DIL Launches “Mapping the Long Women’s Movement”

I am pleased to announce that our leading DH Press pilot project, Mapping the Long Women’s Movement, is now online! This project represents a major collaboration between the Digital Innovation Lab, the Southern Oral History Program, and the Renaissance Computing Institute. Read more.

This project, which has been the primary use case for developing the beta release of DH Press, has been a long time in the making. What began as a tentative conversation with SOHP Digital Humanities Coordinator, Seth Kotch, in February 2012 is now a full-fledged project. We had an idea that we wanted to spatialize/map a collection of oral histories that all spoke to the importance of place and space in the women’s movement in Appalachia. But this project is so much more than a visualization of sound. Read more about the project.

Project Highlights

Mapping the Long Women's Movement

Visualizing oral history: each marker on the map represents a segment of an oral history.

Mapping the Long Women’s Movement offers an innovative approach to delivering digitized oral history content. Traditional library catalogs may host an oral history’s full audio file, accompanied by a transcript (often as a PDF). But this system is often inadequate for finding what you’re looking for, since it relies upon limited indexing and in-browser searching (which only works for exact text matches). And while the audio files are accessible, they are typically underutilized because it is far easier to skim a transcript than listen to a long interview.

Our project allows users to explore audio files and accompanying transcripts by jumping directly into the audio file, using the transcript and the map-based visualization as anchors for searching and browsing the content. Each marker on the map is associated with a segment of an audio file. When you click on a marker, you’ll be able to listen to that section of the interview, read the corresponding transcript, and see additional information about that audio segment. You can then link out to the full audio/transcript, where you can listen to the entire file or jump around as you like.

Start Exploring

audio and transcript

Explore the audio/transcript with a click of the mouse.


When you launch the project, you’ll be taken to a map with lots of markers on it. These represent stories categorized by eleven unique concepts — the women’s movement, life history, movements/social activism, etc. — across the forty-eight interviews in the project. You can switch the markers you see on the map by changing the layer (each layer filters the markers based on a different attribute in the data). You can filter the map by concept, type of space, interviewee, or interviewer.

Each marker you click will bring up a different excerpt of an interview; you can listen to that section or jump out to the entire interview. When listening to the entire interview, you’ll be able to jump to any point in the audio or transcript with a simple click of your mouse: either drag the red line in the media player, or click on any point in the transcript to start jumping around. It’s that easy!

You can also link out to related content from each marker. By clicking the “concept link” in each marker bubble, you can see a set of related markers based on that concept. So if you are exploring the theme of feminism, you can see a set of related content across all of the interviews.

We’ll start formal user testing with this project in the Fall 2013 semester. In the meantime, email me to let us know what you think about the project!

Look for additional features, including a timeline visualization and “topic card” visualization, to come online soon!

Special thanks to the DH Press development team: Joe Hope (RENCI), Stephanie Barnwell & Jade Davis; along with our former contributors: Joe Ryan, Chien-Yi Hou, and Bryan Gaston, and all of our wonderful undergraduates: Chris Breedlove, Beth Carter, Charlotte Fryar & Lauren Stutts. At the SOHP: Jessie Wilkerson, Liz Lundeen and Hudson Vaughan did a great job creating and verifying the content. And, of course, a major thank you to Seth Kotch, our client/PI, for his everlasting patience and good humor as we stumbled along.

A New Home for the Digital Innovation Lab

After nearly two years, the Digital Innovation Lab has found a new and permanent home in Greenlaw Hall, Room 431. This new space will host the DIL’s staff and students, as well as staff, faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows who contribute to the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative.

The DIL's new home.

The DIL’s new home.

Our new lab space features four work stations for staff and eight shared work stations for students and faculty/graduate fellows. There are two collaborative work spaces and a meeting area that can hold twelve people. We designed the space to be as flexible as possible, so that work stations can be reconfigured and the meeting space can be extended to accommodate more people.

The new space was made possible with funding from the College of Arts and Sciences, and the design was created by UNC Facilities Design Services.

Stay tuned for details about our upcoming open house. In the meantime, stop by and check out our new space!

Now Accepting Applications for DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowships

Part of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, the DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowships support UNC faculty who are interested in developing digital humanities as a significant dimension of their academic practice; pursuing an interdisciplinary, collaborative digital humanities project arising from their research, pedagogy, or engaged scholarship that is likely to be of interest to users beyond academic specialists and which raises larger social, historical, literary, or artistic issues; reflecting upon and discussing with colleagues the implications of digital humanities for their own academic practice; and applying what they have learned as DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows to their graduate and/or undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

Applications for the 2014/2015 academic year are due Friday, September 27.

Consult the guidelines for the 2014 DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowship Program for details. Email DIL Manager Pam Lach for more information or to set up a consultation.

CDHI/DIL Technology Lead

We’re hiring a technical lead for the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI) and the Digital Innovation Lab (DIL).

The CDHI/DIL Technology Lead will work with faculty and graduate students from across the university (and with varying degrees of digital humanities experience and expertise), DIL staff, and other cultural heritage and digital humanities organizations to provide technological support for a wide range of digital humanities projects. The emphasis will be on the leveraging of available, affordable, adaptable, and sustainable technologies and resources to facilitate digital humanities practice that can be accomplished through internal funding, as well as competitively positioning projects for external funding. The position will provide direct programming/development support for digital humanities projects and will coordinate the work of other DIL/CDHI programmers, including students and part-time programmers, in consultation with the DIL Manager and CDHI Programs Coordinator.

Specifically, this position will be responsible for providing and/or coordinating technical support and design for all CDHI projects, including those undertaken by DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows, CDHI Graduate Fellows, CDHI Postdoctoral Fellows, and CDHI-supported faculty. In addition, the position will contribute to the development and refinement of the DIL’s DH Press, a WordPress-based digital humanities toolkit (currently in Beta 1.0). This position will further contribute to and help to shape the ongoing work of the DIL.

More details, including minimum education and experience requirements as well as application instructions, are available here.

First Digital Humanities Tech Bootcamp Held at UNC

The Digital Innovation Lab teamed up with ITS Research Computing to hold the first Digital Humanities Tech Bootcamp training session on June 5-7, 2013. Part of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI)’s Curricular Design and Professional Development program, this pilot workshop brought together twenty faculty, staff, graduate students, and independent scholars from UNC, Duke, NCSU, Davidson College, and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College for a hands-on workshop on tools and approaches in the Digital Humanities.

Will Shaw instructs the group about XML and TEI.

Will Shaw instructs the group about XML and TEI.

The entire first day was devoted to the role of markup languages in the Digital Humanities. Will Shaw, Digital Humanities Technology Consultant at Duke Libraries, walked the participants through the basics of XML (Extensible Markup Language), from its syntax/rules to creating well-formed and valid documents. From there, he introduced TEI, an implementation of XML used to represent texts digitally (for instance, to create digital scholarly editions of texts). The participants worked in pairs to markup a William Blake poem, “The Tyger,” using TEI, and learned about the possibilities of using TEI for a range of texts, from unpublished manuscripts and diaries to published novels.

Day Two was devoted to data visualization. Brad Hemminger, Associate Professor in UNC’s School of Information and Library Sciences, provided an engaging overview of data visualization, from designing for human visual perception to learning how to evaluate visualizations. He introduced the group to various open-source tools available for creating visualizations, such as Simile Timeline and TimelineJS, and guided the participants through several visualization exercises. The afternoon session was devoted to learning about GIS with Amanda Henley, Geographic Information Systems Librarian at UNC’s Davis Library. She walked participants through the process of georeferencing a historic map of North Carolina, and showed them how to geocode a data set. The session ended with some hands-on work in the open-source GIS tool, ArcGIS Explorer Online.

Participant Mark Locklear shares his work with the group.

Participant Mark Locklear shares his work with the group.

Our final day was devoted to learning how to mount a website in order to publish a DH project. Bootcamp co-planners Joe Ryan and Pam Lach taught these sessions. Joe worked with the participants in the morning to install a LAMP stack, the foundation for any web application. He then guided the group through installing the open-source content management system, WordPress, on their local machines. In the afternoon, Pam worked with the group to load and configure DH Press, the Digital Innovation Lab’s Digital Humanities Toolkit (and a WordPress plugin). From there, each participant imported data into the tool and created their own DH project.

Overall, the sessions blended introductory content with hands-on workshop experience. While no one can become a DH or tech expert in three days, we hope the bootcamp provided participants with a broad exposure to the DH world, and gave them confidence to be able to pursue DH work of their own.

Though this bootcamp was a pilot workshop, we expect it will be the first of many such training sessions, so look for future opportunities to gain hands-on experience with DH!


Special thanks to the Institute for the Arts and Humanities for generously donating the Hyde Hall Incubator for the bootcamp. Stephanie Barnwell, DIL graduate research assistant, provided invaluable support throughout the planning and implementation process.

DIL Publishes “Big Historical Data” Feature Extraction

Digital Innovation Lab members Richard Marciano, Bobby Allen, Chien-Yi Hou and Pam Lach have published “Big Historical Data,” a Feature Extraction in the most recent issue of the Journal of Map & Geography Libraries: Advances in Geospatial Information, Collections & Archives, Volume 9, Issue 1-2, 2013).


In the 1930s, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a New Deal federal agency, surveyed hundreds of U.S. cities, producing a national map collection that documented the demographic, economic, infrastructural, and ethnic status of tens of thousands of neighborhoods across the country. The resulting collection of so-called redlining maps is one of the preeminent urban and racial surveys conducted in the history of the United States. We at the Digital Innovation Lab of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are building a national digital collection of these paper maps, currently housed at the National Archives in Washington D.C., and using this collection to explore the use of semiautomated feature extraction techniques on large historical content. Our methodology is based on supervised, classification image processing techniques. We use a commercial tool called ArcScan, an extension to the popular ESRI ArcGIS software, to extract tens of thousands of neighborhood boundaries that can then be saved as vector overlays and used to drive the development of new types of research interfaces. We conclude the paper with examples of these new types of interfaces. Finally, we describe the potential impact of linking vectorized national collections together and the need for further research in this area, including using hybrid approaches that involve large-scale crowdsourcing.

Access to the article is available through UNC Library’s ejournal subscription.

DH Press Beta Launch

I am thrilled to announce the release of DH Press Beta 1.0! Our toolkit is officially live and ready to use. Our showcase pilot project, “Mapping the Long Women’s Movement” will come online shortly.

Beta 1.0 Overview

While we had to put some functionality on the backburner for this first release (including the non-geo-spatial visualizations and some backend customization), DH Press is nonetheless a robust, flexible, easy-to-use tool for visualizing humanistic data, one that will continue to grow over time.

DH Press makes creating a digital humanities project manageable, even for non-technical users and those new to DH. Indeed, early testers report that the biggest challenge to using the tool is building the dataset (i.e. the intellectual work of the project), which happens outside of the DH Press environment.

Project Creation Workflow

Once your data is created and formatted appropriately, it’s easy to import a CSV version into DH Press (see our documentation for more information about formatting and importing data).

DH Press Project Settings Interface

DH Press Project Settings Interface

After importing your data into DH Press, configuring the project settings is relatively straightforward. First, an admin user configures the motes (see DH Press Terms and Definitions), which are data wrappers that add functionality to custom data fields and allow them to render on the frontend. Then, set up the map view (add map layers, set the map center and zoom level, create legends for filtering, and customize the look of the markers). Finally, set up the main project page and the marker modal (the window that pops up when a marker is clicked).

The end result is a clean map that pans and zooms, filters markers, and allows you to adjust the map size and transparency (even of the base map), all while supporting the sort of exploration and search that you’d want in a DH project. And because DH Press is based in WordPress, you can incorporate narrative and in-depth analysis, or even embed your own project blog on the site.

DH Press Test Map Visualization

DH Press Test Map Visualization

The same map in Fullscreen Map mode

The same map in Fullscreen Map mode

Visualizations and Other Features

Currently, the only visualization DH Press supports is a map. However, we hope to get the following visualizations up and running shortly (by this summer):

  • Timelines (standalone and integrated with the map to show the intersection of time and space)
  • Topic Cards (like Pinterest)
  • Animations

Additionally, we hope to add the following functionality to the tool very soon:

  • Customizable page views for data points
  • New data types (integers, full-size images, thumbnail images)

And we have started thinking about how to expand the audio/transcript tool (which we’ll release when the Long Women’s Movement project launches) to handle non-English oral histories, videos, and even manuscript images.

Using DHP

There are two ways to use DH Press. If you have your own installation of WordPress (that is, you are not using the wordpress.com hosting service), you can grab the plugin from GitHub and install it. Otherwise, you can sign up to play in our Sandbox. We’ll create a user account for you, and give you your own standalone DH Press site to work in. We’ve even prepared some sample data to get you started.

Coming Soon/Next Steps

In the coming weeks, we’ll be working hard to launch our first pilot project, “Mapping the Long Women’s Movement,” which has driven the development of Beta 1.0 from the start. We’ll also be working to get our four new pilot projects (created in Bobby Allen’s AMST 840: Digital Humanities/Digital American Studies graduate seminar) launched. We’re still debugging, so keep an eye out for updates to the code (GitHub users will have to install updates; Sandbox users will not). And we’ll keep working on the new visualizations and functions. We’ll also begin user testing and our security audit to see if DH Press can be used in UNC’s WordPress environment (web.unc.edu). So stay tuned for these developments.


DH Press Beta 1.0 would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our project team.

Our lead developer, Joe Hope, has worked tirelessly to make DH Press as clean and intuitive as possible. Chien-Yi Hou handled our map functionality and Joe Ryan is taking the lead with our security audit.

Our graduate students, current and former, have played a critical role in project management, creating documentation and offering general project support: Stephanie Barnwell, Jade Davis, and Bryan Gaston. We’ve also relied heavily on Jessie Wilkerson and Liz Lundeen, History PhD students, who have led the data gathering for our Long Women’s Movement Pilot. Seth Kotch, Digital Humanities Coordinator at the SOHP, has proven to be a fearless client for this pilot. And our four DIL undergraduates contributed greatly to the Women’s Movement data gathering: Chris Breedlove, Beth Carter, Charlotte Fryar, and Lauren Stutts.

Finally, the DIL co-directors, Bobby Allen and Richard Marciano, have provided the team with support and guidance along the way.

Many thanks to you all!

Bobby Allen on DH and Cinema Studies

DIL Co-Director Bobby Allen delivered the final “Future Knowledge” lecture at the University of South Carolina on Monday, April 8, sponsored by the Center for Digital Humanities.  “Please Step Away From the Screen: How Digital Humanities Can Re-Write Cinema History” explored the implications of his work on Going to the Show for cinema history and the potential of digital humanities methods and materials to reshape the field of cinema studies.

View the talk and discussion

Position Announcement: CDHI Programs Coordinator

The Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative is looking for a Programs Coordinator!

This position will be responsible for administering and coordinating the diverse activities and programs of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative. These programs include the Digital Innovation Lab/Institute for Arts and Humanities Fellows Program, the CDHI Graduate Fellows Program, the CDHI Postdoctoral Fellows Program, and the Graduate Certificate Program in Digital Humanities. Duties associated with coordination of these program include liaising with academic departments and support units in the College of Arts and Sciences and other university academic and support units; organizing and executing selection recruitment evaluation for all programs; supporting the work of the CDHI Faculty Steering Committee Chair, serving ex officio on faculty sub-committees; and maintaining the CDHI website.

The position will also:

  • participate in and coordinate professional development and training activities in digital humanities for faculty and graduate students;
  • plan campus activities and events designed to increase interest and involvement in digital humanities across the campus in cooperation with other university units, other universities and digital humanities programs, and cultural heritage organizations;
  • develop and administer assessment impact metrics for all CDHI programs and be responsible for documenting and reporting on them to the CDHI Faculty Steering Committee, College of Arts and Sciences, and external funding bodies;
  • share project management and supervision responsibilities for digital humanities projects undertaken under the auspices of the CDHI with the Manager of the Digital Innovation Lab;
  • administer the graduate certificate program in digital humanities, including advising graduate students, and coordinating digital humanities course offerings with academic units at UNC and at Duke and NCSU;
  • work with faculty to develop new digital humanities course offerings and to add digital humanities methods and approaches to existing courses;
  • develop teaching/learning platforms and content for online and in-person online hybrid course offerings in digital humanities.

The position will work under the direction of the Co-PI of the CDHI. He/she may be assigned other related responsibilities and duties, including (but not limited to): supervision of graduate research assistants and undergraduate student workers and managing development and submission of grant gift proposals to external funding agencies.

More details and application instructions are available here.

Zephyr Frank on HGIS

On Tuesday, February 19, 2013, Zephyr Frank gave a public talk, “Layers, Flows, Intersections: Historical GIS for 19th-century Rio de Janeiro,” to an audience at UNC and King’s College London (KCL). The event was streamed and recorded via Microsoft Lync.

If you missed it, you can check out his PowerPoint presentation or watch the video of the entire event:

This videoconference seminar is part of a broader planned cooperation between the DIL at UNC and the Department of Digital Humanities at KCL. Zephyr’s visit was sponsored by the Triangle Digital Humanities Network (TDHN), a DH coordination effort between the National Humanities Center, Duke, NCSU, and UNC.


Zephyr Frank is Associate Professor of Latin American history at Stanford University, where he has taught since 2000.  His research interests include quantitative methods for social and economic history, the application of GIS techniques in historical analysis, and the study of literature in relation to social and cultural history.  His research has appeared in the pages of the Journal of Economic History, Comparative Studies in Society and History, the Journal of Social History, and the Journal of Latin American Geography, among other venues.  He is a founding member of the Spatial History Project and the current director of the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) at Stanford University.