Preview of DH Press 2.5

With the overhaul of DH Press for its 2.0 release this past summer, subsequent development of our digital humanities visualization toolkit has been speeding up. Later this fall, we’ll release version 2.5. In the meantime, here’s an overview of the new visualizations DH Press 2.5 will support.

In addition to maps and the topic card views that we introduced with v. 2.0, we are in the process of adding 4 new visualizations and some extensions of current functionality.


Pinboard View

Test Pinboard using cover art for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Users will be able to load an image as a background image, and then “pin” content (markers) to the board. This will function similar to the map, which uses latitude/longitude pairs to pin markers to a base map. In this case, markers will be associated with points on the image using X,Y coordinates (which can be determined from MS Paint, Mac Preview, or other tools that enable image editing).

In addition, DH Press 2.5 will support the addition of SVG layers on top of the Pinboard (similar to our map overlays). This can be used to annotate images, create additional visual cues, and give project admins more powerful customization of the visualization.

We are also working to incorporate animation of the SVG layers in the Pinboard view. Associating SVG layers with points in an audio or video file will allow various SVG elements to turn on/off in synchronization with audio. This would allow project admins to provide a more guided tour of the visualization.


Timeline View

Sample timeline view

Many users have been asking for a timeline view for a while now. We are currently testing such an implementation. For this version of DH Press, the timeline will be a standalone visualization, but we hope to someday integrate it with the maps so that we can visualize space and time together. Details about how to configure temporal data will be available along with the 2.5 release.

Basic Networking Visualization

Given the DIL’s work mapping people in the past, we have begun to develop basic visualizations for creating network graphs. For now, we can do a basic flat tree map, similar to a genealogical family tree, as well as a segmented wheel. We are also working on a third visualization for large data sets.

Facet Flow

This visualization allows you to show connections between different facets — or attributes — of your data. In all of our other visualizations, we can only display one aspect of the data (this is the active legend). Facet flows allow you to show two or more dimensions of your data at the same time, by visualizing dynamic connectors between facets. This illustration shows two dimensions of data — type of object, and materials used to create the object. Users can invert the dimensions, and mousing over displays a count of objects, which corresponds to the thickness of the connector. A list of relevant data points are displayed below the visualization when a thread is selected. Clicking on a data point will pull up the global modal lightbox with additional information. This visualization will be particularly helpful for projects with very large data sets.

A facet flow connecting type of object with materials used to create the object.

Audio/Transcript Widget Enhancement

YouTube Widget

Embedded YouTube video using our audio/transcript tool.

Finally, we are working to enhance the audio/transcript widget, which allows us to sync SoundCloud audio files with textual transcripts. We expect that the new release of DH Press will support YouTube video files, synced to textual transcripts.





Look for these and other exciting enhancements in DH Press 2.5,
which should be released by the end of 2014.


Unbuilt Blue Ridge Parkway Featured in New Publication

The Unbuilt Blue Ridge Parkway, a collaborative project between Anne Whisnant’s HIST 671 and the DIL’s Graduate Practicum in Digital Humanities (Fall 2013), is featured in the debut issue of The American Historian, a new publication of the Organization of American Historians. OAH members receive the print publication as part of their membership.

Check out the project here.

Unbuilt Parkway

DH Press 2.0 is Here!

We’ve been hard at work on DH Press since the release of the Beta 1.0 version in April 2013. In the past year, we’ve launched our pilot project, Mapping the Long Women’s Movement, transitioned to a new Lead Developer for the toolkit, and collaborated on six new DH Press projects (in addition to a proof of concept created by the first class of our Graduate Practicum in Digital Humanities), with many more in progress.

Now, I am pleased to announce the release of DH Press 2.0. This latest version includes many enhancements, both to the administrative backend and to the front-end user interface. This blog post outlines the major features of 2.0. For a complete list, please consult the Release Notes on GitHub or our revamped documentation (still a work in progress).

We’ve created a test project to demonstrate all of the features of DH Press 2.0. You can grab the data and play in your own WordPress site.

Improving Visualizations

Broadly speaking, we’ve done a lot to improve on and expand the data visualizations DH Press offers. In the process, we’ve added more customization for our admin users, giving them more control over how they can present their projects to their users.


To begin, we’ve made it easier to customize the look of your DH Press project. Modals (lightbox popups) can be set to five sizes (from Tiny to X-Large). For projects that embed large images, or an audio file and transcript, the modal might be configured on the larger side. Projects containing small amounts of textual data may opt for a smaller modal to cut down on unnecessary white space.

Additionally, user admins may now customize the display name for the green linkout buttons that appear at the bottom of the modal. Users may elect to use one, two, or no linkouts. They can also specify whether links are opened in the current browser tab or in a new one.

Enhancements to the Map Interface

We’ve improved the look and feel of the maps. In addition to streamlining the interface, we’ve added some further functionality to bolster the user experience and, hopefully, make the visualization more intuitive. Our maps now display the project name (top left of screen), and include a map reset button along with our zoom in/out controls (upper right of map). This button resets the original map center and zoom level, which is handy if users get lost while exploring the map.

We’ve also added a customizable map exit button to help users leave the map (the “home” button). Project admins may select the display text for the map exit button, as well as the redirect link.

Help Tips

We’ve also rethought those pesky pre-set map tips that pop up every time the map is launched (we opted not to use cookies to disable the pop up for returning site visitors). We’ve moved from displaying lots of individual pop-ups to a single map tip modal (lightbox). Project admins create a regular WordPress page and then specify that page as the map tips page in the settings. That link shows up in the top right corner of the entry point. When users click on the link, a help lightbox will pop up over the visualization, rather than taking users to a new help page. Not only can admins customize their visualization help tips, but they can provide broader help and contextualization for their site visitors, guiding users through the project in a way that makes sense to the unique and individualized requirements of that particular project.

Two Maps in One Interface

two-map-viewMoreover, we’ve added the capability of comparing two maps side-by-side, as our Lebanese project demonstrates. This is a critical feature that allows users to draw comparisons across maps. In the Lebanese project, users can compare patterns of settlement across time and space. For instance, users can elect to see the 1920 and 1930 maps for Goldsboro to see change over time in one place, or they can look at the 1930 maps for Wilmington and Winston-Salem, to draw comparisons across space. We’ve designed this feature to work with any combination of visualizations; we expect to adapt this feature as more visualizations come online, enabling users to display a map on one side and, say, a timeline on the other side.

To set up a two-map view, simply create a new page and (working in “Text” mode) copy in the following modified HTML code: <iframe style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;bottom:0;height:100%;” src=”INSERT-YOUR-MAP-LINK=-HERE” width=”50%”></iframe><iframe style=”position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;height:100%;” src=”INSERT-YOUR-MAP-LINK-HERE” width=”50%”></iframe>

Map Library and Map Functionality

DH Press 2.0 features several improvements to the Map Library. First, we’ve moved away from OpenLayers and over to Leaflet for basic map functionality.

We’ve added the number of base map layers available. Base maps now include: Google, Open Street Map, two versions of MapQuest, and a blank map layer. Project admins may also set the opacity of a base map to fade it out. Site visitors will still be able to adjust the map layer opacity manually.

Furthermore, we’ve split the Map Library into two different CSV files — base maps and NC overlay maps. All users must install the base maps, but only projects requiring the CDLA’s historic NC maps need install the second map library.

Currently, we cannot yet support TMS maps, but hope to get that online for version 2.5 or 3.0.

Multiple Visualizations

We also have the ability to create multiple visualizations on a single set of data. In previous implementations of DH Press, you could only create a single map per project. So if you wanted a project to have two different maps (each mapping different attributes in your data), you would have two options: either re-load the data twice and create two distinct maps, or segment your data into mini-sets, and import each one into its own project with its own map (which we did in the Lebanese project). Either approach is problematic; the former approach leads to an unnecessary duplication of data; the latter forces the admin to configure multiple projects. And in both cases, it makes bulk editing the data in DH Press more difficult.

With 2.0, you can create multiple visualizations on one set of data – as many maps as you like! Or you can add multiple instantiations of our new topic card visualization. Each visualization will have its own unique sub-URL. Check out our demo project to see how it works.

New Visualization

Topic Card Visualization

Topic Card Visualization

Most importantly, DH Press offers a second type of data visualization (in addition to geo-spatial visualizations — i.e., maps). We now support “Topic Cards” visualization, which is something like Pinterest for Digital Humanities.

Here’s how it works: when users configure their data types (“motes”) they create global legends (assign colors or icons; to use both simply create two versions of the mote). These color assignments are applied globally to all entry point visualizations. Rather than create the legend when setting up an entry point, you create the legend when configuring your motes. Then you simply select whatever legends you want to show up in a given entry point (some or all). The same holds true when configuring your modal lightbox. So, if a particular value for a given category is represented by a green map marker, the topic card will likewise appear in the same shade of green. And, when a user clicks on either a map marker or a topic card, he/she will see the same custom fields (“motes”) in the “modal” (information pop-up window).

Admin users can specify what motes show up in the topic card (before opening the modal). The cards tilt slightly when they a mouse hovers over them. We’ve also incorporated handy sort/filter operations for the topic cards (defined by the admin when configuring the entry point). So you can shuffle and sort the view of the cards based on an attribute of the data, and you can filter to see a subset of the cards.

Additionally, you can specify the size of the topic cards: thin, medium, or wide height/width (in any combination) or you can set it to automatic. When set to automatic, DH Press re-sizes the cards based on the amount of content displayed. This produces irregularly-sized topic cards. We recommend that set either height or width to automatic, but not both.

Audio/Transcript Tool Enhancements

Side-by-side display of Spanish and English transcript

Side-by-side display of Spanish and English transcript

In a previous post, I discussed how we’ve improved the audio/transcript tool in several key ways. First, the transcript now displays as scrolling text, both in the modal and in the full transcript view. In addition, site visitors may now specify the width of the transcript iframe in the full transcript view (by a simply dragging action), thereby controlling how much text they see. This will help users explore the transcript.

Secondly, we’ve added the capability to display two transcripts side-by-side. This was especially important for our Digital Portobelo project, in which we wanted to deliver Spanish and English versions of the transcripts. In theory, any language that can be encoded as Unicode UTF-8 should work in our tool. And, in cases where only some of the interviews within a given project require dual transcript display, DH Press will automatically default to a single transcript view if a second version does not exist (as this example from Digital Portobelo illustrates).

In a future release, we hope to expand the Audio/Transcript even more, this time focusing on the media component. Currently, we only support streaming audio from SoundCloud, but we would like to expand streaming to other third party providers. Moreover, we hope to expand the type of media supported in the tool, to include videos (streamed from YouTube) and more static media content, such as images (for example, a digital representation of a diary, with the accompanying textual transcription). (No word yet on how long it will take to add these features.)

Check out our 2.0 Demo Project, which uses streaming music and accompanying lyrics (processed as timestamped transcripts), in our first experiment with audio/text other than oral history material.

Technical Specifications and Admin Improvements

Though your site visitors might not notice it, we’ve also made it easier to manage DH Press from a technical perspective. We’ve cleaned up the code, streamlined it, commented it out (in line documentation), and implemented a new JavaScript library. Check out a recent blog post by our developer, Michael Newton, which explains some of these changes.

No Additional Plugins Required

Our initial beta version required three additional plugins to be installed before DH Press could be functional; those plugins are now incorporated into the tool so that no additional plugins are required. While project admins may likely want to install additional plugins, such PDF Embed plugins, or Usernoise for feedback, to extend their projects even fuller, these plugins are not mandatory.

Resolving Data Issues

In the process of streamlining the code, we’ve also paved the way for future extension of the tool. We’ve also worked to resolve some of the data conflicts we noticed in early beta testing. While most users probably didn’t encounter such conflicts in their projects, those who want to create multiple DH Press projects (using similar data) in a single WordPress site would have run into problems when creating legends, including the creation of erroneous duplicates and ghost categories, as well as repeating colors for similar legend values across projects. We’ve resolved most of the problems, and are continuing to improve how DH Press handles data.

We’ve also added new and reconfigured existing data types to help cut down on user error during the mote creation process.

Data Type Function
Short Text Used for creating legends; recommended not to exceed 32 characters
Long Text Used for all other text, including csv_post_post, as well as html (such as img src html embed code); can be used for any content with html embed code, such as YouTube video, Google Street View
Lat/Lon Coord Geocordinates for map markers
Image Image URL for display in modal*
Link To Links to external website using target:blank function; no embed code required (just a URL)
SoundCloud Link to SoundCloud audio file for the audio/transcript tool
Transcript Link to Transcript .txt file (from your site’s Media Library) for transcript
Timestamp Start/End timestamp for audio/transcript tool

*Technically, these images will also render on a post page, but if you want to include multiple images, we recommend using HTML embed code. This can be implemented by creating a separate field of data in your spreadsheet, and using the <img src> tags. This way you can add any number of images, and include additional content, such as line breaks and captions, all through basic HTML.

WordPress Themes

We’ve also been working to decouple the plugin from any particular WordPress theme. The 1.0 version could only work with Twenty Twelve, but 2.0 is a bit more theme independent. Not every theme will work with DH Press, and we plan to spend some time developing a list of recommended themes. Please note that visualizations will likely not load in an incompatible theme. For users who wish to experiment with themes, please contact us at to share your progress.

Error Checking

We have improved error checking for user admins. In the initial plugin, there was no indication of problems in the project settings interface. For example, if a user neglected to specify a lat/long mote for the markers, it would be very difficult to diagnose why the map visualization wouldn’t work. We’ve identified several critical configuration errors that might break the visualization to assist users in determining user-generated errors. This will make project creation easier for our users, especially those new to the toolkit.

Moreover, we’ve added a testing panel in the project configuration/settings section of DH Press. You can run this to check your data. Currently, DH Press can check for lat/long and timestamp data types.

Kiosk Mode

We’ve added a new Kiosk Mode for projects requiring site-specific delivery, as in the case of our Mapping Early NC Lebanese Households project, which is being displayed on a 27” touch tablet in the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh (February-August, 2014). Kiosk Mode enables project admins to optimize their projects for tablets, and improve the user experience for site visitors. Kiosk Mode includes a site timeout (to refresh the browser after a specified period of inactivity), a choice of opening links in a new browser tab or the same one (we often want to constrain our users’ ability to navigate off the project website when viewing the project on site), and a custom theme that includes a larger navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.

Leaving any of the timeout fields blank (either for the entire site or for the DH Press project visualization) will default to no timeout. Kiosk mode may be activated for projects that are not intended for site-specific delivery.

Global Options

Kiosk mode is part of many other Global Settings for DH Press, which are configured not in the DH Press section of the dashboard, but under Settings (Settings > DH Press Options). Users can:

  • Set up a site tip page (global help for all visualizations)
  • Set a site timeout (good for site-specific projects; if one user walks away, the project resets after a period of inactivity so that the next user is not confused)
  • Set a redirect URL (where should the site re-set to? The Home page? The Entry Point?)
  • Set a Kiosk Launch Page
  • Enter Kiosk Mode to add the navigation bar to the bottom of the screen for easier exploration and maneuvering
  • Configure Kiosk User Agents to enable Kiosk mode on certain types of devices (leave blank if enabled for all devices)
  • Block external links (specify the URLs) to keep people from leaving the webpage; ideal for site-specific tablets that have their keyboard disabled (keeps users from checking email or accidentally leaving the DH Press project)
  • Display DH Press credits at the bottom of the screen
  • Set up screensaver, such as an image gallery


Because we’ve been able to ramp up development and shorten our development cycles, we’ve begun implementing plugin versioning. This enables us to maintain a stable version of the plugin, while also releasing more experimental (and possibly buggy) versions in rapid succession. We will push new versions to GitHub as often as we can. But users will have the freedom to decide if, and when, they want to upgrade the plugin. In this way, they can quarantine their existing projects to prevent potential residual problems that may arise when upgrading.

DH Press 2.0 should work in WordPress 3.8.3 and 3.9.1, and is compatible with PHP 5.3 and 5.4.

A Final Note to Admin Users

While I’ve tried to cover the major changes to DH Press, we recommend that all admin users read the release notes for 2.0 on GitHub before installing or updating the plugin.

Additionally, given the rapid pace of this most recent development cycle, we are still in the process of updating our user documentation, which we’ve been busily overhauling. We’ll also be adding short demos, and streamlining the documentation to make it more succinct and easy to navigate. We expect the bulk of the revisions to be done over the summer, and ask for your patience as we redesign our documentation.

Finally, we have spent a good deal of time trying to develop a more sustainable solution for users interested in exploring and playing with the tool. Our existing Sandbox has been difficult to maintain, and has been taxing on our servers. We are considering moving away from a hosted Sandbox space, and instead providing users with a short-term, temporary account to help them decide whether they want to adopt DH Press. We would then provide documentation to help users obtain their own WordPress installation in their own server environment (typically through third-party web hosting services) for long-term use. We’re not yet certain we’ll pursue this route or not, but we’ll continue to post updates as we develop a new Sandbox policy.

No matter what, you can install the plugin on your own hosted sites. Simply grab the latest stable release version by clicking the “download zip” button. Then, upload the zipped file directly to WordPress: Plugins > Add New > Upload. WordPress will do the rest!

We’re excited about these improvements to DH Press, which we think make it an even more user-friendly and intuitive digital humanities toolkit. We hope you’ll agree.

Please share your thoughts with us, send us new feature requests, or let us know how you’re using the tool. You can email us at or follow us on GitHub and Twitter (@dh_unc).


Thanks to all members of the DH Press team, past and present, who have helped us along the way, as well our countless Practicum students and graduate interns for helping us to test the tool. We were sad to lose our original programmer, Joe Hope, who has left RENCI. Special thanks to Michael Newton, who assumed lead programmer responsibility this Spring, and Olivia Dorsey, who has spearheaded the documentation overhaul.

DIL Contributes to Scientific Research Network on Digital Cinema Studies

The Digital Innovation Lab is one of several international partners for Digital Cinema Studies: A Scientific Research Network on Digital Cinema Studies (DICIS).

The digital turn within film studies has contributed to the creation of international big data on film(historic) research into film as a text and film as a consumable good (production, distribution and exploitation). As a result international expertise on cinema studies crosses over to digital humanities to understand the use, contribution and meaning of digital tools for the discipline. DICIS is a catalyst for new research methods by deploying these digital tools within film and cinema studies. At the crossroads of cinema studies and digital humanities, DICIS main goal is to gather expertise on re- purposable and generative digital discovery tools to fortify the methodology and conceptual base of the digital turn. DICIS stimulates international comparative research by looking into compatibility, comparability and open access of databases on international film(historic) research.

DICIS contributes to the internationalization of scientific film research at the Flemish Universities of Ghent (UGent), Antwerp (UA) and Leuven (KU Leuven). DICIS wants to (1) strengthen existing scientific research collaborations within a core unit of the HoMER [History of Moviegoing, Exhibition, and Reception] network working on digital tools and questions, (2) expand the network to similar research centers and (3) increase the expertise concerning (historical/longitudinal) big cinema data. DICIS plans to  (1) organize biannual workshops, annual colloquia and regular DICIS meetings (2) initiate regular collaborative publications and (3) facilitate the international mobility of experts.

The network is funded for five years from January 2014 until December 2018. The board will convene its first meeting in Milan this coming June, 2014.

The Digital Innovation Lab contributes to the Digital HoMER, an effort to develop digital platforms for studies of cinemagoing around the globe. Since Fall 2013, DIL Practicum students have been exploring the adaptation of DH Press for global moviegoing projects in “Going to the Global Show.”



Public Launch of Digital Portobelo

Renee Alexander Craft, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Curriculum in Global Studies, and one of two inaugural DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows, publicly launched her digital humanities project, Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation. This collaborative project was built with the Digital Innovation Lab using DH Press.

Renee Alexander CraftThe project was unveiled at a two-part lecture/presentation, “The Devil is in the Details: Engaged Qualitative Research and the Digital Humanities.” This launch event focused on the “front stage” and “behind the scenes” processes that created Digital Portobelo, an interactive online collection of ethnographic interviews, photos, videos, artwork, and archival material that illuminate the rich culture and history of Portobelo — a small town located on the Caribbean coast of the Republic of Panama best known for its Spanish colonial heritage, its centuries old Black Christ festival, and an Afro-Latin community who call themselves and their cultural performance tradition “Congo.”

In the first part of the event, Alexander Craft talked about how she came to study Portobelo, how her research has evolved over time, and how she developed the digital project in tandem with her monograph, When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in 20th Century Panama. She shared triumphs and challenges, and stressed the deeply collaborative nature of her work.

In the second part, Pam Lach, Project Manager for Digital Portobelo, deconstructed the project, revealing the processes and workflows developed to create the project. Her PowerPoint, along with all additional resources for those interested in creating similar digital oral history projects, is available at and

This project received support through an inaugural Digital Innovation Lab/Institute for the Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship, a program of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, which is supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Check out Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation!

2014 DIL/IAH Faculty Fellows Announced

The Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, the Digital Innovation Lab and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities are pleased to announce the 2014 recipients of the DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowship in Digital Humanities:  Lucia Binotti, Professor of Spanish, and Anne MacNeil, Associate Professor of Music.

Part of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, the DIL/IAH Faculty Fellowship allows outstanding faculty at all ranks to explore the possibilities of digital humanities for extending their research, teaching, and engagement with audiences beyond the university. These fellowships encourage research at the intersection of traditional and engaged scholarship, the effective use of digital technologies in research and teaching, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Binotti and MacNeil will work with the Digital Innovation Lab to create and launch their own digital humanities projects by December 2014. The fellowship provides $15,000 in project funds, as well as a course release in the fall semester, and in-kind project management and technical development support from the Digital Innovation Lab.

Lucia Binotti: How Do You Say It?

Lucia BinottiA Professor of Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Lucia Binotti holds a PhD in Hispanic Renaissance Languages from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She earned her M.A. in Romance Philology from the Università degli Studi (Pisa).

Binotti’s research crosses the borders between literary criticism and cultural history. Her work focuses on Renaissance material and cultural history, and on the mechanisms that construct linguistic and cultural identity. She has worked on linguistic theories on the origin and development of the vernaculars, on the establishment of historiography as a discipline, and on the strategies that were used to synthesize the civic values of the Renaissance into the ideological tenets of the Spanish Empire. Her new book project analyzes the discourses and rituals that constituted illicit, transgressive sexuality among early modern Spanish elites.

Binotti comes to the digital humanities through her collaboration on a previous project, Gnovis: Flowing through the Galaxy of Knowledge, which was awarded a NEH Digital Startup Grant in 2011. Gnovis was envisioned as a navigation engine that would allow users to visualize semantic relationships between entities by diffusing traditional and rigidly enforced boundaries among humanities disciplines, allowing the user to visualize connections between subjects and across disciplines that would otherwise not be immediately apparent. Binotti was an early adopter of DH Press, testing it in her Honors Study Abroad in Rome last year, and she plans to use it again this summer.

Binotti’s fellowship project, How Do You Say It?, is an interdisciplinary and community service oriented project, in collaboration with Professor Cynthia Rizo of the School of Social Work at UNC. The project aims to deploy DH Press to crowd source, layer, map and visualize information about varieties of the Spanish language used to address Latino/a audiences when discussing the prevention of intimate partner violence. The project’s ultimate goal is to assess whether the choice of different varieties of Spanish targeted more specifically to a local sub-group of the larger Latino/a community might increase the success and effectiveness of textual literature (brochures, signs, advertisements) as well as spoken interactions (from support services, doctors, social workers, etc.) in preventing and educating about domestic violence. As Binotti explains, “The project’s results will have direct impact on the development of culturally appropriate interventions for this vulnerable population of survivors.”

Anne MacNeil: POPP: Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints

Anne MacNeilAn Associate Professor in the Department of Music, Anne MacNeil holds a PhD in the History and Theory of Music from the University of Chicago. She earned an MA in Music History from the Eastman School of Music and a BMus from Ithaca College.

Prior to joining the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MacNeil taught at Northwestern University and the University of Texas at Austin. Her areas of specialization include music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, music and spectacle, commedia dell’arte, opera, performance studies and historiography. Her current research encompasses the use of boats, barges, and waterways as venues for music performance and as modes of travel, especially for noble women, to entertainments in and around Renaissance Mantua; early-modern laments; operatic settings of tales of the Trojan Wars; and the intersections of music, ceremony, and biography in the lives of Margherita Farnese and Eleonora de’ Medici.

MacNeil’s fellowship project grows out of her work on IDEA: Isabella d’Este Archive. This continually evolving project is an interactive, interdisciplinary research and learning environment for scholars, students, educators, and the general public around the world. Taking as its inspiration and focus one of the most influential figures of the Italian Renaissance, Isabella d’Este (1474-1539), IDEA offers new ways to explore the history and culture of early modern Europe. IDEA’s primary materials are Isabella’s letters, music, and art collections, as they evolved during her reign as the marchesa of Mantua. These resources map a world where politics, art, music, family life, business, and social relations intertwined, prior to the modern separation of many of these concerns into separate spheres.

MacNeil’s fellowship project, POPP: Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints, is the first music project for the IDEA environment. As MacNeil wrote in her proposal, in the typical transcription of Renaissance music, something is often lost, since modern music notation “imposes a uniformity of spacing, metric accents, and text underlay that are foreign to early modern music.” With this project, MacNeil aims to “develop a digital program for working with sixteenth-century printed music that bypasses transcription entirely and thereby preserves the metric quality and independence of parts that characterize this music in its original sources.”  She believes this will lead to a deeper understanding of the compositional techniques, theories, character, and practices of Renaissance music. Additionally, this will provide insight into the interactions between emerging print technologies and humanistic conceptions of music and music-making in early modern Europe.

MacNeil will work with the Image and Spatial Data Analysis Division of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Together, and in collaboration with the Digital Innovation Lab, they will design a prototype tool to engage with the metric structures of Renaissance music; to reveal patterns of musical gestures and suggestions of performance practices that are obscured by modern notation; and to apply, by automated process, heuristics developed from contemporary music theory treatises to the analysis of scores created by Ottaviano Petrucci, the first music printer. This tool will allow students and scholars to manipulate Petrucci’s scores visually in order to see and hear interactions among the parts, to explore differences between modal and tonal behaviors in the music, and to see analytical concepts derived from contemporary music theorists in action. This project will benefit a wide audience, including undergraduate and graduate students, music historians and theorists, and non-specialists in diverse humanistic fields.

MacNeil was also recently awarded an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship for Mapping Secrets, another project connected to IDEA. Mapping Secrets will develop a tool for mapping networks of secretarial practices and administrative recordkeeping in the act of letter writing, using the notes, drafts, copies, and letters from the archive of Isabella d’Este. MacNeil begins this fellowship January 2015.