Digital Humanities Support in the Library

The DePaul University Library offers hosted environments to faculty to help them support digital humanities projects as part of their course structure. The two environments in use at the moment are WordPress and Omeka. Both are a type of content management system (CMS) which help users to create and publish digital content without requiring knowledge or experience of web-specific languages or code. Both systems are open source software, which means the base software code is publicly-available so that people can contribute to the project in the form of “plugins”–software packages written for a specific platform to extend its capabilities.

WordPress is being used by the Reading Chicago Reading project. This is a digital humanities project between faculty members and librarians at DePaul and staff from the Chicago Public Library system to explore the readership, demographics, and texts of the books selected for CPL’s “One Book, One Chicago” event. This NEH-funded project uses its WordPress site to report on its findings. Omeka is another tool in use by DePaul faculty and librarians. It stores and displays information as a series of records based on the Dublin Core metadata schema, which gives additional structure to the data. One very popular plugin to Omeka is Neatline.  Neatline is a geotemporal mapping tool that allows the user to place Omeka records within certain map boundaries. A timeline for when the records are to be displayed on the map can also be included.

The Department of the History of Art and Architecture  (College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences) is the first to take advantage of these new environments. Two courses for the spring 2017 quarter are using Omeka with Neatline to provide a visual element to the students research efforts. Professor Paul Jaskot’s course “Historic Catholic Church Architecture of Chicago” will use the Omeka/Neatline environment to study the architecture of a number of Catholic churches in Chicago and the effect they have had on the politics, culture, and social aspects of the city. Prof. Jaskot expects this will help his students “…think about the religious buildings as extensions of the city’s history, while emphasizing the contributions of and conflicts with its various immigrant groups.” Associate Professor, Delia Cosentino, is also using an Omeka installation with Neatline. In her “World Cities–Mexico City” course, her class will explore how the city-state of Tenochtitlan evolved over 500 years from the capital of the Aztec empire into modern-day Mexico City–the largest urban area in the Western hemisphere. Cosentino says, “Neatline seemed like an excellent tool for examining Mexico City since this place has changed so clearly and dramatically over the last 500 years; at the same time, however, the emergent map is also meant to underscore the fact that despite critical developments over the centuries, the original footprint of the indigenous capital of Tenochtitlan can still be seen as dictating formal and conceptual aspects of the modern city.” These sites are still in development, but both expect to be publicly available at the end of Spring Quarter. Student work will be available later this year at: courses.depaul.press.

The DePaul University Library has supported a number of digital scholarship programs in recent years, and will expand access to digital scholarship tools and technologies as part of the next phase of the John T. Richardson Library renovation. If you would like to learn more about the library’s digital services, please contact Ana Lucic, Digital Scholarship Librarian, Christine McClure, Coordinator for Digital Services, or your liaison librarian.

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