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Music History project launched

Last Friday, February 3, we celebrated the launch of our latest completed digital scholarship project, “Music in Twentieth Century American History.” This project was created by students in Dr. Paul Rosier’s junior history research seminary in Fall 2016. You can view the project website here.*

(*Note: for copyright reasons, not all content on this website is available off-campus.)

The presentations for the launch party were recorded and are available for viewing on YouTube (embedded below). We are pleased that several of the students from Dr. Rosier’s class were able to join us for this event and give brief presentations about their contributions to the project.


2015-2016 Year-in-Review

The Fall 2015 semester saw the launch of “Changing Landscapes: People and Places in the Mill Creek Valley, Lower Merion c.1870-c.1920 another collaboration with Dr. Craig Bailey’s junior history research seminar. Each student selected a property within the Mill Creek Valley area and studied its development over time.

Changing Landscapes

In Spring 2016, we launched “Remembering WWI,” in which graduate history students delved into personal accounts of the First World War — including scrapbooks, postcards, and more — to bring the war to life and explore how individuals chose to remember such a momentous event.

Remembering WWI


‘History of Distributed Cognition’ Project

The ‘History of Distributed Cognition’ Project

The History of Distributed Cognition Project marks an intervention in both modern and historical notions of cognition. Recent research in philosophy of mind and cognitive science calls for a reappraisal of historical concepts of cognition due to the increasing evidence that cognition is distributed across brain, body and world. Gathering together scholars from across the globe and from across the humanities HDC sets out to reveal historical expressions of these notions of cognition from classical antiquity to modernism. In turn, this will open new approaches to understanding current definitions and debates.

‘Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin?’

‘Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin?’ ask philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers. Their response might at first seem surprising. They claim that the mind is not brain-bound. They compare solving where to put the piece of a puzzle through: using brain-based mental imagery; physical rotation by the hands; or using an on-screen graphic image. In each case, brain, hands and computer play a similar role in guiding behaviour and therefore, they conclude, should be counted as an integrated part of that cognitive process. Ed Hutchins’ book Cognition in the Wild also makes a case for cognition as embodied and as extended into the material world through equipment and other social agents. Cognitive science more generally is accumulating evidence that we rely on features of the body and the world to supplement and structure our thinking in subtle and complex ways.

But this is not a new question. Humans have always used a variety of ‘mind tools’ to navigate their way through the world. This project will demonstrate the pervasiveness and variety of the expression of notions of distributed cognition from one period to another. One important strand is the history of the humours. Flowing through the vessels of every living organism, the humours were believed to link together brains, bodies and world. It was believed that they shaped physical and cognitive properties and that they were composed of the same four elements of which the world was made. From its origins in ancient Greece, this belief went on to influence medical and philosophical theories until the seventeenth century and beyond. Another important strand in the history of distributed cognition emerges from the Neoplatonic tradition which, drawing on its roots in Socratic ‘midwifery’, compares the offspring of the body, our children, with the offspring of the mind, our ideas, writings and inventions. A third model, which similarly influenced the Christian tradition, was the belief, shared in different ways by Platonists and Stoics, in the extension of psyche through the world as well as the body. Recognition of the social nature of cognition has an equally long history, from the prevalence in everyday Greek thought of dialogic models of mind via the notion of one’s friends as mirrors to one’s soul in Plato’s Alcibiades (and thence via Plutarch to Shakespeare) to Aristotle’s insistence that both self-knowledge and self-love depend on our ability to use the minds of others as a ‘second self’. So while technological innovations are revealing to us now the extent to which cognition is not just all in the head, this project will demonstrate that, just as humans have always relied on bodily and external resources, we have always developed theories, models and metaphors to make sense of the ways in which how we think is dependent on being in the world.

This project brings together scholars from across the disciplinary spectrum in order to track the expression of notions of distributed cognition in a wide range of historical, cultural and literary works from antiquity to the twentieth century. The project will collectively demonstrate the extent to which historical accounts offer us notions of the mind as constituted by brain, body and world. These insights from the humanities will then feed back into philosophy of mind and cognitive science, casting a new light on current definitions and debates.

Miranda Anderson, Douglas Cairns, Mark Sprevak and Mike Wheeler





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!


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!


Save the dates: Two upcoming project launches

Aurelius logo with party hatWe’ve got our party hats on! Last semester, we assisted with two undergrad DH courses and we’re excited to show the finished products this spring!

We’ll have more detailed information as the launch parties get closer, but for now, here’s a preview:

On Tuesday, March 11, at 11:30am, Dr. Craig Bailey will unveil his History class’s historical profile of Ardmore. In this class, students looked at the 1920 census and compiled some of their research into a website, which will feature an interactive historical map of Ardmore and profiles of some notable community members.

On Wednesday, April 2, at 4:00pm, Dr. Chad Leahy will show his Spanish class’s digital scholarly edition of a Special Collections manuscript on the history of Peru. In this class, students learned about the process of creating scholarly editions of texts and were able to put that knowledge to use in transcribing and annotating a Spanish-language Peruvian manuscript.

Both of these events will take place in Room 204 in the Library’s second-floor Learning Commons. If you have any questions about either event, please get in touch at


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!



Last Modified: May 7, 2013

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