Conversation Toward a Brighter Future Spring Summit

This article about our Conversations spring summit highlights the work of some amazing students and teachers in Madison County.

Digital Storytelling Internship

This semester, IRIS intern Christal Sampson investigated ways to create digital storytelling projects with a variety open source software. For her final project, Christal created this digital story about her upcoming graduation from SIUE. Check it out here:  

Wide Wide World Updates

Sarah Burt and I have been scanning the many different copies of the novel in order to upload the paratext (everything not included in the text of the story itself) onto the website. We have scanned many books on the book scanning machine, nicknamed Bertha, and have many more to go. We also learned to take field notes of these books, which involves detailed observation. Ben Ostermeier has taught us, and continues to teach us, the basics of all the programs needed to upload our pictures onto the server and the website. Katie Knowles and Kayla Smith are renaming the items (paratext) we have uploaded, in order for users to locate them easier on the website. All the members meet with Dr. DeSpain each week to go over our weekly and overall goals.

Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Illinois

Starting in August 2016, the Department of Historical Studies launched “Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive of Madison County” to inform the community about the history and culture of Madison County, Illinois, provide an authoritative and accessible resource for students, genealogists, scholars, and other persons interested in Madison County, Illinois, and to create a framework for ongoing documentation of Madison County history by providing a user-friendly digital collection of historically significant documents and oral histories. The site has already published encyclopedia entries, oral histories, and an exciting collection of artifacts. Steven Hansen, Jeff Manuel, and Jason Stacy of the Department of Historical Studies edit Madison Historical. In 2016-2107, Nichol Allen, Jessica Mills, Jim Parrill, and Lesley Thompson-Sasso serve as research assistants on the project. Ben Ostermeier works as the (all-important) technology developer. Madison History invites members of the community to: Write an encyclopedia article: If you are an expert on some aspect of local history, please share your passion with readers by writing an encyclopedia article. We welcome articles on all aspects of Madison County history, including significant people, buildings, or events. Articles are typically 500-1500 words and are vetted by our editorial board prior to publication online. To submit an article or ask about a topic, please email Share digital copies of historical materials like old photographs or letters: We are building a digital archive of the county’s historical photographs and documents. We invite you to share digital copies of your old photographs and documents via our digital archive. We scan the materials and upload them to our web site. You keep the originals and get a digital copy for free! To share materials or discuss what you have, please email Share memories with an oral history interview: Madison Historical shares personal histories of the county through oral history interviews. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for an interview, please let us know. Better yet, if you conduct the interview yourself we can preserve and share it in our digital archive. To discuss oral history interviews, please email us at Written by Dr. Jason Stacy  

Digitally Editing Walt Whitman’s Aurora Editorials

Walt Whitman was a journalist for over fifteen years before he wrote Leaves of Grass.  While his journalism has been published in various books for almost 100 years, editing Whitman’s journalism for print has been problematic for a couple of reasons. First, much of Whitman’s journalism was published anonymously, and therefore it is often difficult to identify what is by Whitman and what isn’t. In this regard, scholars have had to rely on contextual evidence, or Whitman’s own memories (or those of his contemporaries) to identify what might be Whitman’s and what might not. This leads to a second problem of editing Whitman’s journalism for print: there is always a need to update the scholarly record. For example, in just the last six months, Zachary Turpin, a doctoral student at the University of Houston, discovered a lost journalistic series on men’s health of over 45,000 words that Whitman wrote in the fall of 1858. This book-length series remained unknown to scholars of Whitman’s journalism for an entire century and requires us to rethink what we know about Whitman as a journalist. With new journalism always coming to light, printed collections of Whitman’s journalism are in a constant danger of becoming obsolete. On the other hand, digital editing and online publication allows for a more flexible medium where newly discovered work can be easily incorporated into an existing framework. The Walt Whitman Archive at the University of Nebraska has begun the long and laborious process of digitally editing Whitman’s journalism and has already published four series by Whitman from the 1840s and 1850s, “Sun-Down Papers” (1840-1841), “Letters from a Travelling Bachelor” (1849-1850), “Letters from Paumanok” (1851), and “New York Dissected” (1856), as well as an impressive collection of the poet’s Civil War journalism. The Archive‘s most robust holdings of Whitman’s journalism, however, are its issues of the New York Aurora, which Whitman edited in the spring of 1842. Previously, these issues only existed in print and were housed at the Patterson Free Library in New Jersey. Now, however, scholars and students have access to Whitman’s editorials in the Aurora online. Over the past year, students in my Antebellum American History course (HIST 326), my five URCA students, Thad Marshall, Andrew Pashea, Lucas Reincke, Nolan Shan, and Amanda Kapper, and graduate students Samanthe’ Braswell and Jacob Byers, have helped me begin the process of transcribing, annotating and encoding Whitman’s editorials from the Aurora, which will make them fully-searchable on the Walt Whitman Archive and provide useful historical annotations to help make sense of the names and events that fill these one-hundred-and-seventy-five-year-old documents. Currently, we have prepared about 40 of the 120 editorials that Whitman wrote for the Aurora in the spring of 1842. The Archive will publish these editions from the Aurora in the summer of 2017.

Antebellum American History (HIST 326), Spring 2016

Written by Dr. Jason Stacy    

IRIS Student Profile: Sarah Song’s Work on the Manang Languages Project

Hello, my name is Sarah Song and I am a Junior Business Administration major with a specialization in Human Resources. My time as an Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) student with Dr. Kristine Hildebrandt this Fall has been an influential experience. Though not related directly to my major, I felt that my work with the Manang Languages Project would provide me with a valuable skill set that I could easily translate into the business administration world. My primary tasks this semester were to properly format and complete grammatical edits for Nepali language recordings captured by Dr. Hildebrandt and her research team during their time in Nepal. These minuscule, sentence-by-sentence edits, helped me to take a closer look at the details that make up another language, and, through that, another culture. Knowing that my work is a part of a greater goal to preserve this language for others to research and appreciate, makes each tiny edit worth it. I’m learning that a successful business model involves creating a connection with people first and foremost. As I spent time with the language, I was able to feel a kind of connection with the Nepali people and, through my work, I will also be able to provide the opportunity for others to form connections and use these recordings for their research. Communication is another important component in the business administration world and language is one tool we use in order to communicate our ideas. Having the opportunity to explore the structure of a new language helped to broaden my perspective on effective communication in different cultures. I also had the opportunity to work with technology in a new way. This semester I learned how to use tools such as: Elan, Toolbox, and Dropbox.  Working on this project has allowed me to explore a new culture, discover new digital tools, and think about different ways to use my business administration background.

Upcoming Omeka Update: A post from student, Ben Ostermeier

For about 4 years now, the Wide, Wide World Digital Edition has used the Omeka web publishing platform. We have not, however, kept up with the updates to the Omeka software, as more recent versions configure the themes and database differently. The newer version has grown increasingly tempting, as it both allows for more flexibility in creating exhibits and has a built in responsive design, meaning the website will be viewable on smaller-resolution phones and tablets. Thankfully, my growing expertise in web development has given me the confidence to attempt the update. Already, I’ve made a few minor tweaks to the websites theme this past spring, but now we’re heading for larger update to the latest version of Omeka. Thus far, I have made a newer theme compatible with the latest version of Omeka that is also responsive. Under the guidance of Dr. DeSpain and the fellow members of the project, I’ve based the theme on a prototype design for the website along with the current version. Check out the comparison below:

This is an old prototype of the website theme


This is the current theme


This is a prototype theme for the new version of the website

I’m not yet done with the theme. It is likely I will replace the blue-green book cover with a red one to tie it to the color scheme. I will also possibly add a subtle texture to the background. Still, look forward to that update sometime soon.

The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House and the IRIS Center

Howard Rambsy II

Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House As part of my work with the Institute for Urban Research, I received a small grant to begin scanning hundreds of photographs documenting activities of the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, a social service organization in East St. Louis. The organization began in the early 1900s, and the photographs span much of the 20th century. When I first received the batch of photo albums, I was excited about the possibilities. Early during the Fall semester of 2014, I met with SIUE’s metadata librarian Mary Z. Rose and then Digital Imaging Specialist Virginia Stricklin to get a sense of direction and guidance on how I might approach organizing and labeling the digital files. I was almost ready I thought, but I was concerned that I might not have a place on campus where my graduate student Jeremiah Carter could devote the necessary time to scan the documents. IRIS Center to the rescue. Kristine Hildebrandt gave Jeremiah and me a brief lesson on utilizing the equipment and software that would relate to our current project. Later, after Jeremiah and I had a couple of strategy sessions on his approach, he set about the task of scanning documents. Each week, during the Fall semester and over the first month when we returned, Jeremiah spent hours in the IRIS Center scanning and producing notes and preliminary metadata for the images. So far, we’ve expanded a collection of photo albums into more than 500 scanned images with corresponding images. And there’s much more to do. Next up, we’ll have to transfer and label slides. We also want to figure out how to utilize some of the items for public humanities programming. The IRIS Center will serve as a vital space and base for our preparations and next steps.

The Gyalsumdo Language Archive: Have a Look!

Dr. Kristine Hildebrandt and URCA Assistant Tiffany Downing have been working to upload and encode content and also technical and thematic metadata for several transcribed and translated videos of the Gyalsumdo language, a highly endangered variety of the Tibetan language spoken in central Nepal. KAH_TD These videos were recorded by SIUE Geography professor Shunfu Hu (with help from Dr. Hildebrandt’s fieldwork team) in the summers of 2012 and 2013 in Nepal. These videos will be permanently stored, and publicly available in a special archive at the University of Virginia’s Tibetan and Himalayan Library, specifically from their SHANTI platform (Sciences, Humanities and Arts Network of Technical Initiatives).gyalsumdo Dr. Hildebrandt plans to archive with THL and SHANTI similar materials from three other languages of the same region of Nepal: Manange, Gurung and Nar-Phu.

Exploring Nationality Through Landscape Illustrations

My research project, “Exploring Nationality in the Illustrations of Nineteenth Century Transatlantic Landscapes as a Part of The Wide, Wide World Digital Edition,” is in full swing. The project, made possible through the URCA Associate program at SIUE, is working to analyze illustrations depicting landscape found throughout the more than 150 versions of The Wide, Wide World. The illustrations and their placement in the text vary widely due to the novel’s publication during a time when there was no international copyright law between Britain and the United States. Publishers in both countries were free to alter the text and its illustrations with little to no restrictions, resulting in forty-seven sets of variant illustrations and over fifty different versions of the text. The illustrations include depictions of landscape ranging from pastoral ideal, such as the illustrations of Mr. Van Brunt tending his flock, which first appeared in an 1853 James Nisbet, Sampson Low, Hamilton, Adams, and Co. reprint (see below), to unkempt wilderness, such as the illustration of Ellen and Alice caught in a snow storm as they are searching for Captain Parry, which first appeared in an 1888 J. B. Lippincott Company reprint. Throughout the project, I will be attempting to connect those representations to issues of nationality as I analyze the ways reprinters chose to portray and position the landscape, which will help to explain how segments of the population defined British and American identities between 1850 and 1950. Reprinters were aware that their readers would come from both Europe and the United States and that issues of nationality could not be ignored; the illustrations of landscapes they chose to include in their versions of the novel helped to define what it meant to be an American man, woman, Christian, and child. The illustrations depicting landscape also present an opportunity to analyze the impact of sentimentalism, broadly defined as the power of feelings to serve as a guide to moral conduct, as a political and cultural movement during the nineteenth century. Specifically, sentimentality becomes of great importance when looking at the illustrations of Alice and Ellen on the Cat’s Back as these particular illustrations pair the emotions of a distressed Ellen and the comforting presence of Alice with the open, sometimes rugged, often sublime landscape of the mountain. Emotion, and its ability to influence the reader, is here paired with the developing ideas of landscape in America, which helped to link the nation to ideas of emotional and spiritual awareness. My work with the project is currently focusing on theories of nationality, landscape, and spatial relations, as well as working with the digitized versions of the illustrations to prepare them to be placed in galleries in the project’s Omeka site. This includes working extensively with Dublin Core, a controlled set of standards and vocabulary used on the website to describe each item, in order to provide thorough descriptions of each illustration. Once this step is completed, I will move on to analysis and to the creation of the galleries, which will include sub-galleries on watery expanses, American and British landscape, and character interactions in landscape. The sub-gallery on watery expanses will focus specifically on illustrations of ships crossing the ocean (see below), and the brook, a location made important through a scene in the novel that describes how Ellen attempts to cross and ultimately falls in after losing her balance, both of which become important when analyzing transatlantic relations. The sub-gallery on American and British landscapes will look at illustrations depicting landscapes from both countries in order to analyze the ways publishers from America and Britain were choosing to portray each nation; this will lead to conclusions about how each country was attempting to define and influence nationality, which will allow us to understand the development and refinement of nationality in America and Britain. The final sub-gallery will focus on illustrations that include representations of character’s interacting with each other and with the landscape. The movement and interaction of these characters will provide an opportunity to analyze the ways in which publishers were seeking to define Americans’ and Britons’ place in and development of nature. Jennifer Roberts Project Participant URCA Associate

Mr. Van Brunt Tending His Flock

Ship at Sea