We welcome comments, questions, and suggestions for our current projects and possible new projects. Please feel free to contact us directly through e-mail, phone, or using the form below.
This weekend five Lafayette students presented their work at Bucknell University’s Digital Scholarship Conference, “Collaborating Digitally: Engaging Students in Public Scholarship.” The main focus of the conference was on building new ways to connect Digital Humanities and Digital Scholarship with the student experience and on developing new frameworks for including students as meaningful collaborators on digital projects. While many of the presenters focused on students as researchers or contributors to larger projects, our students presented work of their own design.
Feevan Megersa ’17, Ian Morse ’17, and Jethro Israel ’16 presented their work on a panel “Models of Student Engagement in DH” alongside of the Library’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities Emily McGinn. Feevan presented her project “Got Folktales?” an interactive project that maps the themes and morals of a collection of Ethiopian folktales, and Ian presented work from his Solution Based Press Freedom Project. Both projects were developed as part of the Digital Humanities Summer Scholars program. The internship was sponsored by Skillman Library and supported with funding from the Library’s Andrew W. Mellon Grant for Digital Initiatives.
Jethro discussed his history with the McDonogh Project, a digital project that tells the story of Washington Watts McDonogh and David Kinney McDonogh, two emancipated slaves who were educated at Lafayette in the 1830s. Jethro described his trajectory as he moved from a student working on a class project, to an EXCEL scholar creating and managing the data behind the digital exhibit, to developing his own research interests in relation to the larger project.
Vincent DeMarco ’18 and Ben Draves ’17 were a part of their own separate panel where they presented their project Tempo of the Times, a data analysis project also developed in the Summer Scholars program that examines key features of popular music including polarity, “hotness” and danceability against economic data over time. They were also asked to present their work during the poster session during which they were able to do live demos of their interactive graphs and predictive models that anticipate future trends in music.
Ian Morse was also given a second opportunity to present his work at the conference. He was selected as part of the NextGen Plenary session in which a panel of five early career scholars presented their work to the entire body of conference goers. Ian presented his project that used large scale text analysis to investigate press freedom violations surrounding Turkey’s Gezi Park protests. His work dovetailed perfectly with keynote speaker Micki Kaufman’s methods on text analysis on Henry Kissinger’s correspondence.
Lafayette College was well represented with one of the largest contingents of students, all of whom had produced exceptional work that set the standard for undergraduate research in the digital humanities. They showed a professionalism and dedication to their work that stands as a testament to the culture of research and intellectual curiosity at Lafayette. During the course of the conference, all of our students became valuable resources for their peers as well as to faculty and administrators hoping to replicate their same success at other institutions.
To continue to build a community of practitioners and collaborators here at Lafayette, we will be holding a general interest session Wednesday December 2 in the tech lounge (Pardee 28) from 3-5. Our students will be available to talk more about their projects and are hoping to find students interested in starting their own digital projects and collaborating with them in the future. Drop in anytime between three and five.
For more information contact Sarah Morris, Research and Instruction Librarian at email@example.com.
The Digital Humanities Steering Committee is pleased to announce its latest call for proposals.
This semester we’re offering three options. First, we will support professional development related to digital humanities. This support includes travel to conferences or workshops, as well as trips to archives or digital centers in support of digital research projects. We are also happy to support those looking to acquire new skills in the digital humanities and will fund trips to intensive workshops like DHSi and HILT or fees for online courses. Open Call
Second we are continuing our DH in the Classroom program this term. We are offering a $2000 stipend to any instructor who would like to add a digital assignment or project to their class. Digital Scholarship Services (DSS) will help you structure the assignment, identify the most useful methods or tools for achieving your objectives and provide any in class training or workshops you may need for your students. Previous projects have included online exhibits of religious iconography, digital publishing, statistical analysis of text, and the creation of interactive timelines and maps from archival material. Read more about some of these projects in our previous post. Due Nov. 20
Finally we’re offering a new option DH Collaboration Across the Curriculum. Similar to the DH in the Classroom grant, this version seeks instructors who are willing to pair their classes across disciplines. This collaboration could mean using a large set of data that one class visualizes in graphs and tables while the other class provides historical or analytical context. It could also mean identifying a large research question that two classes can approach from different angles. Using a client based approach, both classes could identify a need for a particular product, service, or solution. One class could work on developing a prototype while the other works on market research or historical analysis of the need for this new service or product. We are looking for collaboration broadly defined but one in which both classes benefit from the insights, knowledge, and perspective of the other. Grants of $2000 per instructor will be awarded and DSS will provide guidance and support in the creation of this collaboration. Due Nov. 20
Please contact Emily McGinn, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consultation before submitting a proposal. To apply for any of these grants, please fill out our online form.
Putting the Teacher-Scholar Ideal into Practice: A Liberal Arts College Model for Digital Humanities
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.
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. 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. 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,” 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.
 See Alison Byerly, “Digital Humanities, Digitizing Humanity,” Educause Review (May/June 2014), 8-9.
 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.
 Edward L. Ayers, “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?,” Educause Review (July/August 2013), 34.
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.
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 sites.lafayette.edu/dhss.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
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
This semester saw the successful launch of the Digital Humanities in the Classroom initiative sponsored by Skillman Library and the Mellon Digital Humanities Steering Committee. Grant recipients were asked to convert an assignment or project in their class to one based in the digital humanities. Rather than adding technology for the delivery of content, the grant asks for instructors to use digital methods and technologies to ask new research questions and engage with materials in a new way.
If you’re interested in adding a digital component to your class for next year, we are currently accepting applications for next semester. See our Call for Proposals for the full details.
The call for proposals brought in professors from five different departments ranging from Mathematics to English, each engaging with the tenets of DH from a unique perspective. This week we have had the opportunity to see the results of this initiative as the students turn in their final projects.
Omeka,a digital platform for image collection and image building supported by Skillman Library’s Digital Scholarship Services was primary tool for several of the DH in the Classroom participants. Omeka was ideally suited for Professor Jessica Carr’s Religious Studies class that examined religious imagery and power in religious discourse. For their final projects, students were asked to curate a digital exhibit of images and discuss the significance of their groupings. Building the collection highlighted the influence of curation on the interpretation of images and helped the students to articulate their own perspectives on their objects of study.
Professor Tamara Carley used Omeka in her Geology class in two ways. First her students learned to catalogue and record metadata for their mineral samples. Recording the details of the samples helped them tell the story of the sample and track its movement over time. At the end of the semester, each of her students created final presentations that required using the data collected by the class as whole as evidence for their hypotheses. The Omeka collection became a repository for the class’ knowledge that could then be utilized to build new arguments.
Africana Studies Professor Wendy Wilson-Fall organized data collected in two previous classes to create a new digital exhibition that follows the story of the McDonogh “Brothers” two manumitted slaves that attended Lafayette in the 19th century. Her classes read collections of letters and cultural materials with the assistance of Diane Shaw in Special Collections. This term’s class was able to organize that information previously collected to begin to untangle the social world of both David and Washington McDonogh. The students gained skills in both the collection and visualization of data.
In Professor Chris Phillip’s English class, the digital display of the students work came not in an exhibit, but in a digital publication. Students created their own anthology of Civil War poetry that they compiled as a collaborative ePub. According to Professor Phillips, the process of bringing images, text, and annotations together opened new avenues for analysis for students. “They realized that they could find patterns in the literature they hadn’t anticipated,” he says. “They found new potentials and problems in sharing their work with others, and they realized that there actually is a workflow to producing an e-book—it’s not quite something anyone can do, but with the right tools and a bit of support, they can turn their research into a publication.” The project helped the students to gain authority over their work and gained skills that will transfer to other courses across the curriculum.
In Professor Trent Gaugler’s Mathematical Statistics class, students applied their quantitative skills to a humanities based data set. The class analyzed a set of 775 writing samples from incoming and returning Writing Associates collected between 1995 and 2012. They used the statistical methods they learned in class to compare the essays over time. The project asked students not only to master the learning objectives of the course in order to run the analysis but also how to think about qualitative data in a quantitative manner, breaking down larger questions like, are the essays written in 1995 more sophisticated than those in 2012 into measurable, testable hypotheses.
For example, this graph tracks comma usage in the essays collected from new Writing Associates over time and separated by gender. These students were measuring the sophistication of the writing samples by testing the hypothesis that more commas per sentence would indicate more complex sentences and therefore more sophisticated writing. Interestingly, through a wide range of analyses and hypotheses that the class conducted, their data showed that over the course of nearly 20 years, the writing samples remained remarkably consistent.
Each of these classes found a unique way to engage with the methods and tools of the digital humanities. For more information about these projects or about developing your own classroom project contact Emily McGinn, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, email@example.com, or see our Call for Proposals for the full details.
As part of the Keystone Digital Humanities consortium, Skillman Library’s Digital Scholarship Services participated in a virtual transcribathon along with nine other colleges and universities from the area including Muhlenberg, Lehigh, Bucknell, and University of Pennsylvania. With a great turnout of 10 contributors over the course of the event including five undergraduates and several librarians, the team was able to transcribe 125 new records, all while building a community of DH practitioners on campus and connecting with our colleagues across the state.
Our group chose to transcribe ledger records from our Easton Library Company project. On hand for the event were Professor Chris Phillips, the primary researcher on the ELC project, Diane Shaw from Lafayette’s Special Collections, and a number of undergraduate students interested in working on digital humanities projects. The ledgers contain the loan records from the Easton Library in the early 1800s. The goal of transcribing these ledgers is to gain insight into the reading practices of 19th century readers and to learn more about Easton’s local history. (To learn more about the project read our previous post on the ELC.)
As the students would find out, transcribing the pages involved not simply transferring the handwritten records into type, but also required lessons in 19th century librarian short hand, research into complex book titles, and a bit of forensic investigation. After the first few successful entries, it was easy to get lost in the world of early Easton, finding names of residents that now appear on street signs and building, and discovering long forgotten novels. Correctly deciphering an entry started to bring out the competitive spirit in the participants and by the end of the night everyone had fun engaging in some biblio detective work.
The event lasted three hours with similar transcription efforts happening simultaneously across all of the the participating campuses connected via Google Hangout. The Keystone DH group designed this initiative based on a transcribathon event at the Folger Shakespeare Library in December. The Folger event lasted for 12 hours with 35 participants transcribing and encoding manuscript pages for inclusion in the Early Modern Manuscripts Online project. This event, though shorter in duration, was an experiment in fostering a broader community and connecting like-minded scholars and researchers all of whom are working on long term digital humanities projects.
The data collected at the event will be added to the ELC’s quickly expanding relational database and the Transcribathon also gave us the opportunity to test a new data entry interface that Digital Scholarship Services has created. Working closely with the students engaged on the project, DSS developers James Griffin and Thom Goodnow have built forms designed to the specific needs of the ELC and the feedback from the Transcribathon will be used to refine these tools even further. Once complete, this project will allow users to investigate and visualize this data on their own and discover new relationships between readers, lenders, and the community. For us the feedback, as well as the data recorded, are invaluable in advancing the project and we look forward to more opportunities to collaborate with the Keystone community in the future.
For more information on starting a digital project with DSS or applying for an internship opportunity contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call (610) 330-5796.