VRA 2013 Digital Humanities, Christensen


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Presented by Sarah Christensen at the Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association, April 3rd - April 6th, 2013, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Session #12: Making the Digital Humanities Visual: Opportunities and Case Studies
ORGANIZER/MODERATOR: Sarah Christensen, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
John Taormina, Duke University
Sarah Christensen, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Massimo Riva, Brown University
Endorsed by the Education Committee

The digital humanities are shaping the way that scholars teach and perform research, providing them with tools to answer existing research questions or to pioneer new approaches in their respective fields. This session seeks to explore opportunities in which visual resources professionals can contribute to or initiate digital humanities projects, utilizing specialized knowledge in visual media to form new partnerships with interdisciplinary collaborators.

John Taormina from Duke University will speak about his experience as part of a discussion group called “Digital Technologies and the Visual Arts: Reconfiguring Knowledge in the Digital Age,” which addressed new media technologies in art history research and teaching with a focus on digital literacy, pedagogy, and scholarly viability. The group met for two years and gained interest from faculty and staff from across campus, and resulted in a week long workshop that has now been offered both at Duke and at Venice International University.

Sarah Christensen from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will discuss “Explore CU,” an Omeka based mobile app developed by researchers at Cleveland State University. The mobile app and accompanying Omeka site aims to curate the art, culture, and history of Champaign-Urbana through community contributed content.

Massimo Riva, Director of the Virtual Humanities Lab at Brown University, will present the Garibaldi Panorama Project. This project is a “digital archive that seeks to provide a comprehensive resource for the interdisciplinary study and teaching of the life and deeds of one of the protagonists of the Italian unification process (1807-1882), against the historical backdrop of 19th-century Europe, reconstructed with the help of materials from special collections at the Brown University libraries. The project will devote particular attention to the way Garibaldi’s figure, his actions and the Italian Risorgimento as a whole were portrayed in contemporary media.”

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  • Hello, my name is Sarah and I’mat the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.I’m going to be talking about the mobile app and website that I’ve been developing in collaboration with the University Library at the University of Illinois. ExploreCU – the CU stands for Champaign-Urbana - is a community driven website and free mobile app about the Champaign Urbana community
  • So what does that mean? ExploreCU consists of tours themed around a specific topic, such as public art or parks. Within those tours are geo-located stories, such as the Alma Mater statue or West Side Park. I’ll demo the website shortly, but this allows users to use the native gps capabilities in their smartphones to see stories that are nearby, or to go on walking tours if they wish. Right now we have seven tours available including both the Champaign and Urbana Park districts, public art on the university campus, some of the landmarks and urban legends on campus, and a tour about railroad and transportation history. We also have several tours in development, including a movies tour to coincide with Ebertfest at the end of April. Fun facts – Roger Ebert is from Urbana, IL and the very first motion picture with sound was produced at UIUC. We’re also working on a Champaign-Urbana in the summer tour which features information about historic festivals and other various summertime activities to coincide with an exhibition that the Library is producing, and I have an independent study student that is putting together a tour of the public sculpture in town. Here is the map, which you see on the home page of the website and on the mobile app, with all of the stories that are currently pinned. Below are tags related to current and future tours. We will be doing a brief demo of the website later.
  • For some background, ExploreCU is the result of a partnership between the visual resources center and the university library, and it was funded through the Library’s Innovation and Seed funding grant program. This is a relatively low cost project to develop. The grant included $3000 for the technological infrastructure developed by Cleveland State, and that includes all bug fixes and future updates, $9,500 for a 25% time graduate hourly for one year, $250 for marketing, and about $500 for miscellaneous expenses such as copyright permissions fees and hosting fees. Looking back I wish I had budgeted more for unexpected costs and marketing expenses, but we haven’t had to go much over our original budget.  We started adding content last August, and everything available right now has been the result of work by our graduate assistant, a volunteer, and myself. We’ve reached out to community organizations and a few individuals who have specific expertise, such as for the Blue Waters supercomputer story, and they’ve helped us develop content as well.
  • The technology that the app runs on, called curatescape, was developed by the center for public history and digital humanities at Cleveland state university. Curatescape is funded through a national endowment for the humanities initiative called mobile historical. Curatescape utilizes native smartphone gps capabilities to enable geo-tagging, it allows for the creation of complex records – we can bundle images, video, audio, and text all into one record, or story, and we can construct thematic tours that tell a broader story. If you don’t have a smartphone, ExploreCU is also available on the open web using Omeka – an open source web publishing platform that’s popular with libraries and archives for showcasing collections. The website is also html-5 based and optimized for all smartphone users for those who can’t or haven’t downloaded the free app. (available for android or ios devices).
  • As librarians and visual resources professionals, we’re always looking for ways to make collections more accessible, especially our local collections. Working with art historians, for example, we’re often digitizing images of art from all over the world, but I came to realize that that there is a lot of art on campus that I had a hard time finding information about. The University Archives and the Urbana Public Archives also have a wealth of historical collections that we’ve been able to highlight. We also wanted to engage more with the community, and capitalize on the knowledge that residents here have. Longtime residents that have seen Champaign Urbana grow and change over the years could provide first hand accounts of some of the events that we’d like to include, and the community is rife with scholars that could contribute content based on their own personal research.  This image is something we found in the University Archives while researching the Hallene Gateway, which serves as the east entrance to the University and is one of the campus symbols. It’s shown here on its original location on New University Hall, which was destroyed in 1938. The gateway was saved and moved into storage at a local University owned park for over 50 years, when in 1994 it was rediscovered buried underground and had to be excavated and restored. And so this is the kind of local history and knowledge that ExploreCU is making more accessible. Create a platform for the community to be active participants in digital collections and exhibits. Increase research and writing skills among students. (look at grant app)
  • The biggest challenge we’re facing is sustainability. Funding for the graduate assistant will run out in July, and we haven’t been as successful as we had hoped in getting community organizations to partner with us in contributing content. It’s been time consuming to be doing a lot of in house research, setting up meetings with people, editing content, and finding images, and so we’re hoping to get some more funding to extend our graduate assistant until at least the end of the year.  Funding goes along with this – we hadn’t anticipated the steep cost of acquiring images from the university archives and so that is something that we’ll always need money for if we want to continue to use that collection. I also hadn’t budgeted enough money for marketing. We had originally earmarked $250 total, but we’ve spent well over that with bus advertisements, promotional materials such as refrigerator magnets and some other miscellaneous things.
  • In the future, we’re going to focus more on working with faculty and students to try to incorporate ExploreCU as either an independent study or a classroom project rather than the general community. Creating tours and stories requires research and writing skills, and ExploreCU allows uses to showcase their work in a way the benefits the entire community. We’re hoping this will be a more sustainable approach, as we already have several interested students, librarians, and organizations interested in working with us.
  • VRA 2013 Digital Humanities, Christensen

    1. 1. a community driven website and mobileapp about Champaign-Urbanaarts, culture, & history
    2. 2. agriculture ART architecture buildings cemeteries CULTUREghosts history LANDMARKS legends libraries LINCOLNmemorials museums PARKS people places pranks railwaysSCHOOLS stories sports supercomputers UNIVERISTY war
    3. 3.  University Library & Visual ResourcesCenter, College of Fine and Applied Arts Funded through the University Library’sInnovation and Seed Funding Grant Project partners to date include MurielScheinman, Champaign Park District, UrbanaPark District, Allerton Park and RetreatCenter, Urbana Free Archives, ParklandCollege Library, Krannert ArtMuseum, NCSA, Grand Prairie Museum, Cityof Urbana, Monticello Rail Museum One 25% graduate hourly, one volunteer, andone independent study student
    4. 4. Challenges:• Sustainability• Funding
    5. 5. Future:• Focus more on pedagogical applications rather thangeneral community involvement• Time the release of new tours to coincide with eventsin the community in order to maximize interest