Thing Link: Digital Tool Review

Holly Pyles is a student in Digital Humanities at Belmont University.

My Thinglink Demo:

Thinglink Inc. is a company whose website provides an annotation tool that elevates any image or video by adding tags with additional details directly onto it. These tagged products can not only be viewed on the Thinglink site, but shared on various social media platforms for consumption by the general public. This use of interactive visualization is a unique and creative way to share information that any person, creating or viewing, can enjoy. It is extremely easy to work and can be used for every discipline, as the image/video you upload and data you compile is limited only by your imagination. The informative tags you add can include anything from audio to video to websites to maps. Don’t feel limited to just images or videos either, as you can also annotate 360º/VR images that make you feel as if you are there. If using Thinglink sounds daunting, don’t fret! They include an optional video tutorial at the beginning of every project.

Anyone can create an account and use Thinglink, but if you choose to upgrade to a paid account, you can have access to additional features, such as a wider range of available icon images to choose from. The Thinglink subscriptions are targeted at business and educational use, as one of the upgraded features is the ability to add students to your Thinglink group. If you are looking to use Thinglink as a teaching tool for the classroom or handy device for your business, I would suggest looking into an upgraded account; however, I used the free version and it provided all of the necessities and more for me to create the project I had envisioned and view other projects for inspiration.

For my project, I used Thinglink to annotate a photo of the Indian Peafowl with additional information about the bird, including an audio file of it’s call and a video of it’s mating dance. This was a great tool for compiling lots of different data about the peacock in one place with an easy-to-use concept and an aesthetically pleasing vision. Thinglink allowed my project to be a one-stop shop about the Indian Peafowl, and it can do this for an unlimited amount of other topics.

While the majority of my experience using Thinglink went smoothly, I did have an issue with the Google Maps feature. It was advertised that you could embed a location on Google Maps into a tag, so that the Google Map fixated on that location would show up when that tag was hovered over. I tried to do this with India on Google Maps, but the embed link did not work and showed up as if I had not entered an real link. Upon googling how to embed a google map on Thinglink, the information I found was outdated and looked as if it had not been updated with the site, so I was unable to use that particular feature. Instead, I used a screenshot of India on Google Maps and wrote my own caption. Other than that one inconvenience, the program was extremely helpful and worked very well. I can say that I have not used another tool like it, which makes it even more valuable. I could definitely see myself using Thinglink again, and I’m excited to explore what else I can create with this tool.

How To:

  1. Register for a Thinglink Account
    1. Register by entering an email address and creating a password. Also, if you are looking for a free option, make sure you choose a teacher account. The student option is also free, but you will need an access code before you can use the site.
  2. Click “Create” to start making your first project.
    1. The “create” button is blue and can be found on your startup profile.
  3. A drop-down menu will let you choose to upload an image, video, 360º/VR image, or import a URL.
    1. In my case, I uploaded an image.
  4. Once the file you chose has uploaded, a Thinglink video tutorial is available in the bottom left corner of the screen if you need additional guidance.
  5. Click anywhere on the image/video to add a tag.
  6. Using the menu on the left, you can change the icon image of the tag.
  7. Enter the url of the website or image you would like to attach to the tag under “Link or image address.”
    1. You can change how the link is formatted on the tag by choosing Small OG, Large OG, Small Image, Large Image, Custom, etc.
    2. If you link something that the program recognizes, like Google Maps or Youtube, the format will have an option that caters to the linked website.
  8. You can then enter custom text that will show up on the tag.
    1. Text may be automatically entered for you when you insert a link, but this can be changed or reformatted in the text box.
  9. You can then change the image that shows up on the tag or add audio that will play when the cursor hovers on the tag by clicking on “Change Image” or “Upload Audio” and uploading an image or audio file.
  10. Other advanced settings are also found on this menu and can be changed or applied, such as “Hide Icon,” “Click Action,” “Font Family,” etc.
    1. These advanced settings are explained on the menu.
  11. Once you have made your tag, click “Save” at the bottom of the menu. The tag will then be on the image/video, and you can continue making tags.
  12. When you are done with your project, add a title at the top and click “Save Image” at the bottom right of the page. The project will then be saved to your profile, where you can edit, share, and much more.

If you need additional guidance, here is the link to a youtube demo.

Voyant: Digital Tool Review

Crystal Lemus is a Digital Humanities student at Belmont University.

Have you ever had to sort through hundreds of pages of endless information from a single source? If so, you may also be familiar with the frustrations that come along with having to do this several times for multiple sources of information. Eventually, all data seems merge together into one giant blur. Everything looks practically indistinguishable, making it difficult for reading alone to recognize patterns in the text. Voyant has kept these issues and frustrations in mind and has revolutionized the way we study bodies of information by introducing ways to visualize text patterns that are new and refreshing to the eyes.

Voyant allows you to generate a word cloud of most frequent words, generate graphs of word frequency across the corpus, and compare multiple documents. Images, like the ones shown below, are generated using this digital tool which allows the user to make comparisons, view similarities within texts, draw connections, and see emerging themes. In short, it allows you to look through multiple sources and get to the heart of the text in a matter of seconds. Best of all, usage of this tool is completely free and can be accessed by anyone with internet access.

My main concerns with Voyant are minor. Initially, I was concerned that when comparing two or more bodies of text, the word count would be skewed due to variations in text body length. One of the advantages of Voyant, however, is that it analyzes relative frequencies, not just raw word counts in order to adjust for imbalances in document length. Another thing that stuck out to me was the fact that all five screens are shown at once which can make it appear intimidating. While I will admit that I did feel overwhelmed when I initially opened the tool, once I started clicking around the different options, it became evident that it was very straightforward and was made to make life easier rather than harder. Digital tool practice makes perfect!

One of the things that I love about this online tool is that it can be used by anyone to analyze information from any field. Not only can this be used by researchers that are trying to understand document collections that are prohibitively large for a close-reading, it can also be enjoyed by those that are working on a small project or simply have a love for words. I would highly recommend Voyant for all of your word processing needs.  

How To Use:

  1. Once on Voyant’s website (, copy and paste the URL of the information you are wanting to further process.
  2. If you are uploading a document, make sure that the content of information you are wanting to analyze is in one of the following formats:  HTML, XML, PDF, RTF, MS Word.
  3. You can edit Voyant’s stopword list by opening the option menu, accessible by hovering briefly over the top bar of the tool and then clicking the options icon (looks like a switch) once it appears. This can narrow your search by removing common words such as “a” and “the.”
  4. All five windows on the screen show you different forms of visualizing information about the text:
    • Cirrus, Terms, and Link (Top, Left): Provide a visual representation of the text through a text collage of the most common words, a list of words and how many times they appear in the text, and a network visualization, respectively.
    • Reader, Terms Berry (Top, Middle): The body of text that was inserted (data insert), and a circle diagram of text that highlights associated terms, respectively.
    • Trends, Document Trends (Top, Right):  Both of these show textual trends using frequency rates in different formats.
    • Summary, Documents, Phrases (Bottom, Left): Summary of average number of words per sentence/most frequently used words, shows what document you are currently analyzing (if you are analyzing more than one), and common phrases a selected word is found in.
    • Contexts, Bubblelines, Correlations (Bottom, Right): Find the context of a selected word by seeing what is to the left and to the right of it in the text, chronological overlap of selected words in bubble form as they are found in the text, and correlations between terms, respectively.
  5. Once all information has been gathered, it can be exported by clicking on the square with an arrow coming out of it which is located on the top right of the screen.

StoryMap: A Digital Tool Review

Sarah Travis is a student in Digital Humanities at Belmont University.

StoryMapJS, made by Northwestern University Knight Lab, is a way to tell stories using the location and date of an event. StoryMapJS allows users to make a slide show presentation that moves around a map based on the location of the events it talks about.
Here is the link to the StoryMap I created, click here.

The tool is free to use and is best accessed through a Google account. It is possible to use StoryMapJS without a Google account, but there are some features that are unusable without one. The program utilizes a map and users can search for specific locations by name, address or longitude and latitude. Users can add media to StoryMapJS from Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Google Maps, Wikipedia, SoundCloud, and more. StoryMapJS is user friendly and offers examples, tips and tricks, frequently asked questions and how to get help. Your StoryMap can be shared by its unique link and the tool makes it easy to share projects on social media.  StoryMaps are best created and viewed on a laptop or desktop computer but the tool is accessible on your smartphone using the same web address.

I built a story map using an article about the history of the World Wide Web. After selecting a few events to map out, I was able to build my slides by adding where and when the event took place. StoryMapJS was fairly easy to use and if you have used PowerPoint or Prezi you will quickly get the hang of StoryMapJS. The more time you spend to explore the features, the more you can add to your presentation. 

One struggle I encountered was that my locations were not very concentrated. The history of the internet is spread across the globe, so my slides jumped around the map. I would recommend to others to use StoryMapJS to explain events that happened in closer proximity to each other. I also found that some of the events I wanted to talk about were not in a specific location, it would be better to tell a story that has a strong location narrative. I would like to use StoryMapJS again in the future with a story that is more focused in one place and has more location specific events.

Basic Steps for Using StoryMapJS

  1. Go to, select “Make a StoryMap” and login with your Google Account
  1. Create a title slide
  2. Add more slides to your presentation by selecting “Add Slide” along the left side of the page.
  3. Add a location to your slide by searching for its name, address, or latitude and longitude
  • 4. Add images, videos or links to other media by using the media box, here you can also credit the creator and caption your media.
  • 5. Add to each slide a title and description of the event.
  • 6. Adjust the background, font and “marker” for your slide on the right side of the screen.
  • 7. Preview your presentation by selecting “Preview”
  • 8. Use the “options” section along the top of the page to further personalize your StoryMap, adjust the type of map used, the language and size of the map.
  • 9. Use the drop down “Help” section to see more advanced features or look through a support forum.
  • 10. Share your Story Map to social media or via a link provides when clicking “Share” in the top right corner of the page

Another great resource for learning to use StoryMapJS is this video:


Google’s Ngram Viewer: Digital Tool Review

Madison Manns is a student in Digital Humanities at Belmont University. 

Ngram is a software system that operates through Google’s search engine—more specifically, through Google Books. The digital tool is sometimes referred to as Google Ngram or Ngram Viewer. Ngram allows users to compare the usage of specific terms in print over a specific amount of time. The user simply inserts the terms they wish to compare and the time period they are evaluating. The system is free to use and easy to find. Simply typing [Ngram] into any search engine will bring up the tool.

The method of use proves intuitive and straightforward. No navigation is required; all functions occur on the same page. The webpage initially shows an example comparing appearances of [Albert Einstein,Sherlock Holmes,Frankenstein] from 1800–2000. The digital tool searches all Google Books and compiles the date into a graph, with differently colored lines representing each term. The y-axis refers to the number of time the name is mentioned; the x-axis refers to the year mentioned.

The tool has a few additional features that increase the tool’s relevance and possible uses. The first option involves the back-end aspect of website design: on the upper right corner of the page, Google provides the HTML that would enable a user to embed this chart or system in their own website—completely free. Second—and perhaps more useful for those of us who aren’t too savvy with computer code—the web page provides sources for its chart at the bottom of the page. Lists of timeframes and search terms link to the Google Books from which information was drawn. Additionally, page numbers appear above many of these books when the link is selected, cutting down on the time required for sifting through each book.

The system also provides the option to search magazines and newspapers, so for a user who isn’t bound by academic source restrictions, the tool can provide a general comparison of cultural and social concern about the searched terms. This tool can be incredibly useful for researchers, as it provides sources that can clear up ambiguities between whether the world’s fair should be written as [World’s Fair], [the world’s fair], or [the World’s Fair]. By showing which sources say which term, a user could glean that [world’s fair] is used more often by historians, but that authors writing about architecture use [the World’s Fair]. This verification can help editors, students, sociologists, the creators of web content, and other digital humanities scholars check the sources of minute formatting discrepancies or track popular terms and subjects over a given era.

How to Use:

  1. Find Ngram through your search engine of choice, or use this hyperlink:
  2. Enter your search terms into the boxes at the top of the page:

3. View the resulting chart.

4. To find the HTML to embed this program, select [Embed Chart] at the top of the page:

5. To access the data year by year or term by term, see the bottom of the page.

Madison Manns is a student in Digital Humanities at Belmont University. 


Vanderbilt University Center for Digital Humanities Internship Final Reflection

My internship this summer with the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities could not have been better. I had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Mickey Casad and other scholars and digital directors at Vanderbilt. They included Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, Dr. Angela Sutton, Dale Poulter, and Dr. Steven Wernke.  I also had the chance to meet and collaborate with scholars from other institutions such as Dr. Chad Berry (Berea College), Dr. Reavis Mitchell (Fisk University), Dr. Lea Williams (Tennessee State University), Dr. Van West (Middle TN State University), Dr. Molly Taylor-Polesky (Middle TN State University), and Dr. Carole Bucy (Volunteer State College). Finally, I had many meeting with community stakeholders related to the Nashville Sites Digital Project including Nashville Public Library, Metro Archives, TN State Library and Archives, Slave Societies Digital Archive (Vanderbilt), Fog Haus, Metro Historical Commission, Belmont University, Middle TN State University, Convention and Visitors Corp., Smithsonian Institute, Humanities Tennessee, and more.

All of that to say, it has been a joyful internship. My experience has  provided me with new digital skills (particularly after meeting with Dale Poulter last week about Fedora and Islandora), while also allowing me to flex my own (digital) muscles. Not only has Dr. Casad and the center supported my work with Nashville Sites, I will also have the chance to give back in two weeks–as I lead a workshop at the Vanderbilt DH Bootcamp. I will be teaching a session on Omeka to Vanderbilt faculty. In terms of Nashville Sites, I am happy to report that just yesterday, I passed off all metadata and tour narratives and maps for the first five tours. They are: Downtown School and Education, Food for Thought (restaurants either historic themselves or in historic buildings), Civic and Public Spaces, Architecture Highlights, and Nashville’s Seedy Side.

This summer I put much of the knowledge gained through George Mason University coursework into action. That is perhaps the best part. My coursework at GMU inspired my work with Nashville Sites, which in turn has allowed me to turn this class project into “a real thing,” and has also led to me learning many new things on my own and from others connected to the Vanderbilt Center for DH. I can’t thank Dr. Casad and Dr. Platt enough for their encouragement, guidance, and support.

A final word of thanks to George Mason for giving me the skills and experience to expand my professional portfolio. This past year, I led a Digital Humanities Initiative at Harpeth Hall, which resulted in my work with at least one teacher in every academic discipline (except math) to develop a digital project. My work in Digital Humanities also played a big role in my recent one-year appointment as Professor of Practice at Belmont University next year. Dr. Mimi Barnard’s vision and ingenuity made this appointment possible.  I will be teaching an intro to Digital Humanities course as well as work with students on Nashville Sites (also two additional courses). In sum, Belmont is hosting me as I teach and work on this project. Two years ago, I could not have imagined that this certificate program would lead to a new position.

Below, I will share part of one of the completed tours as a sample. I will not send metadata as it is still being edited, and the GIS is under construction. I look forward to sharing the actual site when it is launched (estimated date August 2019). There should be approximately twenty tours. Enjoy.

1. The Hermitage Hotel/Capitol Grille/Oak Bar

J. Edwin Carpenter’s 1910 Hermitage Hotel is designed in the Beaux Arts Style, and even if you choose not to eat here, a visit inside is worth your time. Along with the ornate lobby and restaurant, the Art Deco men’s restroom located near the Oak Bar is famous for its design. Ladies, you can check out the restroom as well, just ask the hotel staff.
In the months before Tennessee’s decision to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment (August 18, 1920), both proponents and opponents of woman’s suffrage established headquarters at the Hermitage Hotel. They chose the location for its proximity to the capitol building, where women could not hold office but could lobby for their causes. After a fierce political battle, Tennessee became the thirty sixth state to ratify the amendment, which met the 2/3rd state threshold needed, granting women the constitutional right to vote. Tennessee is still called the “Perfect 36” for its role in the ratification process.
The Capitol Grille, originally called the Grill Room, once served clear green turtle soup, Tennessee squab, celery, and salted almonds. While these dishes epitomized fine dining in the early twentieth century, they no longer exist regularly on the menu. Even though food tastes change over time, Capitol Grille has continued its long-standing tradition of using locally sourced ingredients when possible. The hotel owns Double H Farms that raises free range cattle and uses seasonal vegetables grown at historic Glen Leven Farm. If you don’t want a full meal, unwind in the Oak Bar, originally an exclusive men’s club. Today all can enjoy this space, which has served drinks and dinner for over a century. 
Move southeast on Sixth Ave. toward Church St, and turn LEFT onto Church St. Then, turn LEFT onto Fifth Ave N to reach 227 Fifth Ave. North. Woolworth on 5th is about halfway up the block. Along the way, you will pass buildings with historical, architectural, and artistic significance. On Sixth Ave. North, take note of the Herakut mural of the dog, created through the Nashville Walls Project. Church Street is full of important sites including the Nashville Public Library, 505 Nashville, and the Downtown Presbyterian Church, which you pass on your right as you walk toward Fifth Avenue. 
Additional Info: Hermitage Hotel Audio

2. Woolworth on 5th

In February 1960, a group of black students from Fisk University, Tennessee A&I (now Tennessee State University), and American Baptist College boldly sat down at the lunch counters of Woolworth’s, Kress, and McClellan—all department stores. This is how Nashville’s sit-in movement began. Implementing methods of non-violent protest, young Civil Rights leaders such as John Lewis, James Lawson, and Diane Nash began a historic journey to end racial segregation. In the face of violence, intimidation, and arrest—the determined spirit and perseverance of these and other students led Mayor Ben West to support desegregation. He did so, and the Nashville business community followed by integrating lunch counters, stores, and restaurants. By the summer of 1960, Nashville had desegregated all public facilitiesthe first southern city to do so.
After a major renovation, the Woolworth building reopened as a restaurant in early 2018. The venue hosts a “welcome table for all,” showcasing the Civil Rights movement in Nashville through historic photographs and visibly patched floors where the segregated lunch counters were removed. Visitors can enjoy live jazz, R&B, early rock, and more while dining.
Woolworth’s reflects the power of food to connect the past to the present and to provide a window into the complicated nature of southern culture and identity. You can likely think of popular foods associated with the American southeast: barbecue, fried chicken, or biscuits. These dishes represent points of contact between Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans. These popular dishes reveal stories about women and men, many enslaved, who cooked for others and adapted foods during times of plenty and times of need. As you explore Woolworth on 5th, consider how its “welcome table for all” unites not only those who challenged Jim Crow with the present, but also celebrates the different races, classes, and cultures who made the cuisine we know and love today.
Turn LEFT outside of Woolworth on 5th; after walking about thirty yards, turn RIGHT at the Fifth Ave. North crosswalk to reach The Arcade located across the street. When you leave Woolworth’s you will see a historical marker describing the sit-ins. 
Audio about Civil Rights Movement sit-ins in Nashville, TN
Link to webpage:
  • Oral History Interview with Edward F. Jones, 2006 November 3, excerpt 17, is a three minute clip of Jones describing the sit-in movement in broad terms. He mentions student activism, and the negotiations between business owners and student activist leaders. 
  • Citation per NPL:                                                                                                             Edward F. Jones, Series 1, The Turner Interviews, Nashville Business Leaders Oral History Project, Special Collections Division, Nashville Public Library.

3. The Arcade (and Peanut Shop)

If you seek a variety of options and a quick meal, drink, or snack—Nashville’s Arcade, located across the street from Woolworth on 5th, is the place for you. For decades, Nashvillians saw Fifth Avenue as the most popular shopping area in the city. At its peak in the early twentieth century, department stores lined the street, and the Arcade was the center of it all. 
Running though the middle of the block between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, this space was originally a rose garden called Overton Alley. In 1903, Daniel C. Buntin funded the construction of a two-story indoor shopping venue designed by the architectural firm Thompson, Gibel and Asmus. Modeled after the famous Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan (Italy), the Arcade features a glass-gabled roof, reinforced with steel beams made in East Nashville. When the city celebrated the Arcade’s opening, approximately 40,000 people gathered for shopping, music, and mingling. Shop owners and businesses in Nashville’s Arcade have changed over time, and the second floor mezzanine currently boasts art galleries that participate in the free Downtown Nashville First Saturday Art Crawl. 
The street level promenade offers over twenty food stops with pizza, deli sandwiches, tacos, Chinese food, coffee, pastries, and more. The plethora of affordable options allows customers to find the perfect meal while taking in the architecture of this hidden gem. The oldest store in the building, The Peanut Shop, opened in 1927. Owned by Planters Peanuts until 1960, the store has run independently for over fifty years. Much of the decoration here is original, so make sure you look around if you stop in for a treat. 
After walking STRAIGHT through the Arcade, you arrive on Fourth Ave. North and see the Bobby Hotel directly across the street. Turn RIGHT and you will see a crosswalk which you will take to get to the other side of the street. The small road in front of you that separates the Bobby Hotel from the Southern Turf building is called Metro Alley. The Southern Turf building, the historic location of your next stop, is on your RIGHT. Take the alley to Skull’s Rainbow Room restaurant and bar, located in the back of the Southern Turf building. 

Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities Internship Update, July 2018

Over the past month, I have stretched my DH skills in many areas. I have learned from and collaborated with scholars and continued to lead and manage a digital project moving from the conceptual phase to the development phase. Along the way I have been challenged, encouraged, and inspired. Challenges range from logistics and subject/keyword indexing to defining a public and digital history philosophy. There are three projects that I would like to highlight in this blog post. I sincerely thank all three scholars for meeting and sharing their exciting work in DH with me.

Fort Negley Descendants Project

In particular, I enjoyed meeting Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, a Digital Humanities Fellow and PhD candidate in history at Vanderbilt University. She introduced me to the Fort Negley Descendants Project. Juliet and I are meeting next week to discuss how her work might intersect with Nashville Sites. Last year, Dr. Mickey Casad, the Associate Director of the Center for DH, formed a working group called Black Nashville, which is comprised of graduate students and scholars from all of Nashville’s major universities. One member of this intercollegiate group, Dr. Lea Williams, is also a consulting scholar on Nashville Sites.  Dr. Williams is a Professor of History at Tennessee State University. He will be managing the tour content and design for a tour entitled, “Antebellum Black Life,” and it is my hope that Juliet and her team will work with Dr. Williams to build this tour.

Here is an excerpt of the project:

The Fort Negley Descendants Project is an oral history digital archive aimed at preserving the voices and stories of the descendants of the African-American laborers and soldiers who built and defended Fort Negley. The Fort was built in 1862, using a combination of forced labor of enslaved Africans which the Union army in Nashville had rounded up from nearby plantations, and free blacks of Nashville and the surrounding areas, who offered their services in exchange for payment (much of which never materialized). . . . Once built, the fortification was defended by various regiments of the United States Colored Troops against the Confederate forces. Both builders and defenders died in record numbers at Fort Negley in the defense of our union. Recent ground-penetrating radar reports have indicated a high likelihood that their remains still lie on the grounds of Fort Negley Park.

After the war, those who survived settled the nearby historically black neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill, Wedgewood Houston, historic Edgefield, and Edgehill. At the turn of the century, several prominent families from these neighborhoods founded North Nashville and all of the prestigious black institutions residing there- the historically black colleges, businesses, and churches. In the 1950s, these same institutions trained and supported some of the sharpest minds of the Civil Rights movement. There is a long and unbroken connection between the builders and defenders of Fort Negley, and Nashville’s current African-American population.


A second scholar I met with through the Vanderbilt Center for DH was Dr. Steven Wernke. Dr. Wernke is working on an exciting geospatial and crowdsourcing project called GeoPACHA project.  An Associate Professor and Director of the Spatial Analysis Research Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Wernke also works on a team that is part of Vanderbilt’s Initiative for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Research. Dr. Parker VanValkenburgh, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University, is the other project manager for GeoPACHA. This project utilizes prgrams such as Spatial Lite, Arc Collector, and Q-Field (Android only). Below find selected excerpts about the project:

GeoPACHA (Geospatial Platform for Andean Culture, History and Archaeology) is a browser-based, edited geospatial platform for discovering and mapping archaeological sites in the Andean region of South America. It is designed to facilitate the identification of archaeological sites through “virtual survey” of satellite and aerial imagery and consists of a simple browser-based interface that enables users to visually scan imagery and plot the locations of archaeological sites to a central GIS database using point themes. GeoPACHA also enables the registry of attribute data with site locations via form-based data entry. A grid-based system tracks coverage and sites are recorded.

As is the case for any form of crowdsourced data, quality control is one of our paramount concerns. GeoPACHA’s tiered editorial model is designed to facilitate control of site identifications and attribute data to create high quality, curated datasets. Initial site locations and attributes entered by registered contributors are saved to a queue. Regional editors then conduct initial review of site identifications and attributes. General editors conduct a final review before committing site location and attribute data to the canonical database.

Sponsors for GeoPACHA

Dr. Wernke and I plan to meet in late August to see how his Intro to GIS class might contribute and participate in the Nashville Sites Project.


The third scholar I met was Dr. Chad Berry, Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty at Berea College. He is in the process of reviving a digital project, called Mappalacia, that he began as a Professor of History before moving into administration. The digital project was born out of an interdisciplinary project involving the Art, Music, and English Departments, which ran from 1948 through the 1980s. Before getting into the original project and digital project, one must first understand the distinctive mission and history of Berea College. From its website:

Founded in 1855 as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, Berea College charges no tuition and admits only academically promising students, primarily from Appalachia, who have limited economic resources.  Berea’s cost of educating a student for four years is nearly $100,000. A majority of Berea’s students are from the Appalachian region, and while all students are highly motivated their backgrounds are quite nontraditional compared to most college students. Berea College offers rigorous undergraduate academic programs leading to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 28 fields. All students work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs.

Here is a description of the original “Man and the Humanities” project:

Art professor, Dr. Les Pross, taught an interdisciplinary class called “Man and the Humanities.” On the first day students were given a 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper. The assignment had one instruction: Draw or map your community. Student returned the following week with their drawing and an archive was born as Dr. Pross saved each drawing after the term and drawings/maps were dated, filed, and stored.

When Dr. Berry came upon this collection, he saw an opportunity. First he began by digitizing the maps–mostly from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Second his classes analyzed them and began creating mental maps and discussed points of intersection and connection (nodes, paths, segments), issues of memory, variances in visual representation, and historic periodization. There were many issues with which students grappled. For example, many of these views and features no longer exist because of coal industry, interstates, post-industrial development or rather decline. In revamping the Mappalacia digital project, Dr. Berry hopes to provide a window into Appalachian culture, as well as international and national culture from other home regions of students during these years.

Observations of Dr. Berry’s class included:

  • Gender: Male student drawings tend to be more aerial, women more grounded or landscapes
  • Race: Sometimes portrayed with railroad tracks, even sometimes labeled, e.g. “Negro” homes or otherwise portraying geographical segregation
  • Class: Also represented on many maps representing higher ground for upper class, lower ground for working class
  • Other themes, community, industry, lots of railroads, mines

I hope to meet with Dr. Berry again to see how I might contribute to this project moving forward as he also determines the best course forward for taking this project to the “next level.”

All in all, these meetings and exposure to scholarly DH projects allowed me to see many other possibilities for the wide-range of subjects, scope, and meaning for the Digital Humanities for students, for potential users, and for the larger, common good.

Additional Reference:

Bill Rankin, After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century, University of Chicago Press, 2017.



Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities Internship Update, June 2018

My summer internship with the Vanderbilt University of Digital Humanities has been very fruitful thus far. Working primarily with the center’s associate director, Dr. Mickey Casad, the internship promises to be beneficial in a variety of ways. First, the Center for DH is providing in-kind support for Nashville Sites — of which I am the project manager. This allows me to expand my digital skills while also working on a project already in progress that will continue beyond this semester. Dr. Casad and I have met twice to talk about this as well as other initiatives and projects connected to the center. These projects include Mappalacia, with Berea College, and Fedora, with Dale Poulter (VU Director of Library Technology and Digital Services). I will have more to report on these projects in my next post.

Most of May and June was spent working with a staff of four on the initial five tours for Nashville Sites. There are many challenges in building a digital infrastructure, content management system, navigation, and taxonomy. The first five tours are are located in a centralized area of downtown because we wanted to keep our geographical parameters tight as we worked through certain issues. They include: architectural highlights, seedy side (Nashville’s former red light district), food for thought (restaurants in historically significant buildings), and downtown schools/education. My assigned tour was downtown schools/education. Mapping out the tour, doing the research, collecting metadata for individual records, and writing a tour narrative took quite a bit of time. Also valuable to the process was physically walking and “testing out” the tour. I realized that many sites on other tours are visible on mine, and so we’re working with our web designers to determine how best to alert the user to these sites in order to provide the option of a customized or deviated tour. Here is my final tour, which includes the following stops:

1. Tennessee State University
2. Nashville Female Academy
3. Nashville School of Law/YMCA
4. Ward Seminary
5. Hume-Fogg School
6. Lipscomb University Downtown Spark Campus
7. Hatch Show Print
8. Taylor Swift Education Center
9. Walk of Fame (Local Alums and School Connections)
10. Seeing Eye (First Dog Training School for the Blind)

The tour is 2 miles long and takes approximately 75 minutes if walked without more than five minutes spent at each site. Other considerations included accessibility (sidewalks, ramps, lighting), balancing active sites versus historic markers only, and creating a subject/keyword/tag hierarchy. The subject list is still a work in progress, but we are basing it on the Omeka’s Simple Vocab plug-in. Specific methodologies and skills learned through GMU coursework have been key to working on this project: Omeka, copyright, Google Maps, using images, history based on place, creating personas, and even Slack. I look forward to the next few weeks as this and other work/projects through the VU Center for DH develop.


Final Reflection for Smithsonian Internship, May 2018

Having completed my 160-hour internship with Smithsonian Global and the University of Pennsylvania, it is my pleasure to provide a final reflection and tour of my work on the Conflict Culture project.

Our intern cohort, using excel spreadsheets with partial data, were assigned countries such as Morocco, Finland, Poland, Denmark, and Ireland. I was assigned Ireland and worked on this data set throughout the semester.  In addition to research and data entry, our group created a test map component using Google Fusion.

These datasets and maps will be used for multidisciplinary research on cultural heritage in order to prevent intentional destruction, assist in recovery following natural disasters, and generally protect historical sites as well as the collections of museums and archives. At this time, we were unable to create a “clustering” function and so the map appears quite busy when zoomed out.

The final product, however, once the user drills down and clicks on a data point, is a pop-up window with all relevant information for each site (above). Our group selected not to show some of the coding that would not be meaningful to a general audience at this time. For example, we coded each entry to show whether the site was state-sponsored and/or prior military function. We also ranked its significance as 1-international, 2-national, or 3-local. Our group discussed different ways to represent this information and it was determined that, at a later date, the Smithsonian can choose to color code these or build additional layers. We did color code sites based on complete, partial, or coordinate-only data (below).

Uploading the data was fairly simple, the excel was saved as a CSV file. A CSV stands for comma separated values file, which allows data to be saved in a table structured format. CSVs look like an excel spreadsheet but have .csv extension instead of .xlsx. A CSV takes the form of a text file containing “information separated by commas,” for which it is named.

From the file menu, users select import rows, which is followed with the following screen. From here, the user can upload the file from their computer, link a Google spreadsheet, or build a table from scratch (above).

Once uploaded the data sheet could be viewed as rows (below) or cards (above). We used a cultural repository code book and instruction manual provided by Smithsonian Institution. My research focused on Ireland’s sites related to the cultural heritage, which include: historic sites, religious sites, libraries with exhibits, archives, art galleries, museums, and archaeological sites. Historians are rarely short-winded when writing; thus, it required work and discipline to properly code and describe in 25-30 words each site/entry. I gained experience in using scientific methods to integrate qualitative information into a standard frame of variables and data formatting.

This is a great and worthy project. Through this research, I gained a deeper appreciation for the importance and complex interpretations of cultural heritage. I also see this as a way to elevate traditional museum/archive/site indexes so that they are more accessible and visual for scholars, hobbyists, students, national and international bodies, and the larger global community.

My DH skills, gained through George Mason’s post-graduate DH certificate program, came into play on several occasions. I understood the importance of controlled vocabulary, metadata, and DH tools and terms needed to ask and answer questions. As far as digital skills gained, I learned the basics of using and working with Google Fusion.  On a personal level, I learned a great deal about the rich history of Ireland from Dublin Castle to the National Leprechaun Museum. With over 300 cultural heritage sites, I will surely build my next trip itinerary to Ireland around my work on Conflict Culture.



Smithsonian Internship Update, April 2018

Kilkenny Castle

My Smithsonian internship is still going well as I research cultural and heritage sites in Ireland. I have completed 60% of the coding for these sites and will soon be turning my attention to mapping.

Researching the significance of Kilkenny Castle was both challenging and enjoying. Kilkenny Castle has a complex history that involves architecture, politics, history, archaeology, culture, and various military functions. At present, it also serves as an important site for public audiences across multiple disciplines on local, national, and international levels.

This site was part of my research for the Conflict Cultures project, which connected me to the Smithsonian and the University of Pennsylvania as a digital historian and digital humanist. For example, only a handful of entries involve both a prior military function and a current relationship to the state. For these categories I coded them both as “1” that designates it as a site that could be potentially endangered if Ireland ever experiences either a national or man-made disaster (civil war, terrorist attack, hostile occupation). In other words, coding and mapping this site will help future generations protect, preserve, and learn about the important role of Kilkenny Castle in Ireland’s history.  While I have never used Google Fusion Tables as platform for GIS mapping, this entry (along with 318 others) taps into the mapping skills gained through my digital public humanities coursework through George Mason University.

File:Kilkenny Castle 26-09-2015.JPGNormek82, Kilkenny Castle, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0).

It primarily features medieval and baroque architecture. In addition to serving as a residence, the castle also served as a fortress. The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969. Visits to the Kilkenny Castle feature several types of collections: decorative arts, art, textiles, print materials, military artifacts, and archaeological artifacts. The mission of the Kilkenny Castle and the Office of Public Works includes archaeological excavation, conservation, preservation, and restoration of the buildings as well as the collections.

Sources and Further Reading:

Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (London: Constable Press, 1998).

Bron, Daniel. Kilkenny Castle and Fountain, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0).

Department of the Environment. An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of County Kilkenny (Government of Ireland, 2006).

Murtagh. Ben. “The Kilkenny Castle Archaeological Project 1990 to 1993,” Old Kilkenny Review (Kilkenny Archaeological Society, 1993).

Normek82, Kilkenny Castle, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0).

Office of Public Works, “An Introduction to Kilkenny Castle,” Kilkenny Castle (Government of Ireland, 2017).

Williams, Jeremy. A Companion Guide to Architecture in Ireland 1837– 1921 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1994).


Smithsonian Internship Update, March 2018

My internship with the Conflict Culture project has been very interesting thus far. I was assigned Ireland as my country to research with the goal of providing information to be used in the ultimate database. I was faced with some initial challenges as some of the information had already been entered by a previous intern. Checking geographical coordinate proved tedious, and learning to locate precise latitude and longitude was a task with which I had little experience. However, I found that I gained efficiency and speed as I moved through the 319 sites.

I am now finished checking preexisting data and have moved to research and descriptions of my own. I have particularly enjoyed getting to learn about historical and cultural sites in Ireland. Other than some of the well-known sites, such as Dublin Casle, I had/have very little familiarity with Ireland as I have never been there. While I am only 20 percent through the site descriptions and other coding categories, I have already begun a list of sites that I would like to visit when I do travel to Ireland. In fact, I may be making a trip sooner than I thought — inspired in part by this project and assignment.

While my work constitutes a long distance relationship (of sorts) with the Smithsonian, the weekly conference calls have been helpful. In addition, they add a personal component to this virtual internship as our supervisor guides us and answers questions and as we, the interns, talk about our work. The communication with the Smithsonian and the University of Pennsylvania has also been great.

This project utilizes several skills and methodologies connected to the GMU DH certificate program. Specifically, our early lessons on the importance of copyright and metadata have come in very handy. I also have greater confidence in my research skills, understanding of coding categories, and use of controlled vocabulary. George Mason is on spring break next week and so we have a week off as well. I am looking forward to a bit of a break before getting back to work. I am determined to finish the data for Ireland as my contribution to Conflict Cultures.