A $250K NEH grant supports Drew’s effort to revolutionize the way we experience the humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Drew a grant of almost $250,000 to continue its work on DM, a digital tool used to compile, interpret and share archival images and texts.

DM is among the latest advances in the emerging field of “digital humanities” that is changing the nature of scholarship in history, literature and language, and the arts. Digital tools, such as DM, enable scholars to assemble and analyze materials in ways not previously possible and promote a communal approach as scholars can more readily share their work.

Associate Professor of Computer Science Shannon Bradshaw, who is spearheading Drew’s DM research along with Associate Professor of English Martin Foys, plans to use the NEH funding first to explore personal and group information management within DM. Then, the researchers will look at how it can be used to share that information with other users.

“As we look to the next two years of research, one of the problems we will address is information dissemination—which essentially asks how users of DM can produce a resource for others that clearly conveys what has been found,” Bradshaw says. “We’ll look at several publication strategies ranging from narrative data visualization to full Web sites produced out of DM with the click of a button.”

Drew’s DM project began with funding from the NEH in 2009-10 and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2011-12 to connect digitized copies of medieval maps with texts from the period.

DM has since grown far beyond Drew, with scholars at the British Library, University of Toronto, University of Oxford and California State University at Chico adopting the open source DM tool to study a variety of medieval manuscripts. Professors Bradshaw and Foys are also part of a team at Stanford University that is pushing the boundaries on the way research materials and tools “interoperate” in the digital realm.

The recent NEH grant enables Drew to continue design and development work needed to make DM even more user-friendly. In addition, the grant supports Drew’s partnerships with other scholars, such as the Virtual Mappa project with the British Library to create an online collection of annotated historic maps that would be available for broader educational use. Bradshaw says the funds are also being used to support two new positions for student-researchers, who will join the seven undergraduates who have previously contributed to the project.

“Students participating in these projects explore current research in user interface design, the Semantic Web, search, and other areas of information management,” Bradshaw says. “They build complex software systems and learn the software development life-cycle — and they do it all as part of an interdisciplinary team.”–Barbara Price

Learn more about DM and the ways in which it’s being used. partnerships.