New digital humanities program is funded by NEH, Folger Shakespeare Library and the Mellon and Delmas foundations.

July 2016 – A dozen Drew University students are working with professors on seven different projects as part of the new Digital Humanities Summer Institute.

Prof. Louis Hamilton, who started DHSI, works with students on a rare book exhibition.
Professor Louis Hamilton works with students on a rare book exhibition.

Three of the projects will debut during the display of Shakespeare’s First Folio at Drew in October. The others range from building an asset map for Orange, N.J. to creating a geographic database of ancient Roman temples. The work is funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Folger Shakespeare Library, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

The Institute is comprised of digital humanities project teams—some just a student and a professor, others slightly larger. Although the groups work independently, they come together weekly to collaborate and help one another.

“Instead of seemingly disparate projects, we’ve discovered that we share methods and problems,” said Comparative Religion Professor Louis Hamilton. “It has been going extremely well.”

Students also study in New York City at sites such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Historical Society, New York Public Library and the Morgan Library and Museum.

Comparative Religion Professor Louis Hamilton was confident he could help launch the Institute after hearing about the array of digital humanities projects already underway on campus. Funding was pooled and independent research groups came together under the single banner of DHSI. “Instead of seemingly disparate projects, we’ve discovered that we share methods and problems,” Hamilton said. “It has been going extremely well.”

Students and faculty work one-on-one, focusing on digital humanities
Students and faculty work one-on-one.

The other participating professors are Emily Hill, Kesha Moore, Susan Rosenbloom, John Muccigrosso and Kimberly Rhodes. Hamilton said the chance to work “really in-depth and solve problems one-on-one with students” is his favorite thing about DHSI and teaching at Drew.

The projects 

With Hamilton’s help, Hayat Abdelal C’17, Samantha DePierro C’19 and Shayna Miller C’19 are developing an exhibit called, Will and the Word: An Exhibition of Drew’s Rare Book Materials and an Interactive Map of Shakespeare’s London that will debut during the Folio visit. Rare books such as a hand-painted copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) and a first printing of the Book of Common Prayer (1549) will be featured in the exhibit.

Students will connect themes and ideas in these books—which were contemporary in William Shakespeare’s time—to themes and ideas in the Bard’s plays. They’ll also create an interactive map that blends modern satellite imagery with a 16th century map of London.

Solving problems, working collaboratively
Solving problems in small groups

“I’m so happy I got the opportunity to do this,” said Abdelal, who is majoring in comparative religion and history and minoring in photography. “It feels like you’re touching history and you’re also contributing to the narrative of these books.”

DePierro agreed, adding that the small groups of DHSI have been more student-driven than a typical semester course.

As part of Will and the Word, Assistant Professor Emily Hill of the computer science department is working with Jennifer Benedict C’19 and Rebecca Filetti C’19 to analyze Shakespeare’s use of different English translations of religious books like the Bible in his plays.

Another exhibit, Richard III on Page and Stagefrom Rhodes, who teaches art history, and Caitlin Shannon C’19—will display rare materials from Drew Library related to the performance of Richard III during the last few centuries.

Projects are more “student-driven” than typical classroom setting
Projects are more student-driven than in a typical classroom setting.

Shannon is researching actors who have played the title role. Among her more interesting finds? A pair of six- and eight-year-old American girls who graced the stage in the 19th century. So, a book featuring illustrations of the child actors will be featured in the exhibit.

Working on a public display has been fulfilling for Shannon, who said, “You feel your work is important. It’s not just for a class. A lot of different people are going to see this.”

In the course of the project, Shannon has developed new digital and research skills. “It has been really rewarding to work with Caitlin and see the classroom expand,” Rhodes said. “She been all-in. It has been great.”