Prospect Presentation at German Historical Institute

Michael Newton, Technology Lead at the Digital Innovation Lab, will be presenting a workshop at the first annual conference Creating Spatial Historical Knowledge: New Approaches, Opportunities and Epistemological Implications of Mapping History Digitally at the German Historical Institute in Washington DC on October 20.

His workshop will demonstrate the use of Prospect, a WordPress plugin that supports sophisticated curation of digital collections of structured data and offers a wide variety of data visualizations. Michael will demonstrate some of the main features of Prospect and highlight projects built with the platform.

Learn more about Prospect at

Prospect Training Videos (1)

The first of the Digital Innovation Lab’s training videos about Prospect is now available here. It briefly demonstrates the basic features and functionalities of Prospect’s front-end data visualizer using a sample data set about the first 20 presidents of the United States. You can interact with the Prospect exhibit for this data set yourself on this webpage.

The DIL is currently working on training videos about the back-end of Prospect to teach how to create, curate, edit and publish data sets and exhibits (visualizations) about them.

Debut of Prospect Nears

Within weeks the UNC Digital Innovation Lab will release a beta version of Prospect, its open-source, next-generation data curation and visualization collaboratory. Although Prospect has been designed and implemented to support the needs of humanities scholars in particular, its powerful curation and visualization features can deal with data belonging to a wide variety of domains.

Gallery The Prospect website will contain information, resources and training materials to support the use of our exciting new digital platform.

DIL recognized by UNC College of Arts & Sciences

Digital archive captures mill town’s heyday

When Gastonia’s iconic Loray/Firestone mill was being redeveloped, UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab was on hand to help preserve and present the history of the mill and the people associated with it.  Digital Loray is the largest digital humanities project ever undertaken by the University, and comprises a digital and site-based public history project that documents and interprets the complex history of the mill and the surrounding village.

Video by Kristen Chavez ’13



See the original post HERE.

2016 DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowships: Accepting Applications through September 30

Part of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative the DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowships support UNC faculty who are interested in developing digital approaches as a significant dimension of their academic practice in the humanities; putting into practice digital methods related to the arts and performance; exploring how data and data studies are transforming intellectual work in the arts and humanities; 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 are due Wednesday, September 30, 2015. Please review the 2016 Guidelinesthoroughly. Apply online at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities website.

Applicants are strongly advised to attend an information session/workshop on either Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5pm or Wednesday, September 2, 3:30-5pm in the Digital Innovation Lab (Greenlaw 431). If you have any questions, please contact Malina Chavez, CDHI Programs Coordinator.

Registration Open for Fall ’15 DH Practicum

Registration is now open for the Fall ’15 offering of the lab’s Digital Humanities Practicum (American Studies 850).  This course approaches digital humanities through practical experience in a lab setting and seminar-style reflection upon and discussion of that experience.

The lab develops tools and collaborative work processes that make it easier, cheaper, and faster for scholars, students, and cultural heritage organizations to “do” public-facing digital humanities projects.  A significant expression of this commitment is the continuing development and refinement of DH Press, an award-winning multi-purpose digital humanities toolkit built on the widely-used WordPress digital publishing platform.   Our commitment to developing new models for public engagement through digital humanities is currently being expressed in “Digital Loray”: an extended, community-based effort to use digital technologies to integrate local history into the experience of one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the state’s history (the Loray Mill in Gastonia, NC).

Participants will work with Will Bosley, General Manager, and other staff of the DIL to contribute to ongoing DIL project work and to augment and expand published projects.  In addition to exploring and evaluating a range of digital humanities tools, they will learn to use DH Press to design and implement digital humanities projects and explore different ways of visualizing digital humanities data for academic and non-academic audiences.  They will gain valuable experience in developing effective work practices and hone project management and communication/presentation skills of particular relevance to interdisciplinary, collaborative, public-facing  digital humanities practice.

The seminar dimension of course, led by Robert Allen, James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Director of the DIL, will connect the practicum experience with issues and debates in the digital humanities more generally through reading and discussion.

Enrollment is limited and is by permission of the instructor.  This course welcomes participation from graduate degree-seeking students from across the UNC-CH community; staff and faculty; graduate students at Duke, NCSU, and NCCU (via inter-institutional registration); and independent scholars/humanities practitioners (enrollment through Friday Center for Continuing Education).  No previous training or experience in digital humanities is required beyond the level of computer literacy and competence expected of any graduate-level student in the humanities.  This course counts toward the UNC-CH graduate certificate in digital humanities.

The course will meet on Mondays 3:30-6:25 pm in the Digital Innovation Lab (431 Greenlaw). Participants should plan to spend at least one additional hour each week in the lab during business hours working on small-group projects.

Expressions of interest should be sent to Professor Robert Allen:


“Seeing Ourselves”: New DH Press Prototype

The challenge for first-year American Studies PHD student and DIL graduate associate Charlotte Fryar: build a prototype interface in DH Press for interacting with historical film footage that could be used online and on touchscreen tablets.  Oh, and can you do it in six weeks while you’re assisting for an undergraduate class, working on other lab projects, and taking a full load of classes?

The specs: display, index, and geo-tag identified individuals, places, and events from a film shot in 1942; locate them on interactive map (include contemporary street views); and create a space for streamed audio and transcripts of comments about and memories of the film and the people/places/events it depicts.

The answer: a resounding “yes, I can!”  Here is what she (working under the guidance of Michael Newton and with the latest version of DH Press) came up with.

The film chosen for this use-case is H. Lee Waters’s “Gastonia, 1942,” preserved and shared on YouTube by the Duke University Special Collections Library.  Charlotte used two brief scenes from the film as test content: a shift change at the mill, and workers and their families gathering at the neighborhood movie theater, the Carolina, where they would be able to “see themselves as others saw them” a few weeks later.

The prototype will be further developed this summer in conjunction with the DIL’s Digital Loray project and the Loray Mill’s planned history center.  “Seeing Ourselves” also grows out of discussions with UNC Folklore grad, Martin Johnson (Catholic University) about developing tools to reveal the remarkable work of the hundreds of local and itinerant filmmakers in the US and around the world.

Charlotte’s prototype also points to many other materials and use-cases that could take advantage of these features of DH Press: oral history, folklore, and ethnographic interviews;  home movies; and family history come to mind immediately–and to other settings in which DH Press can be deployed: historic sites, museums, K-12 learning units, college-level classes, online learning. 

“Seeing Ourselves” debuted as a part of Robert Allen’s presentation at the Arclight Symposium on the application of digital technologies to cinema and media history at Concordia University in Montreal the week of May 11th.

Congratulations, Charlotte!

NC Historical Newspapers Symposium

On Tuesday, March 24th, the Digital Innovation Lab, the UNC Libraries, and the Odum Institute for Research in Social Sciences co-sponsored a symposium to explore research, teaching, and engaged scholarship applications of the North Carolina digitized newspaper collection. The symposium took place in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library on the UNC campus and was attended by more than 50 scholars from departments across the humanities and social sciences.

UNC scholars now have access to over 3.3 million pages of historical newspapers dating from the 1750s through the 1920s, digitized through a partnership between the UNC Libraries and (a division of The scale and diversity of the newspaper collection prompted scholars from the DIL, the Libraries, and the Odum Institute to ask, “What can you do with 3 million pages of digitized North Carolina newspapers?” The symposium provided an opportunity to think through this question, with scholars from UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, and Northeastern University offering examples of how the availability of digitized historical newspapers has transformed their teaching and research.

AllenThe symposium began with a welcome from Dr. Robert Allen, Professor of American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and Director of the Digital Innovation Lab. Ashley Reed, Postdoctoral Fellow with the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, then offered an introduction to the newspaper interface designed by for use by UNC scholars. The collection can be reached by any UNC scholar with an Onyen: visit and type “” in the “Search” field at the center of the page. The interface offers advanced searching and browsing capabilities, including allowing users to narrow their searches by date range or geographic area.

Once attendees had been introduced to the interface, Nicholas Graham, Program Coordinator for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and Krista Hegerhorst, Head of Institutional Partnerships for, offered a short history of the partnership between the UNC Libraries and and discussed how it might serve as a model for other public-private partnerships that might help to make historical and cultural materials more widely available. Graham emphasized the scale of UNC’s newspaper collections on microfilm and noted that without the partnership it would have been difficult to make these materials available in digital form. Hegerhorst noted how quickly the digitized materials have been adopted by subscribers and the UNC community, with almost 200 new users accessing the collection each month.

BishirThe next portion of the program offered examples of how these newly digitized North Carolina newspapers have already begun transforming research and teaching in the Triangle. Dr. Robert Allen detailed how students in his first-year American Studies seminars have used the newspapers to supplement their reading of scholarly texts including Heather Williams’ Help Me To Find My People and Catherine Bishir’s Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900. Using the North Carolina newspapers and the larger archives, students are able to extend the personal stories told in these scholarly works and to put human faces on historical subjects. Next Catherine Bishir herself, Curator in Architectural Special Collections at North Carolina State University Libraries, detailed how the North Carolina newspapers have allowed her to exponentially expand the information available in North Carolina Architects and Builders (, an ongoing online biographical dictionary for which she serves as editor-in-chief. Bishir noted that often the most reliable information about the architectural history of a city can be found in the newspapers of neighboring cities, where political loyalties hold less sway and information is sometimes more accurate.

CarseyFinally, Thomas Carsey, Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill and Director of the Odum Institute, offered a vision of possibilities for big-data social science research using the North Carolina digitized newspaper collection. In addition to providing a web interface for searching and browsing the digitized newspaper collection, is providing to the UNC Libraries all of the raw data created during the digitization process, including JPEG, PDF, and XML files. The availability of over 3.3 million digital files containing machine-transcribed text will offer nearly limitless possibilities for historical data mining and large-scale textual analysis projects. Carsey encouraged scholars with such projects in mind to contact the Digital Innovation Lab or the Odum Institute for consultation.

Ryan CordellFollowing this panel the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Ryan Cordell of Northeastern University, offered one example of how the computational analysis of millions of newspaper pages can offer a window into the past. Cordell is co-director, with  Elizabeth Maddock Dillon and David Smith, of the Viral Texts project, which mines the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database and other large-scale digitized newspaper collections to determine which texts—political, literary, informational—circulated most widely in nineteenth-century newspapers. Cordell and his interdisciplinary team of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates use a combination of algorithms to seek matching phrases across the entire Chronicling America digital corpus. These algorithms return “clusters” of similar texts, providing the project team with an idea of how news items circulated and which texts were most likely to “go viral” in the nineteenth-century United States. Such analysis would be impossible for even a large team of human scholars to perform without the assistance of computational methodologies, and the results are relevant to disciplines ranging from literary studies to political science to history to public health. After a lively and informative question and answer session, attendees adjourned to Wilson Library to enjoy a reception generously sponsored by the Odum Institute.

Faculty, staff, and graduate students who were unable to attend the symposium but wish to explore uses of the newspaper collection in their research and teaching are encouraged to contact the event’s organizer, Ashley Reed (reeda (at), to discuss potential projects.

The University Gazette published an article on the digital collection and the symposium event in its online issue for March 31, 2015.