What we love in digital scholarship. Right. Now.

One thing we love in the Digital Scholarship Lab is well, digital scholarship. Not just here at Marquette but across academia and industry. We geek out over it. We send each other links. We tweet about it. As we enter the dog days of summer, perhaps finally leaving our screens for sunshine and sand, I asked my colleagues to share the projects they truly love and why.

Mapping Occupation

Selected by Eric Kowalik, Instructional Designer

This project set out to analyze the post-emancipation period during the U.S. Civil War. The researchers wanted to look at exactly how enslaved people became free, and especially how the movement of the anti-slavery North’s Union Army impacted that process.

A screenshot from University of Georgia’s Mapping Occupation

The researchers extracted data from both U.S. Census results and advertisements of slave owners looking for their freed servants. They built a Geographic Information System (GIS) map of the region, and then overlaid the apparent tracks of the freed slaves with the movements of the Union Army at the time. What they found surprised them: there were the expected spikes in the number of freed slaves escaping when the army arrived, but these advances apparently did not inspire everyone to seek freedom.

The people fleeing north were predominantly men; of the few advertisements seeking runaway women that do appear during these periods, the data suggests they escaped to the city instead.

Why he loves it: This gender-based difference to the workings of emancipation was a new insight relevant to any historian of the period — not just the subset who prefer digital tools. While the researchers might have spotted the same trend through exhaustive research, the digital tools made it much easier to see patterns in the data.


The Programming Historian

Selected by Taylor McNeir, History, English and Literatures Librarian

Data manipulation modules offered at the Programming Historian

This project is an ongoing collaboration between volunteer librarians, university faculty, and historians across the globe. The aim is to help humanists learn basic digital scholarship tools, techniques, best practices, and applications through lessons. The lessons range from how to use application program interfaces (APIs), to distant reading, mapping, data management and manipulation, introduction to open source programming languages and much more. Free to the public, the lessons are organized by scaffolded, peer-reviewed tutorials.

Collaborative in nature, users can submit lesson proposals, which are then reviewed by an editorial board. The site also features a frequently updated blog, contact information for the research team, a list of upcoming workshops and events, recent publications, and a Spanish language version of the entire site.

Why she loves it: The Programming Historian is one of my favorite digital scholarship projects because it provides an accessible platform for beginners. It is a non-intimidating environment that encourages questions, feedback, and comments. The website offers a vast range of lessons that cater to a wider audience of digital humanists. Overall, it is a great starting point for humanists interested in contributing to, or learning more about digital humanities and scholarship!


DMMapp — Digitized Medieval Manuscripts App

Selected by Elizabeth Wawrzyniak, Media & Reserves Desk Supervisor | DSL Blog Editor

Who knew codicology could be so hip?

The open source app links to digitized medieval manuscripts in over 500 libraries all over the world. The app and database are part of the larger Sexy Codicology website, which aims to share and promote the study of medieval manuscripts and books by highlighting the “most beautiful illuminated manuscripts” and sharing the pictures over social media. DMMapp is the next logical step in their work, a way for those who study medieval manuscripts or texts, or those who have been inspired to learn more by the pictures shared on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, to explore more examples of manuscripts, individual leaves, and more. Though indices and surveys have revealed some holdings of medieval materials in libraries across the world, too many examples of important, beautiful, or just plain interesting manuscripts are unknown, because they are held in a Special Collections or Archives, and limited to in-person viewing. The move to digitize these manuscripts has helped to promote their study, and general knowledge about their existence, but still, oftentimes discovering which library has which manuscripts, and whether they are digitized or not, is just plain old luck.

But the people behind DMMapp are helping to remove some of the “accidents” of manuscript research and make it a little easier for people to locate and explore. The database is filterable by location (nation / city), library, and quantity of manuscripts. So there is still a lot of “hunting and gathering” involved — the database will not give details on the kind of manuscripts, their condition, their content, their age, etc. — but as someone who has been working on project that relies on digitizations of manuscripts myself, the ability to look at a map and see the geographic spread of libraries with digital holdings in a particular area, something that actual relates to my project as well, is beyond valuable.


Mapping Inequality : Redlining in New Deal America

Selected by Elizabeth Andrejasich Gibes, Digital Scholarship Librarian

Milwaukee County is one of the 18+ urban areas to explore in this tool out of University of Richmond

Mapping Inequality is a collaborative project across four universities and hosted by the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond. They have received some prestigious grants and plenty of press coverage. It has been featured on NPR, in National Geographic and Slate, among others.

It is described on the site as offering unprecedented “access to the national collection of ‘security maps’ and area descriptions produced between 1935 and 1940 by one of the New Deal’s most important agencies, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation.”

Overlaying historic documents from the New Deal era on to modern mapping (using Leaflet, Panaroma toolkit, and support from the enviable Stamen Design) clearly illustrates how discriminatory housing practices have impacted U.S. cities and social justice for a near century.


This is just sampling of the innovative and interactive digital projects pushing the boundaries of scholarly communication and research. We’ll be featuring more of our favorites throughout the summer.