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Below are the four initial digital humanities projects that have been funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's "Resilient Networks to Support Inclusive Digital Humanities" initiative. Funding for these projects will be available from January 2017 through December 2017. 

Davidson College

Project:  Mapping Mestizaje: Family Networks in the Colonial Andes

Director: Dr. Jane Mangan


Project Description: 

Traditional narratives of colonial Latin America emphasize the power of Spanish rule over indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans. This overarching power structure cannot be denied, nor can the racial discrimination and systemic violence contained therein.  However, historical scholarship has complicated this general narrative in important ways over the past few decades. Research focused on quotidian documents in notarial and judicial archives reveals continuous contestations of power and dynamic sub-cultures within the colonial experience.

In my books Trading Roles and Transatlantic Obligations, I have explored these colonial complexities first through the subject of trade and then through family. Now I am creating a master database of the research from both projects (on four cities and from eight archives) so that I can employ digital methodology to create a website where users can explore the dynamic underbelly of colonialism in Peru and Bolivia that would typically only be available in book format.  
Specifically, this project will show how blended families (indigenous, African, Spanish) created and sustained intra-urban networks between and among the major colonial cities of Potosí, La Plata (Sucre), Arequipa, and Lima located in modern-day Peru and Bolivia. I propose to map these families with regard to kin networks and mobility across the four cities. The data for this study comes primarily from notary records (wills, dowries, inventories, legal powers of attorney, apprentice and work contracts).  I have a sample for approximately every 5 years between 1540 – 1620 for each city.

Building the database for this project is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.  There is no ready-made data I can import but I will have considerable control over how the database looks and what it can provide. Categories for this database include name, race, gender, place of birth, place of residence, location within a city, occupation, kin ties to other cities, work ties to other cities (and more).  An additional layer of this project will include mapping material culture. I can use evidence from wills and inventories to understand the objects within a household and their relationship to distinct cultural traditions, emergent colonial culture, location of raw materials, as well as sites of production.

The results of this database will allow me to create GIS maps and network visualizations that I will display on a public facing website. The website will also feature historical context in blog form, select annotated primary source documents, visual images of material culture, and pictures/videos of the sites under study. I plan to use Davidson Domains to host the website. I propose to make the site bilingual (English/Spanish) so that fellow historians and scholars as well as undergraduates in Latin America may consult it. 

Librarian: Jill Gremmels

Research Assistant Position Description:

I seek student assistants to help with the following stages of the project:

  • Data entry
  • Export data into ArcGIS to create maps (including ArcGIS StoryMap)
  • Use Gephi to create network visualizations
  • Use Wordpress to develop the prototype web site to host the project
  • Upload final text and images to Wordpress site and edit/resize as necessary
  • Incorporate final maps and animations into Wordpress site

Students will work in close contact with me on data entry to shape the data visualizations (maps and networks, with the maps being the first priority of the project). The sum of these tasks will move the project from the research and dataset step to the step of scaffolding and building the website.

Desired Skills: 

  • Spanish language
  • Latin American History, Latin American Studies, Urban Studies, Gender Studies
  • Data entry
  • Research geospatial information (lat/long)
  • Research images and historical maps for website
  • Use ArcGIS and/or Leaflet to create maps (including ArcGIS StoryMap)
  • Use Gephi to create network visualizations
  • Website development to include design, drafting text, editing/resizing images
  • Test platforms for website (e.g. Wordpress)

Dates of Employment: May 15 - August 30, 2017 (20 hours per week)

George Washington University

Project: Moving Beyond “Rags to Riches”: New York’s Irish Immigrants and Their Surprising Savings Accounts

Director: Dr. Tyler Anbinder

URL: https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/anbinder

Project Description: 

One of the most enduring paradigms in American culture is that of “rags to riches,” the belief that in the United States, people can more easily rise from poverty to wealth than anywhere else in the world. Immigrants, in particular, come to America to pursue their rags-to-riches dreams, yet most historians have dismissed the rags-to-riches idea as a “myth.” The rare cases in which foreign-born Americans rose from rags to riches divert us from the harsh economic realities that most of them faced. Yet immigrants saw things differently. They may not have risen as far or as fast as natives, but they believed that in America they could rise significantly above the economic station they occupied when they arrived. Our project, a collaboration between historians and economists, asks who is right—the scholars or the immigrants? We do so through a digital humanities project that allows students to engage in original research to answer this question—one that gets to the very heart of what it means to be an American.
Over the past five years, my collaborators and I have amassed data on 16,000 New Yorkers, primarily Irish immigrants, who opened bank accounts in the 1850s after fleeing the Irish potato famine. We have transcribed their deposit, withdrawal, and balance information and collected more than 10,000 pages of original handwritten documents describing their career trajectories, geographic mobility, and families. The “Resilient Networks to Support Inclusive Digital Humanities” jump-start project provides the perfect means to begin turning our research into a digital humanities project. With the input provided by other project scholars, librarians, and students, “Moving Beyond Rags to Riches” can become a model digital humanities project, one that could help make GW a digital humanities leader and bring visibility to the “Resilient Networks to Support Inclusive Digital Humanities” project.

Librarian: Tina Plottel

Research Assistant Position Description:

The student who works on this project will help shape how we turn the project data into a public digital humanities resource. This will involve helping to decide how to organize the project data and document images and seeing to it that the organizational decisions are carried out. It will also involve helping to decide what tools will best allow students and other scholars to use the project resources. This might involve acquiring and designing GIS uses for the data.  It might also involve setting up the data to be used with Tableau. Required skills therefore are 1) being very organized (because the sheer volume of the project data and image collection can be staggering); and 2) significant experience with Excel and its data manipulation tools (because Excel is the primary application used to access the project data. Desired skills are 1) experience with or proving the ability to learn and be adept at using Tableau, a data visualization application; 2) experience with or proving the ability to learn and be adept designing and building a website that could be the means by which students access the project materials; 3) experience with or proving the ability to learn and be adept at GIS mapping.

Desired Skills:

  • Data entry and cleanup
  • Excellent organizational capacity
  • Excel, Open Refine, spreadsheets
  • Tableau or other data visualization applications
  • Web development and design
  • ArcGIS, StoryMaps, QGiS, Leaflet JavaScript library, or other GIS tools
  • Familiarity with 19th-century handwriting
  • 19th-century American history

Dates of Employment: May 15 - December 15, 2017 (10 hours per week)

Prairie View A&M University

Project: Using Interactive Maps and Apps to Preserve Local History: Digitizing the Black Experience in Waller County, Texas

Director: Dr. Marco Robinson


Project Description: 

Waller County, Texas, has a rich history stretching back to the antebellum period of American history. Tied to this long history are the experiences of African Americans as slaves, freed people and second class citizens during the Jim Crow era. Likewise, a central part of Waller County’s historical narrative and the black experience in the area is the story of Prairie View A & M University. This project’s focus is to create an interactive online map with an app portal in order to make this important history more accessible to the general public, grade school and college students. Key to accomplishing this task is integrating various aspects of black local history into an interactive online map which functions as a voice narrated three dimensional virtual tour of historical markers and sites around Waller County and on the campus of Prairie View. More specifically, as it relates to the digital humanities, the project's primary aim is historical preservation through using various digital technologies, but also to recover the historical impact and cultural contributions of black residents of Waller County. The merger of current digital techniques, app technology and Waller County’s black history provides a dynamic interface from which to study history.

Librarian: Phyllis Earles

Research Assistant Position Description:

Some student(s) chosen to participate in this project will be responsible for researching the selected historical sites located in Waller County, Texas. The research duties may include taking photos at the sites, video footage and identifying related items in the Prairie View A & M University Archive or other collections located in Waller County. Additionally, student(s) might be responsible for assisting in building a website which utilizes GIS technology to map the historical markers and integrate the researched information (digitized pictures, video, voice recordings and archival documents etc.) into each individual marker’s clickable page destination on the site. Last, the student(s) might help develop a website and/or mobile application.

Desired Skills: 

  • Web development and design
  • Mobile app development
  • ArcGIS, StoryMaps, QGiS, Leaflet JavaScript library, or other GIS tools
  • Video/audio recording and editing
  • Historical/archival research
  • Image scanning and editing, general digitization skills
  • Photography

Dates of Employment: June 15 - August 10, 2017 (20 hours per week)

Rice University

Project: Houston Asian American Archive

Director: Dr. Anne Chao

URL: https://haaa.rice.edu/

Project Description: 

The Houston Asian American Archive (HAAA) is an oral history project that collects life stories and preserves memorabilia from the Asian American community in Houston, Texas. The project involves a broad range collaboration among community members, students, archivists and faculty. Since its inception in 2009, HAAA has received great support from the Houston community, and serves as an example of how Rice University can move beyond the proverbial “hedges” to interact with the community. Participants are extremely proud of having their life experiences recorded and shared for posterity, and have donated memorabilia and personal papers to the collection as well. While similar archives exist on the East and West coasts of the country, such a research oriented oral history archive has not been established in the Southwest region. Most importantly, HAAA serves to recover the narrative of Asian American contribution to the histories of Houston, of Texas, of the South, and of labor and economics of our country.

Currently we are designing a new webpage and have created a short video about the project. Our interns are busy cleaning and indexing every one of the 145 or so transcripts with OHMS (Oral History Metadata Synchronizer). Much work remains to be done: We need to develop a strategic plan for the archive. We plan to increase public awareness and usage of the archive, and to establish a presence in social media. We aim to keep up with the best practices in the field of oral history by attending conferences and inviting experts to Rice for consultation. We encourage scholarly research based on our interviews, including the use of computational technology for text-mining and concept mapping. We look for collaboration with outside institutions, such as the Houston Public Library. Ultimately we aim to serve as the Southwest hub for Asian American oral history, and to link up in a network with similar archives on both coasts. 

Librarian: Amanda Focke

Research Assistant Position Description:

We seek inquisitive and thoughtful students who will be conducting oral history interviews and creating a special focus group within the Houston Asian American Archive. The interns will learn the techniques of conducting the interview, of transcribing and doing indexing, synchronizing and time-stamping through the OHMS (Oral History Metadata Synchronizer) program. The special focus group will involve several members of the same Asian American community who have contributed to one significant project or institution in Houston.

Desired Skills:

  • Interviewing
  • Transcription
  • Indexing
  • ArcGIS, StoryMaps, QGiS, Leaflet JavaScript library, or other GIS tools
  • Graphic design for print, posters, and/or web
  • Web development with PHP
  • Theme development for PHP platforms
  • Omeka
  • Video recording and editing
  • Asian American history / studies

Dates of Employment: August 15 - December 15, 2017 (15-20 hours per week)


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