Section

Digital Humanities

Elegy for Missing Data, in Advance

By January 13, 2014


Or: All Web is Not Created Equal, have you noticed?

One of the sessions I attended at the AHA this month was Session 151, Social Media and History. It featured one of our JIers, Max Mueller, talking about tensions and complications in the church’s “I am a Mormon” campaign, including the fascinating case of one woman whose tattoos were airbrushed out of her profile pic (her profile is now gone, for other reasons). Great talk, by the way, along with several others that reflected on the ethical and methodological problems of using social media as historical sources for researching marginalized groups or threatened voices. In each of the presentations — Max’s on constructing Mormon online “diversity,” Jessica Lingel’s on underground music scenes, Sadaf Jaffer’s on online discussion boards for Pakistani atheists, and Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa’s on sites made by and about Tibetans — the very existence of the sites to begin with, and especially their continued life on the web, is inherently unstable. It was actually a rather terrifying session, like watching 4 canaries in a coal mine (Hey! There’s a pocket of air over here! Oh wait, never mind).

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Introducing the Utah American Indian Digital Archive

By November 22, 2013


By Cassandra Clark

Beginning in 2008, staff at the American West Center of the University of Utah, the Marriot Library, Utah?s Division of Indian Affairs, and the Department of Heritage and Arts worked together to create the Utah American Indian Digital Archive (UAIDA). This keyword searchable online digital archive contains primary and secondary sources pertaining to Utah?s American Indian Peoples. The archive offers tribal members, professional researchers, and patrons the opportunity to participate in Utah?s diverse and interesting history by viewing digital copies of documents, photographs, maps, and recordings and transcripts of oral histories. The collection contains sources relating to the Northwestern Shoshone, Goshute, Paiute, Utah Navajo, White Mesa, and Ute Indians to offer a wide selection of resources to educate patrons about Utah?s complex cultural past.

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More web tools for Mormon Studies

By October 28, 2013


Lantern

From the Media History Digital Library comes this amazing collection of “over 800,000 pages of digitized texts from the the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound.” The site has a fresh interface and the search filters are helpful. Also, a little trick to limit the default full-text search (since the OCR [optical character recognition] of the texts can be pretty bad) enter ‘0001‘ to disable full-text search and exclusively search metadata.

Here is a typical page of search results:

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Musings on Archival Research, Methods and Workflow

By August 23, 2013


…or how to hack your summer archives trip and come off victorious.

This post grew out of a conversation I had with fellow JI-er Christopher Jones during one of his lengthy jaunts around the Atlantic seaboard during his summer dissertation research. I have the good fortune to be located not too far from the American Antiquarian Society and could offer him room & board during his research trip there, and since I didn?t set foot inside an archives all summer I was living vicariously through everyone else?s treasure-hunting. We got to talking about archival research method: how we historians actually do what we do inside the archives, and reflecting on how we all get very little graduate-level instruction on the nitty-gritty of how to do this, and how it might benefit our JI community to have a broader conversation about it.

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Some fun web reference tools for Mormon Studies

By August 3, 2013


I wanted to highlight some of my favorite web reference tools as of late with a short post. Among the many, here are a few of my go-to tools when researching all things Mormon:

Latter-day Apostles (http://latterdayapostles.org/)

This tool provides a fun way to visually browse the organization of the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1835 (with the formation of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles) to the present. It’s mostly a quick reference point for me with a question like, “Who was in the quorum in 1901?” The developer of the site, Dallin Regehr, doesn’t provide citation of his data, but I’ll assume it’s fairly accurate after checking the datum for a few people against other sources.

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Troubling the AHA’s Embargo Waters

By July 26, 2013


There’s a naval and mercantile metaphor in there somewhere, even if my post title doesn’t quite capture it. This is a short post just to call attention to the squall on today’s horizon about open access, digital dissertation publishing, and the tough choices facing history grad students navigating the internet’s rough seas. A perfunctory glance at my Twitter feed this morning shows that although the AHA issued a policy statement way back on the 22nd against timely open access digital publication of dissertations, today was the day it surfaced big-time. Breached the waters, you might say. It’s perhaps a tempest in a disciplinary teapot, but still: young scholars, best to take note.

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Where are we going? The Dictionary of Mormon Biography

By May 10, 2013


The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity at the Dictionary of Mormon Biography (see this post for context). Since hatching the idea, I’ve gone from building a prototype site to rolling out a full Mediawiki instance to mormonbiography.org. A few things in review:

  • I secured the mormonbiography.org domain! This will help drive traffic to the site and build a research community for the project.
  • In April, I had a database meltdown and lost most of what was added to the previous site <sadface/>, but the new site is running smoothly.
  • The site currently has over 60 articles and now has a small group of registered researchers contributing to the project! A tip of the hat to Ardis Parshall, Kent Larsen, Bruce Crow, and David Morris for joining the ranks.
  • I am trying to ensure that the content is not a “sausage fest” by culling records from various resources, especially since the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia (the original biographical source for the project) has little female representation within its pages. I am very much open to suggestions for resources to draw upon. See our current list of source projects here.

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The Digital Public Library of America has launched!

By April 18, 2013


dplaThe Digital Public Library of America, a project that has been in development for a few years, is now live on the Internet. The DPLA follows in the footsteps of Europeana, a similar initiative in the EU that brings together diverse collections throughout the European Union’s libraries, archives, and museums. One way of thinking about the DPLA is to see it as a super-catalog of materials spread across the contiguous United States in thousands of local, state, and federal institutions. The current “beta” version of the site already has 2+ million records aggregated from “hubs” such as the Digital Library of Georgia, Kentucky Digital Library, Minnesota Digital Library, ArtStor, Biodiversity Heritage Library, National Archives and Records Administration, New York Public Library, University of Virginia,  Mountain West Digital Library, etc. Additional partners are being announced almost daily. So pump yourself up and get searching!

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Dreaming up a DH Research Agenda for Mormon Studies

By April 2, 2013


On my spring break I took a one-day “staycation” to Day 1 of a local gathering of digital humanities scholars, hosted by the smart folks at Northeastern University’s NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks (http://nulab.neu.edu/, tweeting at @NUlabTMN). It was one of the best conferences I’ve been to – seemed like mainly literary scholars but also historians, librarians, and coders, and it involved a good blend of showcasing completely awesome ongoing initiatives, asking big existential questions about knowledge production, and teaching hands-on skills. Myself, I learned a bit about network analysis using Gephi (no relation to Nephi) and how to georeference a high-resolution historical map image using ArcGIS. I felt like a boss (as my students would say) by the day’s end.

And it got me thinking.

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Never an Atlas so Handsome

By February 6, 2013


First, a confession: I’m a stats dropout. It was the one course in college that I dropped. If someone had told me that it was something a historian actually should know, maybe I would have stuck with it (or maybe not). These days, I’m a dolt when it comes to sigma values and such, but I do love a good visualization of statistics. And if digitization and “big data” are the next frontiers in humanities research, then statisticians, especially those who can find compelling ways to visualize data, will find themselves in high demand.

Nowadays, data-crunching needs computers of mind-blogging speed and the results are enlivened with visualizations of breathtaking complexity and beauty (one of my favorites turns the NY subway schedule into a haunting musical map). But in the late 19th century, the U.S. government crunched monumental stacks of data, like those collected in the decennial census, using just paper and pencil, index cards and a whole bunch of person-hours — but nonetheless managed to make some of the most stunning data visualizations ever conceived. The “golden age” just may have been the successive publication of three big statistical atlases using information gathered in the 1870, 1880 and 1890 censuses, replete with gorgeous lithography and chock-full of Progressive social scientific hubris.

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