Tag Archives: digital humanities

Spring 2016 Workshop, Digital Lab Series: Exploring HathiTrust

Spring semester has started, and several extra-curricular activities and workshops are being launched at Rutgers. One that might be particularly interesting for graduate students in Comparative Literature  is the Digital Lab Series, hosted by Rutgers Libraries and sponsored by the Digital Humanities Initiative at Rutgers.

The first workshop was held on January 20, at Alexander Library. Titled “Exploring HathiTrust Digital Library” and conducted by Melissa Gasparotto, librarian at Rutgers specializing in African, Latin American Studies & LGBTQ Studies, Spanish & Portuguese, the workshop was meant to introduce students and scholars to HathiTrust, a repository of over 13 million digitized books. Launched in 2008, HathiTrust is a collaborative project involving several research institutions, libraries, and universities from North America, Australia, Spain, and Lebanon (Rutgers has recently joined it). Although English remains the most represented language, comparatists can find precious material in many other languages. Furthermore, the overall high-quality and precision of full-texts and metadata, as well as the immediate availability of books that used to be accessible only trough microfilms, make the collection a true gold mine of research material.

HathiTrust Languages

During the workshop, Melissa Gasparotto illustrated different search functionalities: HathiTrust offers basic full-text or catalogue searches and more advanced instruments of text retrieval. Language, format, time period are only few of the multiple categories available to users, who can combine them using Boolean expressions. Although some material is subject to copyright, hence not fully accessible (in these cases only metadata can be consulted), the possibility to download full-texts (when available) differentiates HathiTrust from similar projects, such as Google Books. Being able to download rare, if not unique texts, in PDF format, is not the only interesting functionality HathiTrust offers. Members can in fact build their own collections and eventually share them. They can also access collections built by other scholars who have decided to make them public.

HathiTrust, in fostering collaborative work by making available large collections of documents, can be a very powerful resource for literary scholars, both from a quantitative and a qualitative perspective. In the next workshop, on January 26, Francesca Giannetti will focus on how to develop more complex analyses of documents and will explain how to produce data visualizations by using the algorithms provided by the portal.

Librarian Francesca Giannetti shares research and DH recommendations

By: Gabriel Bamgbose

If you enjoyed the article on Digital Humanities at Rutgers, you can learn about DH resources as well as other research suggestions from librarian Francesca Giannetti.

The digital humanities librarian and librarian for the departments of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature, Francesca Giannetti, has an eclectic educational background—a BA in French and Art History from Case Western Reserve University, a degree in Vocal Performance from the École Normale de Musique, Paris, and an MS degree in Information Science from the School of Information at the University of Texas, Austin. Among other roles, Giannetti offers trainings and workshops on digital humanities, digital tools and qualitative techniques in research, computational methods, and scholarly communication. Libraries are doing a lot of work in the area of instructional design: working with faculty to create new courses, design assignments, transform existing courses, and incorporate pedagogical theories for effective learning. These tasks put Giannetti in partnership with faculty, students, and researchers. Again, Giannetti works with subject specialists for the development and implementation of strategies for digitization of resources, preservation, and metadata.


Giannetti was motivated to become a librarian because research and academic libraries unite all her interests. Moreover, she is a lover of books which makes working as a librarian fulfilling for her. She was a graduate research assistant in the Fine Arts Library at the University of Texas, Austin, where she worked with the Historical Music Recording Collection. She was a teaching assistant at the School of Information and a technology services intern in Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. She was also the acting Music Librarian in the Fine Arts Library before joining Rutgers.

Giannetti generously shares some library and research resources that are very useful. For library resources, she always tend to point to the libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) when people ask for suggestions of library resources for graduate-level scholarship, since these collections are what make the libraries unique. There are many unstudied works there and consequently many opportunities for publication. Learn about the manuscripts collections here: https://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/libs/scua/manuscripts/manuscripts.shtml and the rare book collection here: http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/libs/scua/rare_books/rare_books.shtml. She informs that not everything in SCUA is cataloged. Thus, she recommends that people should not hesitate to ask if they have a specific interest.

Scholarly communication is an important part of academic life and career. Giannetti recommends a useful tool for this purpose: SOAR – http://soar.libraries.rutgers.edu/

“SOAR gathers, and makes available globally via the internet, scholarly articles deposited by Rutgers faculty, doctoral students, and postdoctoral scholars.” The interface was developed as a response to the university’s Open Access Policy, in effect as of September 1, 2015. Participation is without cost, and there are a number of advantages to the author, including user statistics, shareable links to your work, and a single repository where all of your scholarly articles are accessible.

Furthermore, there are other RU library services for researchers. These include consultation and training on digitization, digital preservation, copyright and licensing, citation management, among others – http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/services_researchers

Again, Giannetti shares these resources for starting points in digital humanities: DH research guide –

Comparative Literature research guide also gives a brief overview under “Topics” – http://libguides.rutgers.edu/c.php?g=337394&p=2505189

Lisa Spiro’s “Getting Started in Digital Humanities” –http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/getting-started-in-digital-humanities-by-lisa-spiro/

For mapping projects and spatial humanities, Giannetti recommends Neatline (http://neatline.org/), a mapping plugin to Omeka, a digital publishing platform. Both of these are free and open source. Neatline, Bethany Nowviskie says, is “a geotemporal exhibit-builder that allows you to create beautiful, complex maps, image annotations, and narrative sequences from collections of documents and artifacts, and to connect your maps and narratives with timelines that are more-than-usually sensitive to ambiguity and nuance.” Neatline is the one of the best applications for modeling ambiguous spatial data, so common to the humanities, but there are many other mapping applications that are free or have free tiers.

As text analysis is a very vital aspect of studies in literary studies, these two introductory tools are suggested for text analysis: Voyant (http://voyant-tools.org/ or try new http://beta.voyant-tools.org/) and HathiTrust Research Center SHARC tools (https://sharc.hathitrust.org/). Both are free to use and offer a number of views into your texts. Voyant allows you to upload your own texts, whereas the HTRC only supports computational analysis across the volumes in the HathiTrust Digital Library which holds about 4 million public domain volumes. A workshop will be offered on the HTRC tools in the spring.

Moreover, Giannetti shares some of her favorite digital libraries, which are non-RU open access libraries. Europeana, a portal to Europe’s greatest cultural heritage collections and research libraries, can be assessed here: http://www.europeana.eu/portal/

Digital Public Library of America, ibid for the United States, is available here: http://dp.la/

PennSound, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, is a digital collection of poetry readings, lectures, happenings, and more: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/ This contains mostly English language poets, but see the new page on Italian poetry: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Italiana.php

Francesca is always there for anyone who needs help with library and research resources in one way or the other. She leaves the final note: “The idea I mostly want to convey is that the libraries do a lot of great work to enhance the impact of Rutgers scholars, including faculty and students. Our librarians in general, and I in particular, are here to support your research needs. So don’t hesitate to send an email [Francesca.giannetti@rutgers.edu], drop by or give me a tweet @jo_frankie.”

Digital Humanities at Rutgers and Beyond

By: Lidia Levkovitch

Digital Humanities is a field at least as broad and as loosely defined as, well, the humanities of non-digital kind. The opening celebration for Rutgers Digital Humanities Lab took place on October 29th at Alexander Library. The Lab itself is a modest space with a conference table and five iMac workstations loaded with fascinating tools going by arcane sounding (at least to me) names such as “R”, “QGIS”, or “Gelphi” (tutorials are available at the DH page at the library.  However, the Digital Humanities initiative is, of course, about much more than space and software. At the October event, the word “community” could be heard a lot, and as scholars from various fields introduced their projects in brief talks, the enthusiasm in the room was palpable.

The talks, by researchers from several Rutgers programs, showcased the sheer vibrancy of the field. Dr. Samantha Boardman (American Studies, Rutgers-Newark) demonstrated pedagogical applications for digitized oral histories of African Americans who came to Newark during the Great Migration in 1910-1970: undergraduate students collaborated with professional artists on creating exquisite glass books based on the stories while graduate students learned about summarizing and indexing oral histories and developed undergraduate curricula. Another digital preservation project presented at the event is still under way; it is devoted to making images of Roman coins from the Ernst Badian collection available online, with each coin photographed at seven different angles. Such cutting edge applications as data mining, geospatial mapping, and network analysis were represented in several talks, one of them by Dr. Andrew Goldstone (English, Rutgers – New Brunswick), from whose Literary Data seminar several enthusiastic students were in attendance.

As is frequently the case with humanities, the conversation often extended beyond technical matters. Thus, Dr. Andrew Urban’s (American Studies, Rutgers – New Brunswick) talk about his work studying exclusion of Asian Americans in the 1950s touched on the importance of responsible curation of online content, such as unattributed historical photographs that often propagate, their provenance forgotten, from one website to another. Problems such as this one is perhaps as important a motivating factor for joining the elusively defined “DH community” as the need to meet people who might help one make sense of programming tools like “QGIS” or  the “R” that, intimidatingly, does not stand for “Rutgers”.

It may be worth noting, in closing, that at the annual convention of ASEEES (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies), from which I have just returned, the roundtable on Digital Humanities was by far the most popular session among all that I have attended. In a rather unusual development for ASEEES, with its forty or so panels running in parallel, the room did not have enough chairs for scholars in all things Slavic, Eastern European and Eurasian who wanted to become part of the digital action. When the organizers passed around a low-tech notebook collecting addresses for the e-mail list, I signed up. As far as I could see, so did everybody else.