Virtual Middletown

The Virtual Middletown Living Museum project in Blue Mars is a simulation of the Ball Glass factory from early 20th century Muncie, Indiana. Life and conditions in the factory were one of the key elements of the Middletown Studies by Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd in their landmark studies Middletown (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937). . . .

This simulation of industrial life, built as a prototype for a much larger project dealing with all aspects of the Lynd Study, has aimed to create an virtual living museum experience expanding the opportunities for both learning and interpretation. The approach to interactive design embeds learning and navigation experiences subtly into the project to maintain the sense of immersion. IDIA has prototyped several techniques to do this including: interactive objects that allow for close up inspection; objects that when clicked bring up web resources that show information; plans or photographs used in the interpretation; non-player character factory workers, a live interactive avatar of Frank C. Ball who greets visitors and introduces them to the factory; video and audio files of factory experts and archival films; an in-world interactive Heads-Up-Display (HUD) that provides deeper investigation and navigation through the factory; and a supporting webpage with complete documentation on all resources used in this interpretation.


The Declassification Engine

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“The enormous growth in the number of official documents – many of them withheld from scholars and journalists even decades later – has raised serious concerns about whether traditional research methods are adequate for ensuring government accountability. But the millions of documents that have been released, often in digital form, also create opportunities to use Natural Language Processing (NLP) and statistical/machine learning to explore the historical record in very new ways. Historians, journalists, legal scholars, statisticians, and computer scientists are joining together to determine whether novel statistical/machine learning methodologies can accelerate the declassification process, or at least help illuminate the broad patterns of official secrecy. Challenges we will consider include: Attributing authorship to anonymous documents; Characterizing attributes of redacted text; and Modeling spatial and temporal patterns of diplomatic communications.”

History Harvest

History Harvest

History Harvest is an open, digital archive of historical artifacts gathered from communities across the United States. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of History partners with institutions and individuals within highlighted communities to collect, preserve, and share their rich histories. Advanced undergraduates lead the History Harvest project and curate and digitize these artifacts and stories. We believe that our collective history is more diverse and multi-faceted than most people give credit for and that most of this history is not found in archives, historical societies, museums or libraries, but rather in the stories that ordinary people have to tell from their own experience and in the things – the objects and artifacts – that people keep and collect to tell the story of their lives. The History Harvest, then, is an invitation to local people to share their historical artifacts, and their stories, for inclusion in a unique digital archive of what we are calling the “people’s history.””

NYPL Labs: Building Inspector

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 10.27.47 PMIs it an exhibit? Is it a game? Is it crowdsourcing? Is it creative? Is it a timesuck?


NYPL Labs, the digital innovation department of the New York Public Library, has recently released Building Inspector, a project that almost defies definition. Users are invited to help spot check a new computer program designed to read the outlines of buildings in old maps of New York City. What exactly a visitor learns is a up in the air, but one is immediately drawn in by the intuitive, user-friendly design and addictive assessment of a computer program. Regardless of whether a visitor learns something about New York City’s past, however, the project ultimately will help NYPL Labs refine its new GIS program and enhance the geotagging and metadata it can apply to its maps.

A project worthy of praising, and trying to figure out.

The Civil War on the Western Border

The Civil War on the Western Border, 1854-1865 collects in one site over 20,000 pages of documents from over 25 different archives from across Missouri and Kansas that cover one of the bloodiest theaters of the American Civil war.

In addition to the documents, however, The Civil War on the Western Border also provides a number of interactive guides with which to interpret its archive. Maps and timelines allow visitors to situate the documents, while an innovative “Relationship Viewer” visualizes the  networks of a document’s author, subject, and location. The Viewer allows users to make connections between people, places, and events that may not be readily apparent, while also allowing the project team to make the most of its metadata.

The Civil War on the Western Border is a project of the Kansas City Public Library.

Virtual Paul’s Cross Project

VPCThe Virtual Paul’s Cross Project recreates the sermon John Donne prepared to deliver at Paul’s Cross in the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Tuesday, November 5th, 1622, accompanied by the sounds of the crowd and the ambient noise of bells, birds, dogs, and horses.

The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project enables users to experience the delivery of a public sermon in early modern London as an event that unfolds over time on a particular occasion and in a specific physical location.  Digital tools, customarily used by architects and designers to anticipate the visual and acoustic properties of spaces that are not yet constructed, are here used to recreate the visual and acoustic properties of spaces that have not existed for hundreds of years.  These tools enable the creators of the site to integrate the physical traces of pre-Fire St Paul’s Cathedral with the surviving visual record of the cathedral and its surroundings to create a visual model of the Cathedral and its churchyard. They also enable us to experience a historically faithful interpretation of Donne’s preaching style, based on contemporary descriptions of his capacity to engage his congregations imaginatively and emotionally and to delight them with his wit.

Locating London’s Past

Locating London’s Past provides an intuitive GIS interface enabling researchers to map and visualize textual and artefactual data relating to seventeenth and eighteenth-century London against John Rocque’s 1746 map of London and the first accurate modern OS map.


The project was carried out in a four step process.

First, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) created geo-referenced versions of John Rocque’s 1746 map of London and the 1869-80 Ordinary Survey map.

Second, place names in all the datasets (except the archaeological datasets of clay pipes and ceramic shards which were already geo-referenced) needed to be linked to the indexed place names on the maps. The Old Bailey Online and London Lives datasets, consisting of XML tagged files, contain approximately 1.7 million tagged place-name instances (including variants). The Centre for Metropolitan History’s structured datasets included 65,000 place-names identified from the Hearth Tax, and from the Bills of Mortality. Using theGeocoder, specific coordinates were added to all identifiably individual place names in all these datasets, excluding place names that could not be disambiguated, at the most specific level possible (street, ward, parish, city).

Third, to enable per-capita statistics to be compiled, population data were compiled for all of London’s parishes. See Estimating London’s Population.

Fourth, a new web-based user interface was created using a Google maps container. The design and layout of the site were produced by Mickey & Mallory on the basis of wireframes produced by the project. The interface allows data retrieved from all four main project datasets plus demographic data to be mapped as layers onto the 1746 Rocque map, the 1869-80 OS maps, and Google maps. The GUI (Graphical User Interface) and mapping environment use a Google Maps API (Application Programming Interface) and open source AJAX-style data display techniques. Small, discrete web APIs were developed for each dataset which enable the mapping service’s GUI to query, retrieve and visualise data items. The APIs are written in Java (server-side) with client-side communication using RESTful HTTP standards.

Chart Ex: The Medieval Charter Excavator

The ChartEx Project is developing new ways of exploring the full text content of digital historical records. The project will demonstrate its approach using medieval charters which survive in abundance from the 12th to the 16th centuries and are one of the richest sources for studying the lives of people in the past.

The ChartEx consortium is an innovative partnership between historians, archivists, and experts in computer science and artificial intelligence from Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

Charters record legal transactions of property of all kinds: houses, workshops, fields and meadows and describe the people who lived there. Long before records such as censuses or birth registers existed charters were and still are the major resource for researching people, for tracing changes in communities over time and for finding ancestors.

The new ChartEx tools will use a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Data Mining to extract information about places, people and events in their lives from the charters automatically and find new relationships between these entities.

The project will then build an interactive “virtual workbench” that will allow historians, archivists and others interested in charters to explore the information extracted and add further information and comments.

This workbench will enable researchers to really dig into the content of the records, to recover their rich descriptions of places and people, and to go far beyond current digital catalogues which restrict searches to a few key facts about each document.

Black Loyalist


Black Loyalist is a repository of historical data about the African American loyalist refugees who left New York between April and November 1783 and whose names are recorded in the Book of Negroes. In this first stage, the site concentrates on providing biographical and demographic information for the largest cohort, about 1000 people from Norfolk, Virginia and surrounding counties.

Revolutionary Newspapers

Beginning in 1765, and continuing over a dozen years, Harbottle Dorr, Jr., a merchant and a member of the Sons of Liberty, collected, annotated, and indexed newspapers and pamphlets. He wrote that he sought “to form a political history” and arranged his collection into four volumes. The Massachusetts Historical Society has now made his collection available online in a wonderful new resource.

Dorr was well-versed in the heated politics of the day and he annotated many newspaper pages with his opinions, cross-references to articles elsewhere in his collection, and sometimes noted the identities of anonymous contributors to the newspapers. Dorr also systematically indexed the contents of his collection, writing 4,969 index terms on 133 index pages. Digital images and electronic transcriptions are available for Dorr’s handwritten index pages.Search Dorr’s index to his collection of newspapers and pamphlets.