The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture

The Newberry Library

Newberry Library’s Transcribing Faith

There’s been some great Scalar projects coming out of libraries and archives recently. People are finding innovative ways to showcase, annotate, visualize, map, and tell stories about archival material. We’ll be highlighting some of that work on our blog in the coming months.

We’d like to start with a couple use cases from the Newberry Library where Jen Wolfe, Digital Initiatives Manager, and Matt Krc, Digital Initiatives Librarian, have been using Scalar to great effect.

The first is an elegant research guide for a collection of Italian Religious Broadsides held at the Newberry, some 154 pamphlets printed in Italy between 1611 and 1697. As a research guide to archival holdings, the project highlights both the physical features of these artifacts and their social context while also calling out specific potential scholarly uses: particular topographical designs for historians of print and iconography for art historians; the nature of patronage for social historians and the use of poetry for literary scholars.

At each juncture the reader can also, if enticed, dive down into the full archive itself. One can also download the full archive as a pdf as well as the full OCR and metadata record for the entire collection, both in .txt and XML formats.

Image Gallery from Newberry’s Creating Shakespeare

A bit more expansive Creating Shakespeare, is an online companion to a physical exhibit of the same name which ran at the Newberry Library from September 23 to December 31, 2016. The exhibit gathered together a stunning array of material from the Newberry’s own collections as well as from the British and Folger Shakespeare Libraries. The exhibition included copies of Shakespeare’s own works; the books, manuscripts, maps, and objects he encountered in his life; and material by actors, writers, printers, artists, and filmmakers who sought to re-create Shakespeare in the 400 years after his death. The hope was to preserve this extraordinary array of material in digital form so it could live on past the physical exhibition itself.

As an online exhibit, Creating Shakespeare doesn’t just replicate and preserve its physical counterpart; it constructs an exhibit that is both readerly and interactive, both narrative and archival. Using material from the collections in stunning page layouts within Scalar, the online exhibit tells the story of Shakespeare’s life and works, his reception in the American (and in particular Chicagoan) theater, and in popular culture more generally. However, the online exhibit also offers readers a comprehensive interactive timeline through the material as well as a visually striking gallery overview of the collection as a whole.

Pages from The Book of Magical Charms in Transcribing Fath

Finally, the folks at the Newberry Library have had great success with a crowdsourced transcription project utilizing Scripto (developed at the Center for History and New Media) but built in Scalar. The Newberry is home to over 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period and among these collections are three manuscripts dealing with magic. The Commonplace Book and The Book of Magical Charms each have Latin and English sections. The Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft, published in 1693 by Increase Mather, an influential Puritan minister who administered the Salem Witch Trials, is in English only.

A page from the Book of Charms

The project, Transcribing Faith, offers scans for each of the pages in these volumes and asks its readers to transcribe and translate their content – the help, as the project describes it, “unlock the mysteries of these texts.” Within just a few weeks an extensive portion of these volumes had been transcribed and translated by users. This project, and the three manuscripts at its center are part a venture at the Newberry Library, Religious Change: 1450-1700, which explores the relationship between print, reading practices, and religion during the early modern period.

There are a number of other exciting digital initiatives happening at the Newberry, un-related to their work with Scalar. Among them include Polygots, an interactive exploration of complex page layouts contained in polygot Bibles from the 16th and 17th centuries and the Newberry’s Open Data Challenge, a chance to work with the OCR and metadata for some 35,000 pamphlets (850,000 pages) from the Newberry’s French Revolution Pamphlet collection.

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