I am pleased to announce the completion of the pilot of the Stratford-upon-Avon Memory Map project. Users can navigate to various cultural heritage sites related to Shakespeare that are located in and around Stratford-upon-Avon and click on the markers to see a visualization of the words most commonly used to describe these sites in 19th century guidebooks. All guidebooks used in this project are linked via the guidebooks tab, and by clicking the button for each guidebook users can explore the entire digitized text on Google Books. Users can also access the guidebooks on the sites tab, which includes an image and table that lists the pages used to create the visualization for each site. This information can also be accessed by clicking the name of the site in its pop up on the map. The website was created using Bootstrap Studio, the map was created using LeafletJS and Mapbox, and the word clouds were created in Voyant Tools.
Moving forward, I hope to expand the scope of this project by incorporating more sites and guidebooks. In addition to using more guidebooks from the 19th century, I also hope to expand to different time periods as well. I’m also investigating alternatives to word clouds for the visualizations on the map. This summer, I have received funding to travel to Stratford-upon-Avon where I will be able to explore the archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and take my own photographs to use on the sites page of the website. This project will serve as the basis for the digital portion of my dissertation, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves over the next two years of my PhD program.
It’s been a while since I posted directly about my project, which I announced in my December post. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I used to be a project manager in a digital humanities center, and this is my first time working on a project that is completely my own. It has definitely been an enlightening experience so far, and I’m finally starting to see the different elements coming together in a cohesive way.
The initial hurdle I had not expected was the difficulty of tracking down all of the different guidebooks I wanted to use for my project. There was one guidebook in particular that was listed with different metadata in each place I found it online, but it was the same one from a Ward, Lock & Co. travel guide series. Eventually, with the help of a librarian friend, I was able to fiddle with my search terms enough to come up with a number of distinct, digitized guide books from the 19th century that could serve as the basis for my project. I was then able to pull information from these books to create the data set serving as the foundation for my map.
We had done a Leaflet project as part of one of the rapid development challenges last semester, so I was slightly more confident in that area of the project. While I was able to successfully create the base layer and put pins on the maps, I started to realize that there were issues with the lack of specificity in my coordinates. For some of the sites I’m representing on the map, the landmark or historic building does not have a specific address other than the site name and then the street it’s on. I have been able to get fairly close, but it has taken quite a bit of tweaking to make the pins appear in more accurate locations. Something I’m currently debating is the level of zoom on the map. While the majority of sites are in Stratford-upon-Avon proper, there are several at the fringes of the town or even a town over. I’m going to have to carefully consider how this plays into the narrative I’m constructing and make a decision soon. I never imagined that something as simple as the level of zoom could make this much of an impact.
One of the biggest learning curves I’ve had to deal with while working on this project is figuring out how to use Bootstrap Studio. I was able to procure a license through the GitHub Student Developer Pack, which is a fantastic resource. At first I had tried to use a free theme I found online, but after talking to Ethan I changed to building my own so that I knew where everything was in the code and how it worked. Personally, I did not find Bootstrap Studio intuitive at first even with walk-through upon installation and going through online documentation. However, I’ve finally started to get the hang of it and my development of the framework of my website to compliment the map is starting to go more smoothly
Overall, working on this project is definitely a learning experience and is giving me insight into all the nuances you might not think of when managing a project on a larger, big-picture scale. Although I’ve come far since the beginning of the semester, my project is definitely still a work in progress. It’s still difficult to imagine the final product, but there’s no doubt that the project is getting there.
Originally, this (late) blog post was going to focus on my struggles with Bootstrap Studio as I continue work on my CHI project. But, over the weekend, as I was attempting to work on my map, I visited the Leaflet website to read up on some additional customization. Instead, I found this message:
On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. There have been many responses–some political, some scholarly, and some even memeified–but here I want to focus on heritage and digital humanities. In addition to the horrifying war crimes Russia has committed against Ukrainian citizens, there have also been direct attacks on Ukrainian heritage. On February 28, Ethan shared The Kyiv Independent’s breaking news update that Russian soldiers had burned a history museum, along with an article from Blue Shield International:
This article discusses the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols related to the destruction of cultural heritage in international conflicts. It breaks down the ways destruction of cultural heritage is an international crime, and highlights the gray areas in the language. At the beginning of the fellowship, we discussed Article 53 of the Geneva Convention in the context of the destruction of heritage during the Malian Civil War. However, I never anticipated that we would potentially see the necessity of Article 53 play out in real time during the course of this fellowship. While what is happening in Ukraine can be discussed on many social/cultural/political fronts, I want to focus on the way preservation of heritage has become one of the many unfolding discussions. In the days following the Russian invasion, several different projects and initiatives have cropped up in an attempt to digitally preserve buildings, artifacts, and other heritage objects that are at risk.
Before we even get to the element of digital cultural heritage, I’d like to note how big of a role the digital has played more generally. With social media available to many, information and disinformation has been able to spread like wildfire in a way that has been somewhat unprecedented. The role of Russia in digital misinformation campaigns has been prevalent for almost a decade now–particularly demonstrated through the American election cycles and Brexit. In addition to the physical conflict taking place in Ukraine, there were fears that Russian hackers may take down the digital infrastructure. In fact, on February 26 the Vice Prime Minister and Minster of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted requests for volunteers to join the IT Army of Ukraine:
Many people have jumped at the chance to help Ukraine, both on the level of international governments uniting to bring swift sanctions against Russia and regular citizens across the globe who desire to help those affected by this conflict. However, as some have noted, a desire to help is not always enough. Some people in the West have demonstrated a severe disconnect from what’s happening via misguided memes, art, and think pieces. Contributing digitally has been one fairly easy way for people to engage with a tragedy on the other side of the world, and that has brought its own problems. On February 28, Alix Dunn posted a detailed thread on how having some technical skills and wanting to be involved is not enough:
This thread highlights a variety of issues about jumping into digital projects during a crisis without being prepared ranging from sustainability, to providing sensitive data to the wrong parties, and the issue of trying to build something without a deeper understanding of the situation. Data scientist Dr. Andrew Therriault wrote a similar thread, arguing that the potentially best way to help if you have tech skills is to make more money to donate rather than intervening with some sort of digital initiative that merely leads to more technical debt:
Some experts are also facing lash back for their advice on digitally preserving heritages. For instance, Dr. Sarah Parcak received some fierce Twitter criticism after posting about methods for the 3D preservation of buildings. Dr. Parcak pointed out that she was responding directly to the Ukrainian Minister of Culture’s pleas for assistance, but the responses to her tweet highlight some very important points. In what ways can we save heritage that is under imminent threat? How do we ethically engage with attempts to save heritage when human lives are at stake? Is there ever a truly appropriate time or place for suggestions of documenting heritage as war is waged?
This is not the first time–nor will it be the last–these kinds of questions arise. Of course, these are just the examples that have come across my Twitter feed or been brought to my attention through discussions with my colleagues. The news and discussions will keep coming and the situation will continue to evolve. This blog is in no way a comprehensive look at the discourse around the role of the digital or the risk to cultural heritage in Ukraine. I am not an expert on Ukraine or Russia; nor am I an expert in digital cultural heritage (although I am studying it).
Early today, news trickled out that Ivankiv Historical-Cultural Museum was destroyed. Until the Russian invasion is ended, Ukraine’s people and heritage are at risk, and people will be working to document both this world-changing time and records of the past.
Fortunately, there is work out there that addresses some of these questions and concerns. The Nimble Tents Toolkit–including its discussion of Rapid Response Research (RRR)–has been re-circulating in DH circles since the start of the invasion. According to the homepage, the Toolkit was produced in response to Hurricane Maria and a closely following earthquake to provide emergency responders with better maps. The section on RRR is intended to help scholars determine whether or not the project is wanted or needed as a response to the crisis and the ways in which this work can be done ethically. In a final note on hidden costs of conducting this kind of research, the Toolkit contributors note:
As our experiences show, wading into the waters of public information in moments of crises is a decision that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. First and foremost, it must be done with the safety of affected communities in mind. Researchers must also be aware that this work can be taxing on the spirit. Exposure to high levels of cruelty and injustice, for example, are probably best handled by those who feel prepared to fix their eyes on intimate horrors and still fight on with clarity of mind and a stout will. We urge you to take care of yourself, regardless of the situation, at the same time as you care for others—through the work. (Note adapted from “Textures” inTorn Apart/Separados).
Only time will tell the extent of RRR done in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the quality of the projects that arise out of it. In the interim, there are some digital cultural heritage projects that I’ve seen that I think are worth keeping an eye on:
Data Rescue for Ukraine. Organized by Anna E. Kijas and Francesca Giannetti (Digital Humanities Interest Group, Music Library Association) and Andy Janco (Digital Humanities Interest Group of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies), this event will take place on March 5th, 2022 as a “data rescue session focused on identifying and archiving data and sites for music collections at cultural heritage institutions in Ukraine which may be at risk during the attack and invasion by Russia.”
If you’ve seen any other projects, please do share in the comments.
It feels deeply absurd to bypass the powerful message on the Leaflet homepage to continue working on my map about Stratford-upon-Avon guidebooks while people are frantically trying to digitally preserve the cultural heritage of Ukraine. My next blog post will most likely be about my Bootstrap woes. I will not forget to stand with Ukraine. I will do my best to contribute ethically and responsibly. I will interrogate the various sources of information and the multitude of research projects that come across my screen, and I will continue to do so for the all crises as they arise in the coming days, months, and years.
Back in my November blog post, I wrote about exploring copyright and ownership in digital heritage. In that post, I focused on UNESCO documentation explaining the various policies related to digital heritage. As I promised at the end of that post, I’m following up with a quick look at some articles and essays tied to the topic of ownership, copyright, and patrimony in digital heritage. This is by no means intended as an exhaustive literature review (as I had foolishly suggested before I remembered I’m supposed to be focusing on reading for my comprehensive exams), but I do hope to engage with a couple of examples I’ve encountered through my studies of how these ideas are put into practice.
In her 2015 article “Tribal Archives, Traditional Knowledge, and Local Contexts: Why the ‘s’ Matters,” Kimberly Christen examines the ways in which copyright and Creative Commons licenses do not necessarily meet the needs of Indigenous people when working digitally with Indigenous heritage. She discusses how the Local Contexts project, and particularly the Traditional Knowledge licenses/labels addresses these needs. These labels/licenses can be used in addition to copyright to emphasize cultural nuances alongside the legal elements of copyright. In particular, Christen highlights how important these Traditional Knowledge licenses are, particularly for Indigenous communities. She writes:
Almost all the problems that now exist in relation to intellectual property law and Indigenous cultural materials have their legacies in the uneven and unequal research practices that rendered Indigenous peoples as subjects for research and study, rather than collaborators and owners of the research outcomes and products…Tradition Knowledge (TK) licenses and labels are one practical way to empower Indigenous and traditional communities to define the circulation routes and access obligations for their digital cultural materials.
Tradition Knowledge licenses do the important work of trying to protect cultural heritage materials as they move into the digital sphere. There are a variety of licenses and labels under this system, and Christen demonstrates the workflow that can be followed in determining which one is appropriate for certain heritage objects/practices. While they do not carry the legal weight of copyright, what these labels do is provide crucial context about the digital heritage objects they are attached to, and that context is generated by the community and helps fill in the blanks that copyright does not address or acknowledge.
Christen, along with co-authors Alex Merrill and Michael Wynne in “A Community of Relations: Murkurtu Hubs and Spokes,” further interrogates ways of attempting to ethically engage with preserving Indigenous heritage as digital heritage where laws, Creative Commons licenses, and other methods of legal/formal ownership fail to do so. Christen accompanied members of the Warumungu Aborignal community on a 2002 visit to the National Archives in Australia which demonstrated a situation in which copyright and ownership does not correspond with ethical engagement with heritage. The authors provide a specific example of how layering a digital element onto heritage can further complicate issues of ownership, copyright, and patrimony:
During this visit, the Warumungu expressed both tension and relief when viewing the images and documents held in the National Archives. The tension centered on the violation of cultural protocols observed by Warumungu people in the distribution, circulation, and reproduction of their cultural materials. For example, images of the deceased were displayed online with no warnings; pictures of sacred sites lacked any connection to the ancestors who care for those places; ritual objects were disconnected from their original context. In addition to this archival material, the Warumungu community received thousands of photos from former missionaries, schoolteachers, and researchers. These digitally returned materials posed a challenge because they could be reproduced endlessly, accessed more easily, and distributed without consent or consultation.
In response to these concerns, Christen collaborated with the Warumungu community to create a community-driven digital archive called the Mukurtu Wumpurrarni-kari Archive. The content management system for Murkurtu embeds issues of patrimony into its very design–”traditional owner” is in fact one of the status levels that can be assigned to individuals. Murkurtu also incorporates the Traditional Knowledge licenses described above in order to provide cultural context to archival materials–particularly ones where the copyright is no longer owned by the community. The CMS for the archive is now open source, and the creators hope it can create a new standard for community engaged, ethical digital archival practices for cultural heritage materials.
Obviously, this is just a quick look at two connected instances of attempting to create an ethical framework for understanding and incorporating patrimony over digital heritage that may be overlooked by copyright and legal ownership. However, these case studies can be useful in imaging how, as a field, digital cultural heritage can imagine new ways of developing and creating community involved digital heritage projects while acknowledging complicated notions of ownership that are often skewed by colonialist frameworks.
In my last blog post, I had indicated that I would use this month’s post to continue with my exploration into copyright and ownership in relation to digital heritage; however, I will continue that series in the new year. Instead, today I would like to introduce my fellowship project that I will be working on next semester the (very tentatively titled) Stratford-upon-Avon Affects Map.
This project will serve as a pilot for my larger digital dissertation project involving mapping affect, performance, and cultural heritage in Stratford-upon-Avon. At this phase, the focus of the project will be on data regarding emotions, feelings, and affects as described in guidebooks for the town. As Julia Thomas states in her monograph Shakespeare’s Shrine, “the guidebook constructs a community of ‘pilgrims,’ of visitors linked across time and circumstances in their tours of the same buildings, witnessing of the same scenes, and experiencing of the same emotions” (125). This deep map will not only provide information on theatres and cultural heritage sites as affective spaces, but how the different places that act as sites of performance in a town such as Stratford-upon-Avon can operate as a collective space of memory.
By the end of the fellowship, this project will consist of a website containing an interactive, multimedia map. The map will primarily focus on properties and monuments related to Shakespeare, and each point will include information regarding the expected affect to be produced based on how it is described in guidebooks for the city. There will be an “About” page that provides contextual information about Stratford-upon-Avon, spatial practice, and affect theory and a description of how it connects to my dissertation project. Additionally, there will be a page titled “Future of the Project” outlining next steps. This website will be accessible to the general public. Users will be able to click specific points on the map that are tied to important buildings, monuments, and other cultural heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon. This will pull up information regarding how visitors are instructed to interact with and react to the sites based on guidebooks.
While the primary audience of my project will most likely be other Shakespeare scholars, I am hopeful that this project will speak to a wider global audience. Many people have feelings–whether good or bad–about Shakespeare, and I aim for this project to begin to dissect how Stratford-upon-Avon has been a kind of pilgrimage site used to reinforce bardolatry since the Victorian period. At this stage of the project, it seems unrealistic to expect any sort of audience contribution, but eventually I am interested in coding Stratford-upon-Avon’s various monuments through visitors’ affective responses to these sites.
I’m tentatively planning to build the project in Leaflet, since that is what we used for the last rapid development project of the semester. However, I’m sure the technical side of things will continue to evolve as I attempt to put my idea into practice. I’m looking forward to updating the CHI community on how the project develops over the coming months.
Thomas, Julia. Shakespeare’s Shrine: The Bard’s Birthplace and the Invention of Stratford-upon-Avon. Penn, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.
This year, I am a GA for Humanities Commons, a networking site for humanities scholars. As part of my assistantship, I help clear deposits for the Commons’ non-profit, open-access repository CORE. Over the last several months, I have gained more experience in learning the intricacies of intellectual property, copyright, and ownership. While the Commons’ focus is not specifically on digital cultural heritage by any means, since I’m working with an open-access repository at the same time as I am participating in the fellowship it has made me wonder more about the specifics of copyright and ownership in digital heritage projects. Throughout the fellowship, ownership has been a topic consistently referenced in lectures, but is still one I feel I need to explore further. We have discussed the issues related to ownership of actual physical heritage artifacts and sites, hybrid sorts of projects, as well as born-digital cultural heritage projects; however, it has not been the primary focus as we’ve been working our way through rapid development challenges and familiarizing ourselves with digital methods. In my next couple of blog posts, I hope to take a closer look at copyright and ownership in digital cultural heritage.
UNESCO first adopted its Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage in 2003 as a response to the increase of heritage being created or re-imagined online and the risks associated with changeability of the internet. In this document, under a section entitled “Measures Required,” “Article 6, Developing strategies and policies” reads:
Strategies and policies to preserve the digital heritage need to be developed, taking into account the level of urgency, local circumstances, available means and future projections. The cooperation of holders of copyright and related rights, and other stakeholders, in setting common standards and compatibilities, and resource sharing, will facilitate this.
However, this is the extent to which the document references copyright/ownership. Of course, one could defer to the guidelines that more generally refer to world heritage, but it brings up interesting questions about distinguishing a physical or tangible object/artifact/etc. from a digital copy or representation. In this instance, it seems that the focus is placed on the cooperation of the copyright holder of the initial heritage object, and it makes me wonder how this fits in with the rights and restrictions on the creator of the digital object.
Member States are encouraged to periodically review copyright codes and legal deposit regimes to ensure they are fully effective, with limitations and exceptions, for preserving and accessing documentary heritage in all its forms…
This point seems fairly broad in scope, which is perhaps good when it’s trying to encompass such a vast body of artifacts and sites, but what does it mean for heritage/artifacts/objects that might cross accepted borders and boundaries? Whose copyright laws are followed? Perhaps this fits in with other policies/guidelines outlined elsewhere.
Additionally, in the “National and International” section, which is where I went after considering the above questions, it is suggested that:
Member States are invited to facilitate the exchange between countries of copies of documentary heritage that relate to their own culture, shared history or heritage, and of other identified documentary heritage, in particular due to their shared and entangled historical nature or in the framework of the reconstitution of dispersed original documents, as appropriate, which has been the object of preservation work in another country. The exchange of copies will have no implications on the ownership of originals.
This idea of exchange is particularly interesting to me, especially considering complicated histories of heritage being dispersed through colonialism. What does a framework for ethically sharing digital heritage look like? How might this complicate notions of repatriation (or how has it already)–will institutions view the sharing of digital copies as enough? I definitely want to familiarize myself with these policies further, and I’m interested in reading case studies where issues related to these points have arisen.
Although things may change, I’m considering focusing my next blog on a brief literature review of research related to the handling of copyright and ownership in relation to digital cultural heritage to see if I can further understand the nuances of these issues.
Last week, the CHI fellows cohort started our second rapid development project. We are building a project pitch website based on our “Project Version Document” from the first challenge (see Micayla Spiro’s post for more on that project!). For our site, my group decided to revive the Museum of London’s London Wall Walk that was launched in the 1980s. The original Wall Walk consisted of plaques providing information at twenty-one different places along the London Wall, and we proposed to incorporate a QR code at each location to allow the public to access records of artifacts from the area of the plaque that are housed in the Museum of London collections. This idea came from a desire to incorporate a digital component to an outdoor activity so we could further explore methods for developing a more hybrid approach to digital heritage.
In lectures for the fellowship, we have explored a variety of hybrid examples of cultural heritage initiatives. Some of these include The Engine Shed’s augmented reality map and the National Museum of Finland’s interactive timeline. In many cases, this allows users to digitally mediate their interaction with a physical space. While these examples were primarily what inspired our idea for reviving the Wall Walk with a digital component, we also discussed smaller scale hybrid heritage initiatives such as Museum in a Box that made us consider ways of bringing collections to the community rather than bringing them to the collections.
In my research, I’ve been working on exploring the ways in which affective responses to cultural heritage sites can be represented digitally. This rapid development project has made me consider whether my problem has been trying to divorce the physical sites from affect. I have been trying to decide how to represent affect digitally on a map; however, I now wonder if it might be better to focus on representing affect digitally in a physical space. If my argument is focused on demonstrating the affective resonances at cultural heritage sites, perhaps I should investigate a more hybrid approach to incorporating the two.
Last year for an independent study on digital humanities, cultural heritage, and affect, I came across Jessica Hoare’s article for the International Journal of Heritage Studies titled “The practice and potential of heritage emotion and research: an experimental mixed-methods approach to investigating affect and emotion in a historic house.” Hoare used tools such as heart monitors to measure participants’ affective responses to a cultural heritage site. Here, the digital intervention was to measure response to a physical space and collect and collate data. I had originally considered incorporating affect into my research in a similar way; however, now I wonder if I can move away from translating the physical to the digital to creating meaning in a physical space through the use of digital tools.
Based on a combination of these ideas, I’m wondering about incorporating “data visceralizations,” as described by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein in their open-access book Data Feminism, into physical heritage sites. I may still need to collect affective data, but I’m curious to explore examples of locating data in a place and developing it into an experience rather than something purely visual. I’m looking forward to exploring this idea further throughout the fellowship.
My name is Katherine Knowles, and I am a member of the CHI Fellows cohort for the 2021-2022 academic year. I am a third year PhD student in the English department here at MSU, and I am also pursuing the Digital Humanities Graduate Certificate. Previously, I have worked at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a Researcher and Project Manager in the IRIS Digital Humanities Center. Although I’m only in the comprehensive exam stage of my program and things may still change, my dissertation is tentatively titled “Bodies as Space: Imagining Place and Producing Heritage through Shakespeare’s Plays.” I received my MA in Shakespeare Studies from the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute in 2016, and I received my BA in English and Music from Hanover College in 2015. My research interests include early modern drama, cultural heritage, and affect theory.
As a scholar of early modern drama and performance, my work interrogates how affect is produced and maintained at theatre cultural heritage sites. I am interested in performance spaces; with artists and audiences not just enacting everyday life, but a curated performance of texts important to cultural memory that adds a new layer to spatial practice. Stratford-upon-Avon has become a popular site of performance and a space of cultural memory by reimagining the town as Shakespeare’s childhood home and how that would have impacted his writing, despite the fact he never wrote in Stratford. The famous cultural heritage industry that has defined the town for over a century is not necessarily a perfect recreation or representation of Shakespeare’s childhood in the town, but rather a construction of how the Victorians (and many people since) have imagined Shakespeare. Thus, the town has been transformed into a space of shared cultural memory through people’s interaction with the place. It is a produced space developed through the affective response of the people who pass through both the cultural heritage properties and through the town’s theatre.
By participating in the CHI Fellowship, I hope to develop a set of skills that will help me develop a method for representing affect digitally and provide the basis for a digital project that will serve as a chapter of my dissertation. Additionally, this fellowship will help expand my experience outside of the English department to more specifically operate within a framework distinct to cultural heritage. I hope to someday work in a heritage institution related to literary heritage and performance, and I believe that the CHI program will help me articulate the importance of the interaction of tangible and intangible heritage and attempt to represent this important synthesis digitally. This fellowship will not only provide me with practical experience in developing a digital project designed for engaging with the public through cultural heritage, but also in a way that is mindful and encourages ethical research practices.
The ultimate goal of this project is to find ways to develop a visualization that will convey the affective atmospheres of these locations in Stratford-upon-Avon rather than merely provide artifacts that can be experienced visually. By layering affect onto visualizations, those who interact with them also take in the information as it is mediated by the emotions and also in physiological ways outside of seeing. In mediating the history of these places digitally, I hope to develop a project that will represent the changes in the affective atmospheres throughout times as different bodies–including a multitude of gender identities, BIPOC, and disabled bodies–are allowed access to these spaces in ways that were historically unthinkable. The shared stories, memories, and heritage of these spaces are much more than their physical locations, and this project will demonstrate how these elements are constructed. Currently, I imagine this project developing as a deep map of the affective atmospheres of these places. Users will be able to see how these sites all connect across space and time to develop a complex and nuanced narrative of the theatrical cultural heritage of Renaissance England.
Of course, as I work my way through the fellowship my project ideas will most likely change. I look forward to comparing this first blog post with my final one to see how things evolve throughout the year.