What do you get when you cross archives and artifacts with timelines, modern and historical maps, and an appreciation for the interpretive aims of humanities scholarship?
Neatline is suite of tools for the creation of beautiful, complex, hand-crafted maps and narrative sequences from collections of documents and objects: http://neatline.org/. It also allows users to connect interpretive maps and interlinked texts with timelines that are more-than-usually sensitive to ambiguity and nuance. Interactive stories designed in Neatline become a scholar’s, student’s, or curator’s interpretive expression of a given archival or cultural heritage collection — and multiple interpretations can be layered over a single collection. In other words, Neatline exhibits are contributions to humanities scholarship, in the visual vernacular.
With the support of the National Endowment for the Humanties and the Library of Congress, the Scholars’ Lab at UVa Library designed Neatline as a set of plugins for Omeka, which provides a powerful, open-source platform for content management and web publication. This allowed the Neatline team to concentrate on conceptual and aesthetic aspects of geo-temporal exhibit-building. Project director Bethany Nowviskie will frame a discussion of opportunities for Neatline-based scholarship in terms of problems of scale: the decision to focus on “hand-crafted visualization” and “small data” (rather than on large-scale, algorithmic placement of information on maps and timelines); and the shift in software development plans from the creation of a stand-alone tool to a modular approach. Lead developer David McClure will share exhibits he has developed and offer a demo.
Bethany Nowviskie is Director of Digital Research & Scholarship at the University of Virginia Library, Associate Director of the Scholarly Communication Institute, and President of the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH). In addition to leading the ACH, she is a steering committee member for centerNet (the international organization of digital humanities centers) and MediaCommons, and chair of the MLA‘s Committee on Information Technology. At UVa, she represents the Library on the General Faculty Council.
David McClure is the Web Applications Specialist on the Scholars’ Lab R&D team. David graduated from Yale University with a degree in the Humanities in 2009 and worked as an independent web developer in San Francisco, New York, and Madison, Wisconsin before joining the lab in 2011. David is working on the Omeka + Neatline project and pursuing research projects that explore the idea that software can be used as a tool to inform, extend, and advance traditional lines of inquiry in literary theory and aesthetics.