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.”
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.
The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture will offer another series of free online webinars this fall.
All webinars will feature our new interface, Scalar 2. Our “Introduction to Scalar” webinars will cover basic features of the platform: a review of existing Scalar books and a hands-on introduction to paths, tags, annotations and importing media. Our “Intermediate Scalar” webinars will delve into more advanced topics including the effective use of visualizations, annotating with media and a primer on customizing appearances in Scalar.
Our summer schedule will include four dates:
Introduction to Scalar: July 6, 4-6pm (PST)
Intermediate Scalar: July 27, 4-6pm (PST)
Scalar’s Grid Visualization Widget.
For those who have used our Google Map, Timeline, Media Carousel or Visualization layouts and thought to yourself “I’d love to have these interactive components smaller, further down the page and I’d like to reference them in my text just like I do with media”…we have a new feature for you: Scalar Widgets.
Generously funded by the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, widgets constitute our most substantial interface upgrade since the release of Scalar 2. Widgets allow one to add maps, timelines, visualizations, click-through media galleries, and stylish summaries of related content to Scalar pages using the same formatting options as with media. One can add each of these interactive components anywhere on a page; above, below or within any paragraph. One can also choose to link a widget to text in the main body, that is, to reference a map or timeline the same way one would reference an image or video in Scalar.
Click below to see each of our new widgets in action in our User’s Guide.
Just as with our layouts options, the maps, timelines, media carousels, visualizations and summaries all plot, arrange or otherwise display additional content from one’s Scalar project. So one can add a visualization of all the paths in a Scalar project just to the right of a paragraph discussing how best to navigate its structure. One can analyze the geographic dimensions of a video collection just above a map that plots the entire series according to shot location. Or, instead of referencing and analyzing a single image of an object, one can reference a click-through media gallery containing multiple images (and video) of that object from contrasting angles or within varying contexts.
Finally, we’ve not only widgetized the functionality of our most popular layouts we’ve also added some new features with our Card and Summary widgets. These two widgets allow one to insert descriptive sidebars or lists of items in a Scalar project. Both widgets display a thumbnail, description of, and link to those items with varying styles.
For step-by-step instructions see the new widgets in our User’s Guide.
We value your feedback as you begin to use these new features and would love to hear from you about the innovative ways you put them to use.
In 1763 armed settlers in the Paxton Township laid waste to an isolated, unarmed Indian settlement, murdering all its inhabitants, attacked the Lancaster jailhouse where refugees had taken shelter, and vowed to march all the way to Philadelphia. After being stopped in Germantown by a delegation led by Benjamin Franklin, critics and apologists of the “Paxton Boys” –including some of Pennsylvania’s preeminent figures- spent the next year battling in print over the events, and ultimately, over the authority of the colonial government.
The Paxton pamphlet war comprised more than one-fifth of the Pennsylvania colony’s total printed material in 1764. In 1957, historian John Raine Dunbar was the first to create a critical edition of the pamphlet war, The Paxton Papers. But Dunbar’s Papers now suffer from three limitations, according to the creators of a new digital edition: it’s dated, limited in scope, and not easily accessible. The Digital Paxton Project (digitalpaxton.org), a digital archive and critical edition of the pamphlet war composed in Scalar by Library Company Fellow Will Fenton, Doctoral Candidate at Fordham University, and Co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, seeks to move past these limitations.
As a critical archive built in Scalar, Digital Paxton effectively pairs particular forms of scholarly contributions to particular affordances offered by the platform, including contextual entries (via tags), conceptual keyword essays (via paths), and transcriptions and translations of pamphlets (via image annotations). Digital Paxton makes available dozens of political cartoons, manuscripts, broadsides, pamphlets, and German-language translations of pamphlets related to the Paxton incident. Digital Paxton features more than 1600 free, open-source, print-quality (300 dpi) images courtesy of the American Philosophical Society, Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Moravian Archives of Bethlehem. It also makes available contributions from a number of specialists: Jack Brubaker, Nicole Eustace (NYU), Michael Goode (Utah Valley University), Scott Paul Gordon (Lehigh University), Kevin Kenny (Boston College), Darvin L. Martin, James P. Myers, Jr. (Gettysburg College), and Judith Ridner (Mississippi State University).
A portion of Digital Paxton’s online archive can also be explored in person. If you’re in the Philadelphia area you can stop by Will Fenton’s pop-up exhibition at the Library Company of Philadelphia running from April 5th to May 5th, 2017. The exhibition will showcase more than two-dozen exemplary manuscripts, broadsides, pamphlets, and political cartoons from the Library Company, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, American Philosophical Society, and Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections. You can also access the digital companion to the pop-up exhibition at digitalpaxton.org/exhibition.
This year’s Humanities Intensive Learning and Teaching (HILT) program is now open for registration and features an in-depth, 5-day course on Scalar. HILT is an annual training institute that includes comprehensive courses on Digital Humanities topics, methods, and platforms as well as keynotes, ignite talks, and local cultural heritage excursions. This year HILT will be held from June 5–9 at the very lovely University of Texas at Austin.
The HILT Scalar course, taught by our own Curtis Fletcher, is structured as a 5-day workshop for those who already have a Scalar project in mind and seek comprehensive training in the platform and in-depth support with editorial, technical and design decisions. The workshop will include basic, intermediate and advanced training sessions in Scalar, discussions of readings on multimodal scholarship, and both collaborative white-boarding sessions and one-on-one design meetings devoted to each project. The aim of the workshop is to help participants think through the conceptual, structural and technical aspects of their projects as well as the project’s relation to the emergent field of digital media and scholarship overall.