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Intro to DH video

On September 30, I presented an “Introduction to Digital Humanities” lecture to the Villanova community. I have now recorded a modified version of this presentation, now available online here.

Digital Humanities is an active and dynamic area of scholarship that brings together digital technologies and the humanities disciplines. This video provides some definitions of the digital humanities (DH), a look at some example DH projects, and an introduction to the Library’s digital scholarship work (through the Aurelius Digital Scholarship Initiative).

This video is only a brief overview. If you have further questions or just want to chat about DH, please get in touch! Just send an email to


Project Website Launched: Mill Creek Valley


Craig Bailey, PhD, associate professor of history, reads his edifying and entertaining introduction to the Mill Creek Valley project website.

The Aurelius Digital Scholarship Initiative at Falvey Memorial Library supports digital humanities projects and digital scholarship here at Villanova. Our digital humanities superheroes are Laura Bang, Digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, and David Uspal, senior web specialist for Library Services and Scholarly Applications, and together they work with classes to produce fascinating and forward-thinking digital scholarship. Past classroom projects include the Ardmore Project, a digital edition of El Perú en sus tradiciones, an su historia, en su arte, Travels Through Greco – Roman Antiquity, and a series of DH workshops for graduate students covering topics such as coding basics, audio editing, and mapmaking. This past Monday, Bang and Uspal joined Craig Bailey, PhD, associate professor of history as he and his undergraduate class launched an interactive website tracing the transformation of the Mill Creek Valley.


Dave Uspal explains the website building process and introduces the audience to the wonders of responsive resizing.

The launch took place at 3:00 p.m. in room 204 of Falvey Memorial Library, and Dr. Bailey presented a talk entitled “Changing Landscapes: People and Place in the Mill Creek Valley, Lower Merion c.1870-c.1920.” In spring 2015, ten junior-year students participating in a research seminar with the Department of History undertook a group project to examine how the farms and mills of the Mill Creek Valley transformed into the familiar residential properties of today. Each student chose a property from an atlas published in 1877, traced that property’s development over time, and reconstructed the lives of the inhabitants. Working alongside Digital Humanities staff in Falvey Memorial Library, students constructed an interactive website to communicate their research.


The satisfying reveal of a finished product.


Changing Landscapes: People and Places in the Mill Creek Valley, Lower Merion c.1870-c.1920

Check it out!



Looking back, looking forward

The end of the year is a time for reflection, to look back at what was accomplished and look ahead at what’s to come. Here at Aurelius, we’ve been keeping busy!

This past fall semester, we assisted with another digitally-enhanced class, this time in Classics. Students in Dr. Valentina DeNardis’s Cities of Ancient Greece (Classics 2051) class had a component to present their research on ancient sites on a course website. This website will be similar in appearance to the Ardmore Project, with a map and clickable locations that lead to students’ essays. Students are currently finishing up their coursework as the semester winds down, so this website will be ready for viewing early in 2015, with a launch party for the project scheduled for February 16 (more details to come). Complementing the class on Ancient Greece, we will be assisting with another of Dr. DeNardis’s classes in the spring semester, this time focusing on Ancient Rome. This course will also be discussed at February’s launch party.

Map of Greece

Map of Greece, from volume 8 of The Travels of Anacharsis the Younger.

Our other major project for the fall semester was organizing and hosting a series of Digital Humanities workshops for graduate students. The series consisted of five workshops, beginning with an Introduction to Digital Humanities, and followed by Coding Basics, Audio Editing, WordPress Beyond the Basics, and Mapmaking for Digital Humanities. These workshops were taught by local experts and focused on providing students with an introduction and overview to some useful tools and ideas. Students who participated enjoyed the workshops and learned a lot.

Looking ahead to the spring, in addition to our continued collaboration with Dr. DeNardis on describing the ancient world, we will be collaborating again with Dr. Craig Bailey of the History Department on a reiteration of the Ardmore Project. This time around, we will actually be expanding the project to encompass more of Lower Merion Township. We just met with Dr. Bailey and I’m pretty excited about his ideas for the future of this project!

Map of Lower Merion

Map of Lower Merion, from the Atlas of Philadelphia and Environs (1877).

We wish you a happy & healthy holiday season and we hope you’ll stay tuned for more about our new and continuing projects!


DH in the Classroom: Aurelius Digital Humanities Launches Second Project

During the spring semester, the Aurelius Digital Humanities Initiative launched its second project, a digital edition of El Peru en sus tradiciones en su historia, en su arte. The project was commandeered by Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish Chad Leahy, PhD, who worked with his special-topics Spanish class to digitize and transcribe the text. Guidance was also provided by Laura Bang, digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, and David Uspal, senior web specialist for library services and scholarly applications. Dr. Leahy explains that the materiality of text as object, the smell and feel of the item itself, has a story to tell us and digital humanities as a new technology has a way of opening this aspect of the text to the world.


  El Peru en sus tradiciones en su historia, en su arte is a 133 page multimedia scrapbook that contains postcards, newspaper clippings, drawings—more than 160 distinct visual objects in all. In many cases, these entries are copied without original sources, raising difficult questions regarding authorship, provenance and purpose. There is no way to prove authorship, but Dr. Leahy speculates that the text may have originated through the Augustinian missions in Peru and was probably a gift. The latest internal date, 1924, suggests that the scrapbook was produced in the latter half of the 1920s. In addition to studying the Peruvian text, Dr. Leahy’s class had the opportunity to develop hands-on digitizing skills while scanning the text Los dramas de la Guerra, a serialized account of the First World War published in Barcelona during the war years.


Participants loved the way the website reformatted for easy reading on hand held devices.

David Uspal wrapped up the event by explaining the development behind the website. Uspal said, “in addition to the transcription work by the undergraduate students, technical support for the project was provided by Falvey [Memorial] Library’s Technology Development Team, with a large contribution by technology graduate assistant Pragya Singhvi.  Pragya’s work on importing transcription documents and automatically producing TEI and HTML versions of these documents will both help reduce the work necessary on future translation projects (and thus, more likely to get more and varies projects approved) and allow these projects to adopt open standards which will allow for greater use in the academic community.”

Laura Hutelmyer is the photography coordinator for the Communication and Publications Team and special acquisitions coordinator in Resource Management


2013-2014 Year-in-Review

The first full academic year of the Aurelius Digital Humanities Initiative was a great success with two classroom-based projects and their respective launch parties.

Ardmore Project logoOn Tuesday, March 11, we launched our first digital humanities project, the Ardmore Project. Looking at “Suburban Life in the Early 20th Century,” this project profiles the town of Ardmore, PA, through an interactive map and case studies. Students in Dr. Craig Bailey’s junior research seminar for History majors learned how to conduct historical research by accessing primary source materials available through local archives and special collections. In addition, students got hand-on experience in editing a website as they compiled their research into biographies and case studies for inclusion in the project website.

El Peru project logoOn Wednesday, April 2, we launched our second project, a digital edition of El Perú en sus tradiciones, en su historia, en su arte. This project is a digital edition of a Spanish-language manuscript from the Special Collections of Falvey Memorial Library. Students in Dr. Chad Leahy’s special topics Spanish class learned about the process of creating and editing digital scholarly editions of texts and got hands-on experience in compiling a digital edition of their own. Students transcribed the text and added light annotations and Dr. Leahy provided the final textual review and corrections.

Both classes had an additional assignment of digitizing materials for Villanova’s Digital Library. In small groups, students made appointments to spend about an hour scanning documents with Digital Library staff. This gave students first-hand experience in how rare and fragile materials are handled and made available to a wider audience through digital copies. Students in Dr. Bailey’s class scanned issues of the Ardmore Chronicle from 1905 while Dr. Leahy’s students scanned Los dramas de la guerra, a serialized account of the First World War published in Barcelona during the war years.

We are really proud of both of these projects. Special thanks go to our faculty collaborators, Dr. Bailey and Dr. Leahy, for recognizing the value of getting digital skills into the classroom. These students now have high-quality digital projects with their names attached that they can refer to as they enter the job market or apply to graduate school. The digital humanities continue to grow and it is important to train the next generation of scholars in the tools and concepts that will become standards.

For the coming year, we are already planning a series of DH workshops for graduate students in the fall semester, putting together more classroom-based projects, and compiling an online exhibit of graduate History students’ research. There is already much to look forward to, so stay tuned as we continue to grow our DH community here at Villanova.

If you have a project idea or would just like to chat about anything digital humanities-related, please get in touch!


Aurelius Digital Humanities Launch Ardmore Project Website

Icon-edThe Ardmore Project, an Aurelius Digital Humanities initiative, launched its website on March 11. Craig Bailey, PhD, associate professor of history, conceived of the Ardmore Project for his Social History and Community Research class, a junior-year research seminar.

Dr. Bailey’s students collected and analyzed data from primary and secondary sources to create a profile of a local community in the early 20th century: Villanova’s neighboring town of Ardmore, in this case. One goal of their research was to produce a website featuring profiles of some notable community members and an interactive map of Ardmore.

To accomplish this goal, Dr. Bailey collaborated with Falvey staff members Laura Bang, Digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, and David Uspal, senior web specialist for library services and scholarly applications, to create the site.

Bang describes the project as the first completed project for Aurelius. She notes that this is only the first phase and that subsequent classes will be able to add layers to the preexisting data and interactive map.

Uspal explains the technology behind the project as follows: Using image mapping, Uspal’s goal was to teach the students HTML, digital scanning and how to build a website. Of the 11 students who participated in the project, none had HTML experience or appreciable experience with scanning items and website creation. However, as the students became comfortable with the technology, they became more innovative.

A map of Ardmore, Pa. from the mid - 1920's.

A map of Ardmore, Pa. from the mid-1920s.

Dr. Bailey received his inspiration for the course in 2012 when he recognized his students’ need for greater experience using primary sources. At the time, Dr. Bailey’s research for the Friends of Linwood Park had impressed him with the rich source of material available. He decided to shift his focus to mid-1920s Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and engage his students in this real-world research opportunity.


Dr. Bailey demonstrates the interactive map.

Each student was responsible for charting 200 individuals and writing a biography for one resident. The students also researched one organization, in this case the Ardmore YMCA. To do their research, the class used the Main Line Atlas from 1860-1926, census returns, the Ardmore Chronicle from 1904, the Philadelphia Inquirer and probate records. Dr. Bailey noted that a lot of advance preparation went into making the project a success. For instance, he visited Norristown ahead of time to confirm that wills could be found before sending students to do their research.

Ardmore Chronicle

Masthead from the Ardmore Chronicle. Click to link to copies in Falvey’s Digital Library.

The Ardmore project proved to be a valuable experience for the students. Besides being introduced to multiple ways of finding primary sources, the students learned practical things, such as how to talk in a professional manner; how to manage their time; how to do research when book bags, pens, etc. are banned from the archives; and how to solve problems as a group. Dr. Bailey noted that instead of the project being a “cloistered” one, it brought students out into the surrounding communities and allowed them to make valuable connections.

Article by Laura Hutelmyer, photography coordinator for the Communication and Service Promotion team and special acquisitions coordinator in Resource Management.

Photographs by Alice Bampton

Images courtesy of the Digital Library




DH in the Classroom: Local History and an Online Textual Edition

We’ve got a busy semester helping with two digital humanities courses. I’m very excited about getting DH into classrooms so that students get hands-on experience with digital tools and methods!

Map, Part of Lower Merion Township Montgomory Co.Dr. Craig Bailey is teaching History 2998, Social History & Community Research. This class is a research seminar in which students are working on creating a profile of a local community in the early 20th century, in this case Ardmore, a small non-incorporated town (population 12,455 in the 2010 census) located near Villanova. Throughout the semester, students will be visiting archives, learning to identify and evaluate primary sources, collecting and analyzing data, and using secondary literature to complement their own research. Students will be digging into the 1920 census and compiling some of their research into a website, which will feature an interactive map of Ardmore and profiles of some notable community members.

Title page of El Peru manuscriptDr. Chad Leahy is teaching Spanish 3412, El libro que estás leyendo no empezó así:
Introducción práctica a la edición de textos en la era digital (The book that you are reading didn’t start out that way: Practical introduction to textual editions in the digital age). In this class, students are working to create a digital scholarly edition of El Peru en sus tradiciones, en su historia en sus artes (Peru in its traditions, its history, and its arts), a manuscript from Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections that has already been digitized in the Digital Library. Students will transcribe the text, add some annotations to place it in context, and then they will collaboratively write a scholarly introduction.

In addition, both classes have assignments for the students to come to the library and assist with the digitization of an item. Dr. Bailey’s class will be scanning issues of the Ardmore Chronicle and Dr. Leahy’s class is scanning issues of Los dramas de la guerra (The Dramas of the War), a Spanish-language fictionalized account of the Great War.

Stay tuned for more as these projects near completion!

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Aurelius and Recent PhillyDH Activities

Recently, contributors to the Aurelius Project, Laura Bang and David Uspal, participated in several PhillyDH activities in the Philadelphia Area. First off though, not familiar with PhillyDH? Here’s a quick primer (straight from the PhillyDH mission statement):

(PhillyDH) represents a friendly peer network of novices and experts alike, dedicated (for now) to the exploration of new ideas, tools, and best practices in the world of digital humanities via forums, workshops, meetups, happy hours and whatever else suits our fancy.

Begun back in the fall of 2012 out of discussions at a regional ThatCAMP, PhillyDH is a loose association of individuals interested in promoting Digital Humanities in the greater Philadelphia area. More of a volunteer-driven collective than a formal group, it has no real hierarchical structure (no officers, etc); rather, events and promotions are all started by members of the group generously volunteering their time, efforts and resources.

PhillyDH Logo

PhillyDH: we have a logo, so we must be legitimate.


An example of this: on Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 the University of Pennsylvania held PhillyDH@Penn, an “unconference” (i.e. a participant-driven meeting), at the new Special Collection Center at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Activities for the day included two sessions of planned workshops, three rounds of unconference sessions, and a lightning round of talks (short, two minute blurbs), capped off by “The Age of Scale”, a talk by Michael Edson, the Smithsonian Institution’s Director of Web and New Media Strategy. Workshops and unconference sessions held included various topics such as Open Access Images, Video Production, Photo Editing (with free and open source products no less!),and intensity mapping, as well as on technologies including EAD, TEI and OpenRefine.

Previous to this event, on April 11th, 2013 PhillyDH met at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in downtown Philadelphia for a Project Incubator night, where over thirty local PhillyDH members gathered to offer advice, ideas and expertise for six local project proposals. The idea was for the PhillyDH community to act upon its mission statement “to learn, to teach, to collaborate, to create, to pitch-in” and help local projects move forward, for both potential projects and projects already in the works. Projects on the docket for the evening included projects exploring the educational value of gaming, mapping of historical data, and aggregating information on local events and projects, among others.

Everything poetically comes full circle when, on September 27 and 28th 2013, PhillyDH will be the host for the next Philadelphia area ThatCAMP.

ThatCAMP Philly 2013 Logo

When I left you I was but the learner;
Now I am the master.



Library Launches "Aurelius," a Digital Humanities Initiative


On Tuesday, April 30, members of the Villanova community gathered to celebrate the launch of Aurelius, the library’s very own Digital Humanities Initiative. Those in attendance had the privilege of hearing Villanova faculty members describe fascinating projects developed in collaboration with library staff.

Laura Bang, Digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, opened the event by asking for a definition of the Digital Humanities. Answering this request was no easy feat: because the Digital Humanities (DH) are in their nascent stages as a discipline, providing a proper definition is difficult. However, one audience member accepted the challenge, describing DH as “a digital framework for investigating the humanities, and a humanities framework for investigating digital scholarship.”

Annika Thiem, PhD, Dr. theol. and assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, was the first faculty member to present. Dr. Thiem’s project involves a full-text archiving of Jahrestage (Anniversaries), a novel by German author Uwe Johnson about New York City. Along with making the sprawling 1700 page book full-text searchable, Dr. Thiem’s project seeks to map the areas described in the novel, opening up a spatial dialogue with Johnson’s fascinating textual exploration of the city in the 1960s. Dr. Thiem remarked upon the “provisionality” of DH as a field and described some of the excitement that provisionality can inspire.

Craig Bailey, PhD, associate professor in the Department of History, presented the second project: a digital archival and local community project which explores the rich history of the city of Ardmore, Pa. Dr. Bailey teaches a junior research seminar in history, during which students will research some component of Ardmore’s history by exploring archived material and then log that material on a digital, interactive map in Aurelius web space. In this course, undergraduate history students will not only learn how to research archived materials but also create an interface for the community to access the material.

The event closed with David Uspal, senior web specialist for Library Services and Scholarly Applications, who spoke on his web-development work for these and other projects. Mr. Uspal described his experience with DH as mutually enriching, a process in which he offers technical expertise to faculty members whose unique projects, in turn, challenge him to hone his skill set and learn new techniques.

Corey Waite Arnold is a writer and intern on the Communication and Publications Team. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.


Mapping a DH Future: Brief notes from the Aurelius launch party

Last Tuesday, April 30, was the formal launch party for the Aurelius Digital Humanities Initiative. We had a “soft launch” in the fall to let people know Aurelius existed, but Tuesday’s event was a glimpse into two of the projects that we are currently working on. (Both of these projects happen to be mapping projects, but we’re certainly open to other kinds of projects!) I gave a brief introduction about the definitions of DH and the kinds of projects Aurelius can support, then I turned it over to our speakers.

Our first presenter was Dr. Annika Thiem, an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy. Annika’s project will investigate the role of New York City as a “shadow-protagonist” in Uwe Johnson’s Jahrestage (Anniversaries) tetralogy (published from 1970-1983), in which the main character Gesine Cresspahl navigates her way around the city while relating her own and her family’s memories. The idea for this project is to create a searchable, interactive map of locations, historical layers, and topics. This project is in its earliest stages, so we do not have a projected launch date, but you can see a screencap of the mockup website below.

Anniversaries project screenshot

The second presenter was Dr. Craig Bailey, an associate professor in the Department of History. Last year, Craig taught a junior research seminar that focused on local history and this year we’ll be bringing that course into the digital realm. Students will have the opportunity to explore the history of Ardmore, PA, through census data, maps, and other archival materials and use their findings to compile an interactive map of the region. We’ll be working with Craig to develop the course so that students will get hands-on experience in Falvey Library’s Special Collections and Digital Library. We’ll be running this course in the fall semester, so stay tuned for more details. For now, you can see a screencap of the website mockup below.

Ardmore map project screenshot

David Uspal, Aurelius’s Digital Humanities Technology Developer, then gave a brief overview of some of the technology he’s been developing to support these two projects, including the interactive map and timeline tools.

I was very excited to see such a great turnout and interest for this event. Stay tuned to hear more as these projects progress and please be in touch if you have your own DH project idea you’d like to collaborate on!


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Last Modified: May 7, 2013

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