A digital humanities project focusing on ancient Syrian material culture has received a 2020 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant.
The SYRIOS Project: Studying Urban Relationships and Identity Over Ancient Syria, led by Kristina Neumann, PhD, assistant professor of Roman/digital history, and Peggy Lindner, PhD, assistant professor of computer information systems at University of Houston, was awarded a grant in the amount of $98,095 under the agency’s Digital Projects for the Public program, which supports digital projects (websites, mobile applications, games, and virtual environments) that significantly contribute to the public’s engagement with humanities ideas.
The funds will allow Neumann and Lindner to fully develop a prototype of the interactive online exhibit exploring the history of ancient Syria through coin distribution.
“We are absolutely ecstatic to receive this award,” Neumann said. “Our project seeks to communicate how seemingly lost histories of the ancient past can be recovered through everyday objects and modern technology. Considering the continuing destruction of artifacts and sites within Syria, we also hope to educate a wide audience about the importance of preserving not only the objects themselves, but also the place and context in which they were discovered.”
The UH Libraries Digital Research Commons (DRC) has helped facilitate this project since 2018 through its Sponsored Projects program which offers grants for digital research projects at various stages of development. The DRC cultivates interdisciplinary research and builds communities of practice around digital research methodologies.
“This kind of work is only possible through interdisciplinary, cross-campus collaboration and the integration of students into faculty research,” Neumann added. “We were tremendously supported both financially and intellectually by the DRC from the very beginning of this project.”
“We are delighted that Peggy and Kristina’s work has received the recognition that it very much deserves,” said Claude Willan, director of digital humanities services in UH Libraries Digital Research Services. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to be involved in the development of their work. Theirs is the first of our stable of sponsored projects to secure outside funding so as to be able to grow.”
Taylor Davis-Van Atta, director of the DRC, added, “This marks a significant milestone for any digital project, and for UH Libraries in its effort to strengthen support services for interdisciplinary research across campus. This couldn’t have happened without the collaboration and expertise of our Libraries colleagues in Liaison Services, Special Collections, and Library Technology Services. We are thrilled for Peggy and Kristina, and that our digital projects are advancing. This achievement marks the next step for our growing culture of digital research at UH.”
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.
The SYRIOS Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this digital exhibit do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
University of Houston Libraries Digital Research Commons (DRC) invites all UH graduate students to submit an application for participation in the Spring 2021 Digital Research Institute, a three-day intensive experience aimed at building the foundational skills and knowledge needed to generate a piece of digital research.
The Institute will take place virtually over three days of Spring Break, March 15-17, 2021. It is aimed at graduate students who are in the beginning phases of digital research that is intended to form the basis for part of an article or a thesis/dissertation. The 4-6 students who are best positioned to benefit from the experience will be offered a seat in the Institute along with a $250.00 scholarship, provided by the UH Graduate School, to be delivered after successful completion of the experience.
Participants will be expected to attend all three days of the Institute plus a one-day “Getting Started” workshop to be scheduled on a Friday approximately two weeks prior to the Institute. Participants will be assigned individualized pre-work and readings that will give them the theoretical and conceptual grounding needed to undertake the work of the Institute and exit the experience with the tangible beginnings of their digital research as well as next steps. Over the Institute, they will attend 3-5 sessions per day delivered by librarians and other digital research practitioners, each targeted at building their technical skills and offering individualized mentorship.
To apply, fill out this form by Friday, January 29, 2021, 11:59PM.
Questions? Contact the staff in the Digital Research Commons: firstname.lastname@example.org
Criteria for acceptance: The application review committee aims to accept 4-6 applicants for participation in the Institute. Applications will be evaluated based on candidates’ clarity of purpose and intent, and how they hope to benefit from the Institute experience. Preference will be given to applicants who clearly illustrate how the Institute will enhance and further their research ambitions while at University of Houston. The review committee will strive to represent a variety of perspectives, disciplines, backgrounds, and levels of experience in its selection process.
Application submission deadline: Friday, January 29, 2021, 11:59PM
Acceptance notifications issued: Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Confirmation of participation: Monday, February 15, 2021
Tentative “Getting Started” workshop: Friday, February 26, 2021, 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Digital Research Institute: March 15-17, 2021
University of Houston Libraries welcomes Elizabeth Irvin-Stravoski as the first manager of the Digital Research Commons (DRC).
Please describe your role at UH Libraries and talk about some of your professional goals.
I will be administering the Commons and helping the Digital Research Services department build and expand DRC offerings. I will also be assuming the management of the UH Institutional Repository, including processing electronic theses and dissertations.
Please share a bit about your background and interests. How do these inspire and shape your approach in digital research?
I graduated from UH in ’19 (Go Coogs!) with a master’s degree in English literature and a certificate in digital humanities. I hold a standard Texas Teacher’s certificate for ELAR 7-12 and am also a licensed practical nurse. These life experiences, together with a focus on medieval literature during the pursuit of my degree, have fostered a curiosity in the intersection of the medical advances (or lack thereof) of an era, together with the literature it produces. Digital research provides the methods to consider such an intersection in excitingly thorough and unique ways.
Please summarize a few of your current projects.
My primary focus is to transition from public school teaching to managing the DRC, and all that that entails. However, I am very interested in revisiting/revising a project from my graduate student days, in which the literature of the 14th century is analyzed using digital methods—from a medical practitioner’s standpoint—for its relevance and relation to the Black Death.
What is your favorite hobby?
I hope it isn’t too cliché to say that my favorite hobbies would be reading and researching/learning about new and interesting things across a wide spectrum of topics. If I had to pick one topic or genre, I would say I most enjoy reading historical fiction, for the wealth of independent research opportunities it provides. I’m currently reading Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings series, about the 14th century French monarchy and lauded by George R.R. Martin as “the original Game of Thrones.”
A digital humanities project featuring a dynamic presentation of ancient Syrian material culture is now available online.
The SYRIOS Project: Studying Urban Relationships and Identity Over Ancient Syria is a digital exhibit focusing on narratives of the Syrian capital city of Antioch-on-the-Orontes. The proof-of-concept release guides users through interactive stories of the region built from coins, texts, and other material culture.
Kristina Neumann, PhD, assistant professor of Roman/digital history, and Peggy Lindner, PhD, assistant professor of computer information systems at University of Houston, are leading a multi-year, interdisciplinary project that began as a study in visualizations from a database of 300,000+ coin finds. The researchers noted the topic drew attention in and outside of academia, and pursued an approach that holds implications for both scholarly and public interest, with the ultimate goal of preserving knowledge of the ancient Middle East through new digital methodologies, and facilitating public engagement with contemporary issues of Syrian identity and heritage.
In its first phase, the SYRIOS exhibit is the culmination of experiments in design, interactivity (such as animated text and parallax scrolling, 3D scans, digital visualizations, and virtual simulations), and usability. “Especially innovative is our sortable digital coin pile and our 3D annotated coin,” Neumann said. “We also go well beyond traditional online archives and catalogs by narrating ancient stories with coins, texts, and other artifacts from Syria.”
Users are able to view new research in the form of thematic narratives based on coin, archaeological, and textual evidence about political, economic, religious, and archaeological histories of Antioch; and explore coin evidence as pieces of art and as objects that move, including a series of Tableau maps presenting archaeological data, an illustrated Omeka catalog of all known types of coins minted at Antioch, and a dataset of coins excavated at Antioch, which users can download to explore their own applications of the material.
Future iterations of the exhibit will feature content and design enhancements, and expansion to include the histories and material culture of other cities within ancient Syria.
This project is made possible by funding from the UH Libraries Sponsored Projects program and by expertise from the Libraries’ Digital Research Services, Liaison Services, Special Collections, and Library Technology Services departments.
University of Houston Libraries Digital Research Commons staff will be available for office hours every Friday during the Fall 2020 semester through November 20. Researchers at all levels are encouraged to bring their questions about digital humanities, data management, and scholarly publishing to the virtual DRC during the following times:
11:00am – 12:00pm with Dr. Claude Willan, Director of Digital Humanities Services
Research Data Management
12:00pm – 1:00pm with Dr. Reid Boehm, Research Data Management Librarian
1:00pm – 2:00pm with Taylor Davis-Van Atta, Director of the Digital Research Commons and founding publisher of Music & Literature: a humanities journal
Access virtual office hours
All sessions are accessible through this Zoom link (no password required). You may be added to the Zoom Waiting Room and admitted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Questions? Contact us.
University of Houston Libraries Digital Research Services (DRS) and Digital Research Commons (DRC) invite UH faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows to submit proposals for sponsored digital research projects to run for the calendar year 2021. DRS collaborates with researchers on projects involving digital techniques across the humanities, social sciences, and experimental sciences.
DRS seeks teams or individuals, experts and novices alike, who have a project that they would like to develop. This can either be a project that is already underway or one not yet begun. While prior knowledge of digital tools and techniques is welcome, it is not required. DRS works with researchers to help them organize their information, analyze it, and produce compelling results.
DRS will offer grants at three levels, designed to address projects at different levels of development. The first level, designed to help projects at the seed stage of development, will offer funding up to $3500. The second, designed to develop projects that have already made demonstrable progress, will offer funding up to $6500. The third tier, designed to foster projects at a planning stage, will offer funding up to $1000, and focus primarily on producing a polished application for federal or external grants.
Proposals are due by November 6. For more information on how to submit your proposal, visit Sponsored Projects Program Overview and Documentation.
University of Houston Libraries is pleased to announce the establishment of a new endowment to support the LGBT History Research Collection.
The Hollyfield Foundation Endowment will provide funding for the acquisition and preservation of primary source materials in the LGBT History Research Collection, one of 13 collecting areas in UH Libraries Special Collections. The collection preserves and promotes the archives of LGBT communities and organizations from Houston and the region. Materials, including personal papers, organization records, and library collections, document the communities’ activist, cultural, social, and political activities, and the personal experiences of community members.
Through its support of LGBT and AIDS non-profits, the Hollyfield Foundation has made a substantial positive impact on local LGBT communities since its inception in 1994. The Houston-based organization contributes to charities that work to prevent discrimination, promote equality, and assist in HIV/AIDS education, care and treatment.
“Jay Hollyfield deeply loved Houston and our LGBT community and history,” said Elizabeth McLane, Hollyfield Foundation board president. “The Hollyfield Foundation Board of Directors is thrilled that his name will now be linked perpetually to one of the nation’s most extensive and exceptional LGBT history collections.”
In recognition of this grant, UH Libraries will establish an annual exhibition of materials from the LGBT History Research Collection, to be held at MD Anderson Library during June each year as part of Pride Month.
Marilyn Myers, interim dean of UH Libraries, said the endowment supports the Libraries’ mission to preserve and provide access to unique primary sources for teaching, learning, research, and scholarship. “This endowment will allow UH Libraries to expand the LGBT History Research Collection and increase engagement with students and scholars,” Myers said. “With this gift, we’ll be able to make accessible a rich collection of primary source materials to those seeking an understanding of the history and legacy of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities.”
Engineering librarian Edward Gloor will host open hours for UH engineering students each Thursday of the fall 2020 semester. Beginning September 17, 1 – 2 pm, engineering students are encouraged to access the Microsoft Teams space (log in with Cougarnet credentials). Gloor will be available to help you start your research, find sources, and organize your research.
University of Houston Libraries Liaison Services provides expert knowledge for your academic and research needs. Learn more about Liaison Services.
Thanks to a Texas State Library and Archives Commission TexTreasures grant funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), over 100 reels of microfilmed archives documenting women and underrepresented communities in Texas visual arts will be digitized and made accessible online.
The Texas Art Project is an extensive collection of visual arts history preserved at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) library. Between 1978 and 1985, MFAH contacted artists, galleries, and arts organizations across Texas to document unique manuscript papers and research materials on microfilm, as part of the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art (AAA). The project yielded nearly 700 reels, a subset of which featured materials from women artists, artists of color, and galleries that hosted them. This subset is the focus of the TexTreasures grant which allowed University of Houston Libraries Special Collections and MFAH to collaborate on the digitization of approximately 150,000 images, previously available only in a limited, localized capacity in microfilm at MFAH. Digitized images of materials such as correspondence, exhibition catalogs, reviews, and publications will become openly available online with multiple points of access, thereby facilitating scholarship and research using unique primary sources.
“When these materials were gathered on microfilm at the MFAH as part of the AAA, it was a tremendous gift as far as preservation,” said Marie Wise, managing archivist at MFAH. “We are so fortunate that these rich materials were preserved as they were. In digitizing them and creating searchable metadata, we are now making them accessible to a far broader audience. In this way, scholars and students can uncover this amazing history.”
Contributions from women artists and artists of color are underrepresented in scholarship and public awareness, making this project particularly relevant in today’s social climate. “The goal of the digitization project is to provide a resource for scholars, students, and teachers to be able to engage with the lives and work of these artists,” said Christian Kelleher, head of UH Special Collections. “We want to boost awareness and appreciation for that work. We want to see that students are educated on archival research and critical inquiry, and that scholars are able to produce new knowledge based on unique primary sources preserved here.”
Wise noted that the project is about expanding accessibility through institutional partnerships. “By working together, we can make the collective art history resources in Houston and in Texas more discoverable,” Wise said. “The stories that are held in our respective archives are interwoven, and we all want the fullest historical picture possible preserved and studied. The MFAH is very glad to be a partner in this project.”
An important part of the project involves the support of student success. Two graduate students in arts-related fields were hired to assist in indexing and cataloging the collection, research each artist, and contact each artist.
Lysette Portano, a professional contemporary dancer and one of the project’s graduate assistants, is enrolled in the MA in Arts Leadership program in the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts at UH. “As an interpreter, I have always been curious about artists’ creative processes,” Portano said. “This drive has led me to research and experience different art forms. I became interested in this project because it uncovers artists that reshaped the Texas art scene and preserves the legacies of their contributions to the arts.”
Carolann Madden, a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at UH, was drawn to the project for similar research interests in folklore and ethnography. “It’s important for us to understand “archives” as places, both physical and digital, where we can find a wide array of material,” Madden said. “The material on the reels is incredibly valuable and exciting, and should be shared. While this project was proposed and started before the pandemic, watching our archives and libraries close around the world served as a meaningful reminder that digitization not only helps preserve material in our archives, but also offers access to it wherever we are.”
TexTreasures is a yearly competitive grant program of TexShare, a consortium of Texas libraries joining together to share print and electronic materials, purchase online resources, and combine staff expertise. TexShare is administered by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).
The TexTreasures awards are made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to TSLAC under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act. The mission of IMLS is to advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development.