GIS Librarian John Clark Offers Spring “Beware of Maps” Workshops

Historic map of the British Empire

Historic map of the British Empire

This spring, Data Visualization & GIS Librarian John Clark will offer two workshop opportunities for students and faculty to learn about critical cartography. Reading a map is trickier than you might expect. While maps casually present themselves as a visualization of reality, the truth is, all maps are imperfect models of natural and cultural features on the surface of the Earth. Reading a map involves understanding how a map maker has chosen to represent these features and, perhaps more importantly, what s(he) has left out. Join for a guided tour through a variety of different historical and contemporary maps as John explains some common principals used by cartographers. Participants will then have an opportunity to make a map using Social Explorer, an online mapping tool available to the Lafayette community through Skillman Library.

This event is being offered twice, Wednesday, February 1st and Friday, February 3rd, from 12:15pm to 1:00pm. Please RSVP to John Clark at clarkjh@lafayette.edu and indicate if you would like to attend the Wednesday or Friday event. Lunch provided.

Digital Scholarship Services Welcomes New Co-Director

Digital Library Developer James Griffin. Photo credit: Kylie Bailin

Co-Director of Digital Scholarship Services, James Griffin. Photo credit: Kylie Bailin

DSS recently welcomed James Griffin as the new co-Director for Research and Development.  James joined DSS in the position of Digital Library Developer in 2012, and the team at Skillman is thrilled that James agreed to step into this new role.  Motivated by an interest in digital preservation and scholarly communication, James is deeply involved in the application of open source technologies within libraries and archives.  James’s research interests focus on the semantic web.  He aspires to expand the usage of linked data beyond the domains of digital preservation and curation.  He is also intrigued by the potential for Development and Operations (DevOps) service management methodologies to increase durability and performance in technical infrastructure. 

Since joining DSS, James has worked on implementing Islandora, an open-source digital asset management framework.  He has also collaborated with faculty on the Swift Poems Project, the East Asia Image Collection, and the Easton Library Company Database Project.  Since 2015, James has been exploring how linked open data may be further integrated within the digital repository architecture for DSS.  He is Skillman Library’s liaison to the Project Hydra community.  In his new co-Director role, James will continue to collaborate on faculty projects and lead the migration of DSS digital assets to the Hydra repository solution.  James is excited to execute a vision for DSS anchored in the values of open-source collaboration and digital library preservation.  Congratulations, James!

DH Summer Scholars Impress at Bucknell Digital Humanities Conference

Guest-blogger Will Gordon ’17, one of the Skillman Library 2016 Digital Humanities Summer Scholars, reports on a successful presentation at the Bucknell University Digital Scholarship Conference

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From left to right: DH Summer Scholars Will Gordon, Tawfiq Alhamedi, Caroline Nawrocki, Mila Temnyalova, and Johnny Gossick

Last Friday, I piled into a van with four of my friends and fellow digital humanities scholars to drive to Bucknell University to present our undergraduate research and learn more about digital humanities.  Research and Instruction Librarian Sarah Morris, who is also the leader of the Digital Humanities Summer Scholar Program at Lafayette College, drove us to the Bucknell University Digital Scholarship Conference (#BUDSC16). Tawfiq Alhamedi ‘17, Caroline Nawrocki ‘18, Mila Temnyalova ‘18, Johnny Gossick ‘18, and I were all part of the summer program, in which we each designed, researched, and realized our projects.

IMG_4156Now it was time to present our projects to a crowd of undergraduates, graduate students and academics through a panel session and electronic posters. Dinner and the keynote speech from Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University Tressie McMillan Cottom filled the first night. We learned about incorporating the digital humanities into a sociology graduate program, and saw ways to pursue these interests after graduating from Lafayette.

It was our turn to present the next day. Tawfiq, Caroline, Mila, and Sarah partnered up with members of Gettysburg College for a panel session on how to design a successful undergraduate digital humanities research program. Other attendees at the conference tweeted and commented on how impressed they were with Gettysburg’s and Lafayette’s programs.

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DH Summer Scholar Mila Temnyalova presents

Afterward, Saturday’s keynote speaker, UCLA professor Safiya Noble, spoke about biases in search engine algorithms at lunch and their effects on the way people perceive race and gender. Her talk illustrated the power of algorithms and information bias in society, and proved the importance of doing good digital scholarship.

As the day came to an end, Tawfiq, Caroline, Johnny and I took part in an electronic poster session while academics and other attendees drank wine, ate hors d’oeuvre, and wandered the room to listen to our presentations and others.

After packing up our things and going to a panel session Sunday morning, we began the journey back to Lafayette. Although, at times, scholarship can be a strange endeavor, we were excited about the opportunity to present our undergraduate research projects, and the positive feedback we received.

 

DSS Supports Original Undergraduate Research Using GIS

Which road systems were built along Native American trail ways, and why?  This research question, formulated by Molly Leech ’17 for her senior thesis in Anthropology and Sociology under the supervision of Professor Andrea Smith, represents the sort of historic geographic scholarly inquiry that John Clark, Data Visualization GIS Librarian, loves to support in his role at Skillman Library Digital Scholarship Services (DSS).  John offers a “Making Maps” workshop series at the Skillman Library that introduces students, faculty, and librarians to such tools as Google Maps, Social Explorer, and ArcGIS, a popular desktop GIS (Geographic Information Systems) application available to the Lafayette community at Skillman.  He also supports faculty and student research projects such as Molly’s.  While attending John’s “Making Maps” workshops to learn about digital tools she might use to explore her thesis topic geographically, Molly had the opportunity to share her research question with John, and she now works closely with him on a substantive GIS component for her thesis.

According to John, “maps and geographic understanding are relevant to nearly every major at the college–from Environmental Science to History to Civil Engineering and all points in between. Furthermore, mapping software has become simpler to use so that students can create their own geospatial data from spreadsheets or by extracting information from historic maps. This data can then used to make their own custom maps. I can assist students, whether it’s finding the right map online for a class assignment or assisting them with mapping software so that they can create maps from their own research.”

GIS Librarian John Clark works with Molly Leech '17

GIS Librarian John Clark (left) works with Molly Leech ’17 (right)

Molly explains that a geographic lens has been central to the development of her research. “My thesis retraces the history of two former Indian trails that intersect at the historic ‘Four Corners’ of Shrewsbury, New Jersey. By contextualizing maps from the late seventeenth century to present day with archival source material such as town histories and newspaper articles, I hope to reveal how these Indian trails transitioned to early colonial and present-day roads. This research allows me to explore the processes involved in the creation of a settler sense of belonging as well as the politics of street-naming and place-making.”

IMG_0073Molly emphasizes that the GIS component of her thesis is crucial to understanding her topic. “It’s not an easy job to try to locate these former Indian trails on the landscape–archival sources often use long-gone farms and homesteads as geographic points of reference.  Luckily, with the help of John Clark, I’ve been able to use archival maps from the same time period as my sources to retrace the Indian trails and then overlay present-day road maps onto this data. When I began my thesis research, I didn’t expect to be using GIS, but now, these compiled maps will be presented as part of my thesis to help re-conceptualize our surroundings and challenge the dominant narrative of Northeastern American colonial history.”

For Molly, her GIS exploration is thus central to her critical examination of settler colonial narratives in American history.  “There’s something to be said about the fact that we don’t tend to talk about the fact that many of the roads we drive on are former Indian trails. When we think of pre-colonial America, the dominant narrative is that settlers encountered an untamed wilderness; the idea of the intrepid pioneer is glorified. However, it makes complete sense that a settler nation would make use of the indigenous populations’ trails, and indeed start to settle along them. When we are conscious that we are driving on former Indian trails, we are reminded of our colonial history and we become more conscious of the longtime presence of Native Americans on the land.”

Are you interested in incorporating a mapping component in your research or teaching?  Contact John Clark at clarkjh@lafayette.edu.

DSS Attends Hydra Connect 2016 as New Hydra Project Partner

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 12.19.00 PMSkillman Library Digital Scholarship Services team members James Griffin, Digital Library Developer, and Adam Malantonio, UI/Web Developer, represented Lafayette College at the recent Hydra Connect meeting October 3-6 in Boston, MA.  Collaboratively hosted by the Boston Public Library, Northeastern University, WGBH, the Digital Public Library of America, and Tufts University, Hydra Connect brought together diverse stakeholders in Project Hydra.  Hydra is a multi-institutional collaborative community that develops open source software solutions for digital asset management in academic libraries and cultural heritage institutions.

The first small liberal arts college in Hydra, Lafayette College was designated a Hydra Partner in June 2016, thus joining the ranks of large research universities and museums that have hitherto constituted the Hydra community.  Nominated by Princeton University as a result of its innovative digital repository development work, DSS at Lafayette will bring a fresh liberal arts perspective to the national Hydra conversation about what values and priorities should inform developments in digital asset management.

As a Hydra Partner, DSS commits to make substantive development contributions to the Hydra community.  In addition to pioneering the use of Hydra in a liberal arts college library and representing Hydra to peer liberal arts institutions, DSS plans to migrate the MetaDB feature set into a Hydra application.  This will enable other Hydra institutions to use the DSS-developed MetaDB distributed metadata collection tool, the first and only web-based application to split digital collection building tasks among several people.  Originally developed by Eric Luhrs, MetaDB allows librarians to create new projects, define metadata requirements, and import high-resolution master TIF images into the system.  Then, faculty collaborators who are subject specialists, as well as students completing digital archiving tasks as part of their coursework or internships, can access the system remotely and enter descriptive data about each item.  This collaborative approach to digital collection building integrates library preservation, faculty expertise, and undergraduate learning.  In this way, MetaDB is paradigmatic of the liberal arts values DSS brings to Hydra digital repository development.

Thanks to James and Adam for representing DSS and Lafayette College at large at Hydra Connect 2016!

Digital Library Developer James Griffin Presents at Digital Scholarly Editions Conference in Graz, Austria

Digital Library Developer James Griffin. Photo credit: Kylie Bailin

Digital Library Developer James Griffin. Photo credit: Kylie Bailin

Digital Library Developer James Griffin of Skillman Library Digital Scholarship Services recently presented at the Digital Scholarly Editions as Interfaces Conference hosted September 23-24 by the Centre for Information Modelling at Graz University in Austria.  At a panel on “user-oriented approaches,” James reported on his encoding and design work for the Swift Poems Project.  With faculty collaborators James Woolley, Frank Lee and Edna M. Smith Professor of English at Lafayette College, and Stephen Karian, faculty at the University of Missouri, James develops web service infrastructure supporting an ambitious digital humanities initiative to transcribe, collate, and encode a publicly accessible digital archive of the verse canon of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).  Paul Miller, Visual Resources Curator jointly appointed in Digital Scholarship Services and Fine Arts, has also significantly contributed to the project with metadata and database expertise.  The Swift Poems Project has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and will serve as a digital companion piece to the forthcoming print edition of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift.

In collaboration with Dr. Woolley, James Griffin is currently developing an API (application programming interface) to collate and automate the encoding of variant poem texts according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines.  Text encoding is a process of structured editorial mark-up that allows scholars to create machine-readable digital editions of texts. Digital editions can be searched, queried, and interpreted based on the information the encoding scholar has embedded in the text.  In addition to his efforts developing a responsive UI (user interface) for the Swift Poems Project, James’s work connecting the project to the TEI community raises the profile and enhances the utility of the project for literary scholars and digital humanities practitioners.

To learn more about what was covered at the Digital Scholarly Editions as Interfaces Conferences, check out the conference Twitter hashtag: #DSEasInterfaces.

Postdoc Michaela Kelly Attends the European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists (EAJRS) Conference in Bucharest

Michaela Kelly, the 2016-2017 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the Skillman Library, was in Bucharest, Romania from September 14-17, 2016, to present the EAIC at the European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists (EAJRS). Drawing together librarians and scholars from Europe, Japan and North America, the EAJRS conference hosted 34 presentations and one resource provider workshop. The four day conference was held in the beautiful Carol I Central University Library at the University of Bucharest.

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The exterior of the Carol I Central University Library, Bucharest, Romania

Michaela’s presentation, ‘Building an archive of Japanese images at Lafayette College and creating international partnerships with others,’ offered an introduction to the physical collection held at Lafayette College Special Collections, and the digital East Asia Images Collection (EAIC), supported by Lafayette College Digital Scholarship Services (DSS), that corresponds to it.  Michaela discussed the digitization process, the metadata schema used for images, and the benefits of collaboration with the Kyoto University (CIAS and Dr. Toshihiko Kishi) postcard collection and others. Audience interest centered on the OCM metadata tags and image formats. Michaela received a comment by an audience member who regularly uses the East Asia Images Collection for scholarly projects and wanted to echo its importance to the rest of the audience.

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Presentations underway at the Carol I Central University Library at the University of Bucharest

Other topics covered at the conference included the international exchange of librarians between institutions, virtual archives used by scholars, and specific resource introductions: HathiTrust, the National Diet Library Digital Collections, JACAR, Rekihaku’s Metaresource, and a host of others. There was also a roundtable presentation led by Akio Yasue on the conservation and preservation of Japanese library materials in Europe.

One of the many beautiful kuchie prints

One of the many beautiful kuchie prints on display

The EAJRS and University of Bucharest hosts began the conference by spotlighting their University of Bucharest undergraduate Japanese singing group and offered the opportunity to visit a kuchie print exhibit, curated by Ioan Colta of the Romanian Complexul Muzeal Arad, and a showing of ukiyoe prints at the Romanian Academy Library. The 80+ conference participants also attended at dinner gathering at a traditional Romanian restaurant where regional dance and music was on display.

-Michaela Kelly

DH Summer Scholars Present to a Full House

Under the leadership of Sarah Morris, Research and Instruction Librarian at the Skillman Library, the 2016 Lafayette College Digital Humanities Summer Scholars undertook independent research projects on such topics as Iranian statecraft, Soviet monument culture in Bulgaria, the misunderstood Moog synthesizer, and histories of Indian Ocean trade and migration.

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From left to right: Will Gordon, Johnny Gossick, Tawfiq Alhamedi, Caroline Nawrocki, and Mila Temnyalova.

On Wednesday, five Summer Scholars presented their projects to a packed audience in the Gendebien Room.  In order to pursue their interdisciplinary research questions, students in the program used a variety of tools, platforms, and methods.  In most cases, students combined digital approaches so as to take advantage of unique capabilities.  For instance, Tawfiq Alhamedi used Omeka’s Neatline plug-in along with ArcGIS to reproduce the orientation of medieval Indian Ocean cartography in his project’s interactive map.  Other projects incorporated Scalar, Cytoscape, and TimelineJS, among other tools and platforms.

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Mila Temnyalova presents her digital project “Soviet Mo(nu)ments in Bulgaria.”

Tawfiq reflects, “the Digital Humanities Summer Scholarship was a unique and valuable experience for me to explore new methodologies that truly brought my research to life. Working in a creative and supportive environment helped nourish my project from being an abstract idea to becoming a useful digital resource open to anyone interested in my topic.”  DH Summer Scholar Caroline Nawrocki agrees about the distinctive value of the program: “it was an incredibly unique learning experience. It was a constant process of developing knowledge on digital tools, my specific topic, and what it means to be a researcher without being concerned about a grade or with failure.”

Dr. Paul Barclay, who was in attendance at Wednesday’s event, also points out the value of the program in terms of its emphasis on experimentation in undergraduate research: “the program shows the value of letting students explore data, its visualization, and computational methods for humanities research in an independent research setting.”

Check out all of the DH Summer Scholar Projects at the project website!  To learn about Lafayette’s brand new Digital Humanities Club, please contact President Tawfiq Alhamedi (alhamedt@lafayette.edu) or Vice-President John Gossick (gossickj@lafayette.edu).

DSS announces the launch of the Easton Library Company Database

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The Easton Library Company project began as an archival project with Associate Professor of English Chris Phillips’ discovery of a set of 18th century library ledgers at the Easton Area Public Library. The ledgers held the detailed records of the patrons of the Easton Library Company, the town’s original subscription library, and presented a bevy of data regarding the reading habits, community relationships, and family structures of Easton society. Yet this information was contained in fragile, aging ledger books accessible only to local residents.

Phillips, in collaboration with Digital Scholarship Services, began the enormous task of digitizing and transcribing these records with the help of a team of Excel Scholars: Gavin Jones ’14, Elena Principato ’15, Julia Campbell ’15, Cat Miller ’16, Eric Bockol ’16, Venita O’Hanlon ’16, and Sean Cavanagh ’16. Their hard work in deciphering 18th century librarian short hand and in researching local history forms the backbone of this project.

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Sample ledger page from the Easton Library Company

The long hours of work and analysis has now culminated in the launch of the Easton Library Company Database. Users can now browse through the ledgers digitized in high-resolution images and explore the reading habits of some of Easton’s most influential residents. The page images are linked to transcriptions that users can read alongside of the original page views.

The information collected from these transcriptions forms the basis for the database. Visitors can also sort the contents of the database through a number of facets including book title, author name, and borrower name allowing a user to see who see who read a particular book, or all the books a particular person read. These same facets can be used to create visualizations of the data that reveal the patterns of reading and lending, and eventually the connections between community members. As more information is added to the database these visualizations will give users a glimpse into the social fabric of early Easton.

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Data visualization of top four authors in the database

To create these tools and visualizations, DSS has made major improvements to the methods for entering new information into the database. Streamlining and refining the entry forms allows for easier data collection, and most importantly, they help to ensure the accuracy and standardization of new information, which then provides for better search results for the user.

The Easton Library Company Database is continually evolving and new data and new features will continue to be added to the site alongside of new research and information about the collection as it becomes available.

Explore the project at elc.lafayette.edu.


For more information on starting a digital project with DSS or applying for an internship opportunity contact us at digital@lafayette.edu , or call (610) 330-5796.

Announcing the Mapping Memories of Madagascar digital project

Associate Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, Wendy Wilson-Fall’s latest book Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in the Black Atlantic has just been released from the University of Ohio Press.
The book takes an interdisciplinary approach in examining family narratives in which descendants describe their Malagasy lineage as part of their identity. The focus is not only on the narrative itself as text, but on the ways that Malagasy ancestry is remembered in contrast to other forgotten or less visible stories of African descent. Narratives are also contrasted with archival materials, providing historical context and at times, historical evidence. For descendants of slaves, given the fracturing of family networks under the conditions of slavery and the erasure of nation, language, and culture that occurred during enslavement, these stories often only remain in fragments, whispers of an ancestor from Madagascar, or a brief mention of heritage or descent in a document. The research also explores the stories of non-slave Malagasy immigrants of the early to mid-nineteenth century, especially sailors and merchants.

In conjunction with the release of this new title, DSS is proud to announce the Mapping Memories of Madagascar digital project. Through this crowd-sourcing project, visitors can use the interactive map to explore the stories told in the book and trace the history of Malagasy presence in the United States in the slavery era.

We invite users to submit their own story for future inclusion on the interactive map. Participants may be descendants of slaves, slave owners, merchants or others such as members of former Yankee sailor families who have ties to the western Indian Ocean. All of these contributors are welcome as the goal of the project is to identify the potential connections between these communities and retrace the steps of an often forgotten history. Even these small fragments can add up to new information and insight.

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Professor Wilson Fall’s work in this area of study is ongoing. Her most recent developments have come from her work with Excel student Clara Randimbiarimanana, ’18 that follows the copal trade, a commodity closely linked to Madagascar, and the pepper trade. Investigating these trade routes has led to new information connections that adds new family connections to a growing network. We look forward to watching this project grow organically through user contributions that will, in turn, open new research questions and uncover new histories.

Explore the project at http://digital.lafayette.edu/collections/madagascar


For more information on starting a digital project with DSS or applying for an internship opportunity contact us at digital@lafayette.edu , or call (610) 330-5796.