DH in the Classroom Projects and New Call for Proposals

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.

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Example of REL 308 final project

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.

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Petrology final project on Omeka

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.

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Interactive timeline and map from the McDonogh Project

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.

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Cover image from ENG 212’s anthology project

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.


Analysis of comma use in new Writing Associate essays over time.

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, mcginne@lafayette.edu, or see our Call for Proposals for the full details.

“Mapping Memories” Book Release Celebrates Easton History

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Students Julianna Vuotto ’17, Marcus Vilme ’17, Kamani Christian ’17, and Dawit Blackwell ’17 check out the latest edition of  “Remembering the Taylor School and 4th and Lehigh Neighborhood.” 

Professor Andrea Smith’s “Rebuilding Shattered Worlds through Recollection” (A&S 244) class gave a special presentation of their final project at the Sigal Museum. This semester, the class contributed to the ongoing digital public history project “Lebanese Town,” and have been busy interviewing local residents and collecting photographs and memorabilia from former residents of Easton’s Lebanese neighborhood that was lost to urban renewal in the 1960s. The students were able to share their work with the contributors in a collected edition of their stories.


Julie Vuotto ’17 presents her chapter 

The book is a compilation of research conducted across several years and two semesters of student research. This year’s class was able to draw on the previous class’s research to create multi-faceted chapters and to expand the earlier research. Their additions include a chapter on the Italian-American residents, additional sections to chapters on the African-American experience, childhood, and a chapter on home remedies and cures handed down from the old world, and the class’ favorite new chapter, “Consumption in Yesteryear” that brings together all of the stories of the specialty food like the local lemon ice and boiled peanuts and the various ‘mom and pop shops’ that populated the neighborhood. These are the moments in the interviews where the residents’ memories are clear and marked by a joyous nostalgia for their childhood.

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Easton resident and project contributor Sonja Shaheen

This enthusiastic nostalgia was evident in yesterday’s presentation. As each image appeared on the screen, the audience delighted in seeing their own photos included in the project. Every image sparked a renewed discussion of the content, with each person reconstructing the story told in the photo from their memories. All of the contributors got to take home a copy of the book signed by the student authors.

The book is the first stage of the larger Lebanese Town digital project. Since many of the residents are now in their 70s and 80s, they felt that a book would be a better medium for sharing this work with their families. The larger digital project is currently under development with Digital Scholarship Services. Professor Smith has been working closely with DSS’ Visual Resources Curator Paul Miller to collect, scan, and catalogue all of the materials the students have collected. These photos and stories will then be pinned to the digitized map of Easton from 1919 before this section of town was razed, to create a holistic view of the neighborhood. To learn more about the project visit our previous post.

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1919 map of Lebanese Town

For the students this process has been a unique experience, one that made them feel closer to their new home in Easton and that has fostered great relationships between the students and the residents. “I’ve never worked on a project like this,” says Marcus Vilme ’17. “It’s a great feeling to know that my work is now part of something bigger than my class. Unlike a term paper that will get read maybe once or twice, this project has contributed to something that the whole community benefits from.” The residents’ excitement in seeing their own stories preserved and their appreciation for the students’ hard work was a better reward than any grade.

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.