The Newberry Library
Newberry Library’s Transcribing Faith
There’s been some great Scalar projects coming out of libraries and archives recently. People are finding innovative ways to showcase, annotate, visualize, map, and tell stories about archival material. We’ll be highlighting some of that work on our blog in the coming months.
We’d like to start with a couple use cases from the Newberry Library where Jen Wolfe, Digital Initiatives Manager, and Matt Krc, Digital Initiatives Librarian, have been using Scalar to great effect.
The first is an elegant research guide for a collection of Italian Religious Broadsides held at the Newberry, some 154 pamphlets printed in Italy between 1611 and 1697. As a research guide to archival holdings, the project highlights both the physical features of these artifacts and their social context while also calling out specific potential scholarly uses: particular topographical designs for historians of print and iconography for art historians; the nature of patronage for social historians and the use of poetry for literary scholars.
At each juncture the reader can also, if enticed, dive down into the full archive itself. One can also download the full archive as a pdf as well as the full OCR and metadata record for the entire collection, both in .txt and XML formats.
A bit more expansive Creating Shakespeare, is an online companion to a physical exhibit of the same name which ran at the Newberry Library from September 23 to December 31, 2016. The exhibit gathered together a stunning array of material from the Newberry’s own collections as well as from the British and Folger Shakespeare Libraries. The exhibition included copies of Shakespeare’s own works; the books, manuscripts, maps, and objects he encountered in his life; and material by actors, writers, printers, artists, and filmmakers who sought to re-create Shakespeare in the 400 years after his death. The hope was to preserve this extraordinary array of material in digital form so it could live on past the physical exhibition itself.
As an online exhibit, Creating Shakespeare doesn’t just replicate and preserve its physical counterpart; it constructs an exhibit that is both readerly and interactive, both narrative and archival. Using material from the collections in stunning page layouts within Scalar, the online exhibit tells the story of Shakespeare’s life and works, his reception in the American (and in particular Chicagoan) theater, and in popular culture more generally. However, the online exhibit also offers readers a comprehensive interactive timeline through the material as well as a visually striking gallery overview of the collection as a whole.
Finally, the folks at the Newberry Library have had great success with a crowdsourced transcription project utilizing Scripto (developed at the Center for History and New Media) but built in Scalar. The Newberry is home to over 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period and among these collections are three manuscripts dealing with magic. The Commonplace Book and The Book of Magical Charms each have Latin and English sections. The Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft, published in 1693 by Increase Mather, an influential Puritan minister who administered the Salem Witch Trials, is in English only.
The project, Transcribing Faith, offers scans for each of the pages in these volumes and asks its readers to transcribe and translate their content – the help, as the project describes it, “unlock the mysteries of these texts.” Within just a few weeks an extensive portion of these volumes had been transcribed and translated by users. This project, and the three manuscripts at its center are part a venture at the Newberry Library, Religious Change: 1450-1700, which explores the relationship between print, reading practices, and religion during the early modern period.
There are a number of other exciting digital initiatives happening at the Newberry, un-related to their work with Scalar. Among them include Polygots, an interactive exploration of complex page layouts contained in polygot Bibles from the 16th and 17th centuries and the Newberry’s Open Data Challenge, a chance to work with the OCR and metadata for some 35,000 pamphlets (850,000 pages) from the Newberry’s French Revolution Pamphlet collection.
Heringman and Lake Awarded NEH Grant to Build a Scholarly Edition of Vetusta Monumenta in Scalar
Noah Heringman, the Catherine Paine Middlebush professor of English at the University of Missouri and Crystal B. Lake, associate professor of English at Wright State University, have received a Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to build a digital scholarly edition of Vetusta Monumenta in Scalar.
“Vetusta Monumenta,” Latin for “ancient monuments,” is a series of 336 large prints created from highly detailed copperplate engravings of ancient buildings and artifacts and published by the Society of Antiquaries of London between 1817-1906. Only 11 copies of “Vetusta Monumenta” exist, one of which is at the University of Missouri Special Collections. Heringman, Lake, and their editorial team have already scanned, at high resolutions, the first 159 prints in the series and included them in their digital scholarly edition in Scalar.
The NEH Grant will allow Heringman, Lake and other researchers on their team to investigate each print to learn more about the objects depicted, including their provenance and history as well as create a digital edition that will preserve and make those prints available to everyone.
But Vetusta Monumenta, as a digital edition, is about more than access and preservation. Heringman and Lake’s aim is to employ Scalar’s affordances as a means to offer readers and researchers multiple, interconnected pathways through the series while annotating the prints themselves extensively. Many of the prints will be marked up with translations and scholarly commentary (see image above). But the collection as a whole will also be richly interconnected in this Scalar version in ways that can move the prints beyond their original organization as a series. In this way, Vetusta Monumenta constitutes an essential rethinking of the scholarly edition, one that truly combines the traditional scope of humanities inquiry with the affordances and methodologies of digital scholarship. By offering readers the ability to engage the contents of each volume as a traditionally structured “book” and as a series of data points whose complex interconnections can be visualized, navigated and explored, Vetusta Monumenta attempts to move the genre well beyond the standard “electronic scholarly edition.”
Scalar’s new path + context navigation system
We’ve added a few navigational features to the Scalar reading interface this week. We hope you like them. We’d like to thank the generous folks at the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities for making work on these features possible.
New Path Navigation
First, we’ve updated the ways readers can navigate backwards and forwards along a path. In addition to path navigation buttons located at the bottom of pages, readers can now access arrows in the wings that will direct them to content immediately preceding or following the current page in a path. Rolling over these arrows will also reveal the title and thumbnail for the content to which it links. Readers can, on a path of media, for instance, now get a preview of what’s next without leaving the current page.
New Context Navigation
Whether for research, collection building or some other purpose, Scalar books can be as expansive, complex and richly interconnected as one requires. Individual items in Scalar projects -pages, media, and annotations, among others- can, for instance, sit at the nexus of several pathways through a project. They can live in multiple contexts. A single page can reside on numerous paths, be tagged by multiple items, or both. Scalar is developed to make these complex interconnections legible to readers by offering a number of built-in visualizations for a book’s content.
Today we’re launching an interface element that makes these interconnections even more visible to readers: a new “Context” button. Clicking this button, located in the top-right of the page, reveals all paths within which the current item resides as well as all items that tag it. Links are provided to those tags as well as to the current page within other paths, allowing readers to treat those pages as akin to subway stations, getting on/off distinct, but related, narratives, arguments or collections (see figure below). The new “Context” button thus allows readers to better understand the multiple contexts within which the author has situated the current item and makes it easier for them to switch those contexts.
A representation of intersecting paths in Scalar. Left: red pages are the same page residing on multiple paths, as are the brown pages. Right: our new “Context” button allows readers to link to and from the same page on multiple paths.
These new navigation features will not, by default, be turned “on” for already existing Scalar books. To enable the new features, simply head to the “Book properties” tab in your dashboard and set “Display navigation buttons in margins?” to “Yes.”
As always, please feel free to send us feedback on these new features or just drop us a note about how you’re putting them to use.