that represents the times in which they live. This project examines the way in which societal changes shift musical composition. – Vincent DeMarco and Benjamin Draves

Got Folktales?
This project aims to capture Ethiopian folktales and to map reoccurring themes as well as highlight the moral behind each folktale. In order to accurately represent the diverse ethnicities found within the country we have selected five stories from each of the 13 regions within the country- Feevan Megersa

Solution Based Press Freedom Project
Current press freedom indices conflate myriad problems and measures into single values. When searching for solutions to press freedom violations, believing that all countries suffer from similar afflictions is counterproductive. The crux of this project has focused on establishing a method of measuring how we can use digital humanities to see how newspapers react to external events in answering the question “How does press freedom affect the ‘quality’ of journalism?” – Ian Morse

Gentrification and Barry Farms
This project analyzes the economic and social situations of many people experiencing gentrification specifically in Washington D.C. Gentrification will not only have a detrimental impact on the citizens of Barry Farms, but will also be deleterious to the entire city of Washington DC. – Ahmed Braxton

Garden of Easton
The Garden of Easton seeks to aggregate the relevant information to connect local residents to food, whether that be a community garden, a CSA pickup location, a homeless shelter, or a meal center. We do so by providing an all-encompassing Android App, a web-based map, and a plain text list of the food providers and producers in our community so that residents have an easily accessible site to find resources they need. – Miranda Wilcha and Peter Todaro