Section

Digital Humanities

The Eagle Scout in General Conference

By May 11, 2018


On Tuesday the Church Newsroom announced a “Plan for Worldwide Initiative for Children and Youth” that will change, among other things, Personal Progress and the Church’s relationship to Scouting. Yesterday I wrote about mentions of the Personal Progress program in General Conference. Today I look at mentions of the Eagle Scout award.

[Edit: Due to a very embarrassing error on my part, I only searched from 1940 to the present. There were two mentions of Eagle Scouts before 1950: In 1924 then-President Heber J Grant quoted approvingly a letter published in the Improvement Era that enthused at some length about Mormon scouting and included the line “There are more boys of advanced rank and a greater percentage of Eagle scouts than in any other section of America” (1924 April, p 155). In 1923 Apostle Richard R Lyman said, in a talk on training young people, “You cannot know what real scouting is until you have at least one Eagle Scout in your troop” (1923 April, p 157).]

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Using Google’s Ngram Viewer for Historical Textual Analysis

By May 17, 2016


You may have heard about Google Books Ngram Viewer or perhaps even dabbled with it at some point in the recent past, but I will dive a bit deeper into using the tool for the purpose of historical textual analysis.

An Overview of Ngrams

In the field of computational linguistics, an n-gram is an adjoining chain of n items in a sequence of speech or text. N-grams are extracted from a corpus of speech or text and are ordered as sets. An n-gram of size 1 is a unigram (“binders”), size 2 is a bigram (“many binders”), size 3 is a trigram (“binders of women”), and greater sizes are referred to as four-grams (“binders full of women”), five-grams (“many binders full of women”), and so on.

The corpora accessible via the Google’s Ngram Viewer includes American English, British English, Chinese, French, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, and Italian processed between 2009-2012. The text within this corpora is derived from Google’s massive Google Books digitization endeavor, which is still ongoing. They note on their website that they have only included those books with sufficiently high optical character recognition (OCR) percentages and serials were also excluded from this corpora.1 If you are at all curious, you can download the dataset here.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer is optimized for quick inquiries into the usage of small sets of phrases (or n-grams as described above). The following embedded queries are to help us get more familiar with what is possible using this tool.

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The LDS Church History Library Publishes Digital Version of the George Q. Cannon Journals

By April 14, 2016


CannonIt would be hard to overstate the importance of George Q. Cannon to nineteenth-century Mormonism–if you haven’t done so yet, you must read David Bitton’s exhaustive biography of the man–and there are few documentary records more important that Cannon’s diaries. Over a decade ago, the first of what was to be a long series of published editions of Cannon’s journals appeared, covering his California mission. Two years ago, the second volume of the series, covering his Hawaiian mission, finally arrived. If they continued at that rate, we might finally make it to the last volume by the end of the century.

Yet that patient publication rate ended today with the official online release of the LDS Church Historian’s Press digital edition of Cannon’s journals, which provides content for nearly all of the voluminous journals’ content.

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Digital Mormonists, Volume 1: American Panorama

By February 1, 2016


This is the first entry in yet another occasional, sure-to-be-irregular, but hopefully still important series here at the Juvenile Instructor. Since the blog’s inception in 2007, digital history projects have come a long way, and in the last couple of years, a number of really important digital databases, atlases, and other assorted projects have appeared. In “Digital Mormonists,” I plan to highlight those of potential interest and relevance to scholars of Mormonism and its history.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.35.15 PMA month or so ago, someone I follow on twitter linked to a new digital history project called American Panorama: An Atlas of United States History. A product of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond (whose other projects include the phenomenal Visualizing Emancipation and the very useful Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States), American Panorama presents a variety of interactive maps with historical data.

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Guest Post: 1923 Photographs of the Book of Mormon Printer’s Manuscript

By August 28, 2015



Robin Scott Jensen is the mastermind behind the Joseph Smith Papers’ Revelations and Translations Series, which just released its third volume reproducing the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Jeffrey G. Cannon is the JSP’s photo archivist and as such is the point man for the numerous textual and contextual illustrations that appear in JSP volumes. When R3 was released, photographs of Joseph Smith’s seer stone dominated attention here on the blog. This guest post sheds light on the history of the printer’s manuscript by focusing on the 1923 effort to photograph the entire manuscript for conservation purposes and the recent addition of the complete set of 1923 photos to the JSP website.

With all the excitement about seer stones in the weeks since the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers was released, it is easy to overlook the fact that the volume also contains hundreds of high-quality, full-color photographs of the printer?s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Another set of important images was also recently posted exclusively to the Joseph Smith Papers Project website.

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Something New Under the MHA Sun: Scholars Workshop

By June 12, 2015


This year, MHA piloted something I hope we see more of in the future: a workshop as a pre- or post-conference tour alternative. A half-day workshop about documentary editing (aka ?Geeking Out with Old Documents?) was dreamed up by JI?s own Robin Jensen of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and supported by BYU Special Collections, where the event was held. I helped make some of the initial introductions and arrangements as part of the MHA 2015 Program Committee, and then Local Arrangements took it and ran, and we all held our breath a little as the registration opened up (especially since it was up against the deservedly popular women?s history bus tour ? which I hope we get a write up about! But I digress–), not knowing who would be interested in spending a day in the library learning the ins and outs of turning an original document (letter, diary, manuscript) into a readable resource for researchers, genealogists, and possibly even for publication.

Turns out: quite a lot of folks.

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup

By November 2, 2014


MSWRLinks to the latest Mormon Studies news from around the internet:

Mormons and Politics are in the news again. Only this time, in book form. David Campbell, John Green, and Quinn Monson’s new book from Cambridge University Press, Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics was reviewed in the Deseret News. Interested in more? Jana Riess posted a Q&A with Campbell and Monson over at Flunking Sainthood; Doug Fabrizio also hosted the co-authors on his Radio West program on Thursday.

You’ve likely heard that BYU Religious Education has revamped its curriculum, and the bloggernacle has weighed in from all angles. See here, here, here, here, and here for a sampling.

Also out of BYU, a couple of big announcements from the Maxwell Institute: The online edition of Royal Skousen’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project has launched, and a new digital subscription option to all three journals published by the MI (Mormon Studies Review, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and Studies in the Bible and Antiquity) is now being offered (for only $10!).

Several archives in Utah and Arizona have teamed up to create the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project, “an online aggregator and exhibition that brings together the stories of US 89, as it travels through the state of Utah.” Their aim “is to aggregate existing images, texts, and oral histories related to US 89 while simultaneously identifying and digitizing additional relevant collections.” Read more at Researching the Utah State Archives

Finally, one final reminder that the submission deadline for the 2015 Faith & Knowledge Conference is approaching (THIS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7!) Get your submissions in ASAP!


Mormon Studies Audiobooks

By October 21, 2014


I have a post up over at The Junto this morning reflecting on my audiobook listening habits. I note there, among other things, that “audiobooks … have become a means of helping me keep up with scholarship outside of early America (including periods and subjects I will likely need to teach at some future point), introducing myself to historical subjects in which I am peripherally interested (including the history of sport, the history of food), and of listening to popular and academic histories that fit under the broad umbrella of ‘early American history’ that I might not find time to read in the immediate future.” While writing that post, my thoughts turned to the relative dearth of quality audiobooks on subjects that fall under the large umbrella of Mormon Studies.

My reasons for wanting to listen to Mormon Studies audiobooks largely mirror the reasons cited in the first paragraph — it would be a convenient way to keep up with a field I remain committed to and interested in but one in which my current research does not fall. Given the general success of books in the subfield published by major university and trade presses over the last few years, I am a little surprised that more have not been recorded as audiobooks. Looking back through the library of audiobooks I’ve purchased, downloaded, and listened to over the last three or four years (a library of 50+ volumes), I realized that it included only one Mormon title — our very own Matt Bowman’s excellent survey of Mormon history. A quick search for “Mormon,” “LDS,” and “Latter-day Saints” in Audible.com’s library turns up an odd mix of ex-Mormon narratives, nineteenth-century faith promoting titles, a couple of volumes either for or against Mitt Romney, and only a small handful of Mormon Studies titles (including, most promisingly, Terryl Givens’s The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction and Spencer Fluhman’s A Peculiar People). The only biography of Joseph Smith available is Alex Beam’s American Crucifixion [edit: I somehow missed Robert Remini’s short and accessible biography of JS.]. The offerings at University Press Audiobooks are even slimmer.

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One Memorable(?) Event from LDS General Conference History

By October 14, 2014


Earlier this year, Tona wrote an excellent post about the fragility of digital archives following up on Max Mueller?s AHA paper that explored both the possibilities and pitfalls of the “I?m A Mormon” campaign as a primary source.  Tona noted that, ?What is available to historians relies largely upon on goodwill, technology upgrades, and the market.?

Within this context, it is fascinating to observe, in real-time, the debate over whether or not the General Women?s Meeting is a session of General Conference.  This controversy includes the editing of a video of a conference session as well as conflicting (and possibly changing) interpretations about the status of the Women?s Meeting from LDS Public Affairs, the Deseret News website as well as lds.org.  While the debate about the status of the Women?s Meeting has been largely framed as a feminist issue, it also raises questions for researchers in tracing changes to historical documents and other sources as well as how ideas get lodged in the imaginations of religious believers. As Tona states,

Things come, go, vanish, launch, in a constant state of (often unannounced) change that nonetheless presents itself as final, unchanging and authoritative? it is a historian?s worst nightmare. If you cannot see the ?manuscript edits? so to speak, how do you know what changed, when, how and why? And if the old just vanishes from the online environment without a trace, what happens to the possibilities for historical research? Most of what we are all busily creating in this decade has simply been written in the equivalent of vanishing ink.

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New Developments at the Dictionary of Mormon Biography

By April 12, 2014


I thought I’d write up a quick note on the status of the growing Dictionary of Mormon Biography (DMB).  We have welcomed a few more editors in the last few months and our database continues to expand.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 10.17.36 AM

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D Golding on The Time Neil Armstrong: “Working on the book :) There's so much more to say, and some questions to resolve. I'm planning a research trip (or two) to Quito…”


J Stuart on The Time Neil Armstrong: “Dave. PLEASE write more about this and publish it as an article!”


Jeff T on The Time Neil Armstrong: “This is a fantastic story. Nice writing!”


Jeff T on Summer Book Club: On: “Thanks, Matt!”


J Stuart on Summer Book Club: On: “Love these thoughts, Matt. I wonder, though, if the Americanization thesis needs further critical examination. Might be something for a periodical like the Mormon Studies…”


wvs on New Authors at the: “Welcome! New blood at the JI!”

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