Category Archives: People

Digital Medieval Studies

I talk about creating my DH capstone project.

I talk about creating my DH capstone project.

How DH Has Helped Me Make Sense of My Field

Early in my graduate studies, when I took the Digital Humanities Colloquium at Boston College, the professor had us read a series of definitions of “the Digital Humanities” to introduce us to the scope of the work we might be doing. Many of these definitions rightly focused on interdisciplinarity, computational analysis, multimedia pedagogy and scholarship, and the need for an umbrella term to encourage institutional support and funding. One definition, however, continues to resonate with me as it is particularly germane to my own field of medieval studies: “[u]ltimately, what sets DH apart from many other humanities fields is its methodological commitment to building things as a way of knowing.” This emphasis on DH as primarily a methodology of building things clarifies what I can do with DH. When conceptualizing a new DH project, I begin by asking myself, “what am I hoping to build to help me know something new about this topic?”

Often, the answer to that question has something to do with the materiality of the topic. As a translator in medieval studies, I have spent untold hours poring over manuscripts and textual editions, navigating the webs of cramped handwriting spilling across pages and the matrices of the apparatus criticus. Text encoding, the DH work I have done with such manuscripts, has given me a deeper insight into the physicality of the scribal tradition and allows me to represent the complexity of the folios. Because DH prioritizes the creation of new material, I get to know the material culture of my field more closely than I might have otherwise.

This digital methodology of “building” gives me a different way of knowing the content and the context of the material I study. Both formats, manuscript and XML file, have their affordances for marking intertextual material, line breaks, section headers, etc., and the painstaking encoding process creates an intimacy with the text, which more traditional humanistic scholarship may not allow. In many ways, the detailed encoding (done in an XML file) feels like the practice of copying a manuscript, and the final result visually complements the original folio.

DH methodologies ask me to think about the medieval world in a new way, demanding that I consider how to transfer the technology of the manuscript into digital technology. As I build a digital manuscript of my own, I can almost see through the lens of the scribes themselves how they constantly referred back to their source text to produce a faithful copy. Digital humanities offers a new entry point to the field and literally allows me to continue the tradition I study, and it doesn’t hurt that the end result is really cool, too!

Manuscript viewer built from the XML file above through Edition Visualization Technology v. 1.3. This work-in-progress provides multiple nodes of engagement with both the manuscript and the text itself.

Get to Know BC’s Digital Scholarship Team: Stephen Sturgeon

I am the Senior Digital Scholarship Librarian & Bibliographer for English at the Boston College Libraries, and it’s tempting to describe my role in this position inaccurately: one part traditional specialist specialist and library liaison (collection development, research consultations, reference instruction), another part digital project manager that calls for a different, higher-tech set of skills and knowledge. As convenient as that division is, and although it does exist to some extent, more often than not my day-to-day activities involve finding or creating a seam between the two sides.

What digital tools can a class of undergraduates use to turn an online collection of American immigrant correspondence transcriptions to their best advantage? What metadata standards will most accurately represent the physical realities of primary source materials whose surrogates are in a digital archive? Can Natural Language Processing show us something previously hidden about the nature of authorship in circumstances where authorial collaboration was the norm and not an exception? Do user license restrictions attached to monographic e-books in the humanities make sense for the majority of library patrons who confront them? These are some questions for which a deep knowledge of content isolated from a dexterity with digital platforms will not provide adequate answers.

That said, most of my experience is as a literature subject specialist, and so I do (at the moment) tend to enter these questions from a consideration of content, the text that a question or project has made come into play. But my outside-of-the-library activities as a teacher (early modern British poetry), textual critic (British modernism), and writer (mostly poetry), the various ways I interact with and make texts, keep my curiosity vigorous and generate questions to think about inside the library. What most interests me currently is how web tools like Voyant and Wheaton College’s Lexos, and more advanced programs like Stanford’s CoreNLP Toolkit, can lead us into new directions of close reading.

Get to Know BC’s Digital Scholarship Team: Sarah DeLorme

This post was written by Sarah DeLorme, Digital Services Assistant.

I have recently joined the Boston College Libraries team as the Digital Services Assistant. In this role, I am able to work with student employees to provide access and support for patrons utilizing the resources available in the Digital Studio. I give software assistance to those using the studio space, or refer them to other knowledgeable staff members. Additionally, I support Digital Scholarship initiatives by participating in outreach activities and exploring open source technologies.  

Prior to coming to BC, I worked in circulation at the Newton Free Library and also spent time working on a digital scholarship project at Northeastern University. I am passionate about digital humanities tools because of their scope and versatility, and I enjoy having opportunities to collaborate across different areas of study. My research interests are focused on accessibility, user experience and design, and it is my aim to connect people with digital resources that they can feel confident about using.

Sarah DeLorme ,”The Crystal Planet” (2016)

I have a background in fine art and design, and I spend most of my free time painting and maintaining my digital portfolio. I especially enjoy illustrative art, and hope to someday have my work published in a children’s book. Most of my paintings are done in traditional media, but I am currently learning digital techniques and exploring creative software—especially options that are open source! Other activities that I enjoy include baking, traveling and tending to my houseplants.

Aerial view of sea cliffs beside Dún Aonghasa, Inis Mór, County Galway

Get to Know BC’s Digital Scholarship Team: Chelcie Rowell

Chelcie hikes in Pilot Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Trailside on North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain.

This tutorial was written by Chelcie Rowell.

In January I joined Boston College Libraries as Digital Scholarship Librarian and History Liaison. This hybrid positions draws upon both functional and subject expertise. As a functional specialist in digital tools and methods, I co-create with members of the Boston College community as they develop digital projects related to research and teaching. As a subject specialist for history, I build the library’s history collections, consult with history faculty and students on their research, and lead research sessions within history classes. At any moment you may find me acting as project manager, connector, translator, consultant, or coach. I perform many roles because collaborative (digital) research and teaching take many shapes depending upon the aspirations and expertise of team members.

Before coming to BC, I was the Digital Initiatives Librarian at Wake Forest’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library, where I oversaw the digitization of rare and unique materials, as well as working closely with faculty and students on digital projects. At Wake Forest my responsibilities spanned back-of-house and front-of-house. Coming to BC was an opportunity to turn my orientation fully outward, engaging deeply in digital scholarship and pedagogy within the context of a particular discipline.

Outside of work, I walk as often as I can, with or without a destination. For me, walking is an experience of embodied thinking. My most memorable walks have traced human & geological landmarks depicted by Tim Robinson’s deep map of Ireland’s Aran Islands.

Header image: Chelcie Rowell, aerial view of sea cliffs beside Dún Aonghasa, Inis Mór, County Galway. CC BY 4.0.

Eric Fischer, Locals and Tourists #14.

Get to Know BC’s Digital Scholarship Team: Sarah Melton

Cat sitting next to a box of cannoliI’m the Head of Digital Scholarship at Boston College, but I’m new to the Boston area. I came to BC in September 2016 from Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship, where I was the digital projects coordinator. While at Emory, I had the opportunity to work on a number of publicly-engaged digital projects, and I’m thrilled to bring that experience here to BC. My academic background is in public history, and I’m especially interested in how we can make scholarship more accessible to wider audiences.

To that end, I’ve worked on a number of open access, open source, open data, and open educational resource advocacy initiatives. I’m a member of the Open Access Button team, an app to provide instant, legal access to research and data. I have a special interest in open scholarly publishing—if you’re at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute this year, I’ll be offering a free workshop on digital publishing in the humanities!

When I’m not at work, I’m exploring Boston’s cannoli and craft beer scene, herding my two cats away from said cannoli, watching professional wrestling. (Sometimes unsuccessfully, as pictured here.) I’ve also taken up knitting as a way to get through the New England winter and am seriously considering learning the sport of curling.

Header image: Eric Fischer, Locals and Tourists #14: Boston. CC-BY-SA.

Get to Know BC’s Digital Scholarship Team: Anna Kijas

My role at Boston College Libraries is as a Digital Scholarship Librarian, but I also have degrees in piano literature and performance and musicology. I focus on music criticism and reception of marginalized women musicians/composers during the 19th through early 20th centuries. I also explore, write, and present about how we can better understand or analyze musicians lives, repertoire, and reception through the use of digital tools.


Plainte! 1re. élégie, op. 17 | Teresa Carreño (National Library of Spain)

I am naturally curious and enjoy a hands-on approach to learning, which may be why I am drawn to digital humanities and digital scholarship work. This interest grew out of my own research interests in musicology. While researching the career of Teresa Carreño (1853-1917), Venezuelan pianist and composer, I became interested in discovering ways to document her career through the use of open access and open source tools in order to curate and visualize the impact of her musical career. This interest led me to experimenting with a variety of content management systems, GIS applications, text analysis and visualization tools, which you can read about on my blog.

My background in humanities and own work in musicology enables me to bring a practitioner’s perspective to my approach in working on digital scholarship projects or initiatives with faculty, students, and staff at Boston College. I believe that one of the core building blocks in digital scholarship projects is (meta)data and that process is just as important as the final product.

Header image: Map of Carreño’s early concerts between 1862-1865. CC-BY-NC.