Category: Uncategorized

Around DH in 80 Days

Around DH in 80 Days” is a Jekyll site made to collect interesting Digital Humanities projects from around the world and share them with a larger audience in an accessible and interesting format. The title is a play on Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days,” and once a day for 80 days, a new Digital Humanities project was shared through an RSS feed, a summary and link were posted on the website, and a dot was placed on a map to show where the project was from.

Projects came from all around the world, highlighting how integral the internet is to sharing and finding projects in the budding field of Digital Humanities despite language or locational barriers that might exist in other more traditional formats.

The website also benefits from being a Digital Humanities project over another form of humanities project because the RSS feed and blog format kept users coming back each day to check on the new Digital Humanities projects. This kind of suspense and anticipation for new content would be difficult to create in a book – one could just flip to a random page and see a new Digital Humanities project. Also, interacting with the projects would be cumbersome in a traditional humanities format – having to type a long website address from a book could be enough of a deterrent to turn users away from delving further into the Digital Humanities projects described.

The dots on the map are interactive – clicking them directs the user to the blog post from that location. This provides multiple ways for users to scour the different Digital Humanities projects – chronologically, locationally, or by selecting the projects with interesting titles in the list of all the projects (what the website calls “The Full Journey”).

 

The blog posts themselves are quite straightforward. The day out of 80 that the project was posted on is followed by the project’s title and the actual date the post was published. A brief summary of the project is provided with either a copy of the projects own description, an editorial description, or sometimes with quotes from the authors of the projects after being reached out to for a statement. There are always links to the projects, hyperlinks to related texts when appropriate, and credit is given to the member of the “Around DH in 80 Days” team who found the project and wrote the summary.

The descriptions are interesting enough to hook the reader into clicking through to the project’s website and browsing around a topic they have likely never heard of or even considered before. The large amount and wide variety of projects presented here practically guarantees that any user will find something new and interesting.

 

In class we have talked about discrimination in the field of Digital Humanities and we watched a clip where a woman stood up for gender discrimination at a Digital Humanities convention. We have also read several pieces about the importance of categorization and representation of minorities/misrepresented groups in the humanities and in Digital Humanities. Around DH in 80 Days shows the power of the internet to increase the publicity of different nations and peoples, and how the internet can be utilized by Digital Humanists to share culturally specific information to the world. This is important for ensuring that everyone’s stories can be told and found by others who can learn from or make use of their information. In my opinion, a more connected world is a more accurately informed world and thus a better world for all.

The website itself could be more interactive and aesthetic, but in the about section the website states that it decided upon a Jekyll website specifically because it is a “simple, blog-aware, static site generator” that would make the website download faster in countries where internet bandwidth might be an issue.

From the intent of the project to the prominently displayed map to its core programmed functionality, the idea of making projects from around the world accessible to the entire world is very well executed and quite admirable.

A collaborator of the site said, while sorting through projects to consider for the website, that the website should instead be called the the “1,001 nights of digital humanities” because there were so many different projects to choose from for the 80 days. While the field of Digital Humanities is still in its beginning stages, there is already so much information in Digital Humanities projects around the world that the creators of the website promote their users to continue looking for more projects: “We hope that you take these [80] selections only as an opening gesture, while we gather the army of collaborators that it would take to do 1,001 of these.”

Mapping Indigenous LA

“Mapping Indigenous LA” is a digital project created with ArcGIS which is a mapping software created by Esri. This project provides a map of Los Angeles and tells us the lost stories and history of the Native Americans. The tribes that are included are the Gabrielino/Tongva and Tatavian. The Native Americans were forced out West by governmental policies instilled by the colonist.

The main site has three links to separate sites. The first is introducing the tribes that the project will be covering and describes what the goal of the project is, which is to give us a detailed visual map of the indigenous people who lived on the land before. A map of LA doesn’t tell a story about its people who resided there first.

The picture on the left is the home site of the project. The two icons are links that send you to two different story maps. The first provides us with the mapping of indigenous LA and the second link is the history of Fernandeno Tataviam map. Both story maps offer an interactive and user friendly interface that provides us with links to other sites further explaining aspects, pictures, interviews with Native American historians, etc. The sites are well organized providing us with the writing on the left side and the pictures or videos on the right. The interface answers all of you questions for you as you read. For example, if you didn’t know what a “reed watercraft” was all you need to do is click on the word or phrase and a picture pops up on he right! 

The project accelerates the humanities in the way of organizing indigenous Los Angeles, remembering the Native Americans that are often forgotten and telling the story of Los Angeles before it became the city we know today. It is easily accessible to anyone and it has all the information right there and if it does not it send you to a site that explains the topic deeper. This project gave me ideas for how I want my digital project to turn out. I am hoping for well organized site that is easy to follow and easy to get access to.

The Story of the Stuff

The Story of the Stuff” is an interactive, multimedia project that provides insight to the relief efforts that the people of Newtown, CT suffered on the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. This project focuses on the items donated to Newtown and the overwhelming support that came with those items in a time of tragedy. This project greatly benefits from becoming digitalized because it shows, through the use of pictures, videos, interview recordings, and a timeline of other related events, that the information is readily available in the most easily accessible way.

 

The use of the timeline above provides useful information about the severity of other mass tragedies as well as the Sandy Hook tragedy itself being on the timeline also. The Story of the Stuff uses an interactive timeline provided by TimelineJS, an open-source, easy to learn tool that allows for the easy organization of time and events. Using this timeline allows the reader to compare the relief efforts of Sandy Hook to the relief efforts of the OKC Bombing, Columbine High School shooting, etc.

The projects main goal is to share the goodness that is unified among people when tragedy strikes. When a horrific event such as the Sandy Hook shooting occurs, the public are quick to help with the grieving process. By navigating through the site, you will learn that the town of Newtown was heavily unprepared for the mass amounts of gifts and other physical items that show condolences. The image below represents the amount of gifts the town received only days after the incident.

By digitalizing this project, it emphasizes the idea that with tragedy, the best part of people shines bright. No conflict or disagreement can hinder the support people give to one another in times of grief and suffering.

 

Yeats’ World and Biographical Storymaps

Interactive Home Screen of “Yeats, His World,” National Library of Ireland

The storymap “Yeats, His World” from the National Library of Ireland is a prime example of how interactive mapping can imbue our understanding of an author’s connection to place. The map, which is part of a larger digital (and physical) exhibition on Yeats, organizes photos and biographical information on Yeats by country (and then, region) so users can explore the poet’s involvement with different areas of the world.

I found the map most informative for two central reasons: 1) the homepage shows the breadth and extent to which Yeats influenced different regions globally 2) it was useful for showing the relationship between select Yeats’ poems and specific locations. The website contains a key (which you can access by clicking the hypertext “mentioned in poems” on the bottom right, which lists each poem and a corresponding place:

“Mentioned in Poems”

This form of spatial learning is particularly important for an author like Yeats, whose poetry often centers on specific places in rural and urban Ireland. The map provides an image, for instance, of Yeats’ tower at Thoor Ballylee, a focal point for many poems in his collection The Tower. 

As much as I appreciated the maps’ information, I did see some limitations in the design of the website. My main criticism is that it’s not easy to access the page where readers can navigate “Yeats, His World.” In fact, I doubt I would have found the project at all had I not seen it in the physical exhibition in Dublin. This is because the map is embedded as a child page in the larger digital exhibition on Yeats. Several instances (including twice during my own presentation, regrettably) I couldn’t access the childpage I needed at all, despite going through the same set of steps I had used to get “Yeats, His World” previously. Another issue I had with the map is that the design is crafted to look like an older, vintage map (most noticeably in the yellow coloring and torn edges at the sides) which I found a little corny considering the map actually uses a sophisticated digital interface. These criticisms aside, though, I felt the site was a useful template for my work in mapping out a digital biography to show how a historical figure intersects with different global regions.

A Vision of Britain through Time

Overview:

A Vision of Britain through Time, a digital project based at the University of Portsmouth, aims to illustrate social and geographic changes in Britain’s counties over time by utilizing records and maps. To quote their official mission statement, the project “brings together historical surveys of Britain to create a record of how the country and its localities have changed.” A Vision of Britain was created by Humphrey Southall and the Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System.

Image result for university of portsmouth

Statistical Atlas:

A major aspect of A Vision of Britain is to demonstrate trends in the British populace through charts and tables. This information can be utilized in a number of ways by researchers, for instance in looking to make predictions about a certain facet of society based on its history.

 

Once a location is selected from the Main Page, such as Oxford in the example to the left, a range of topics are presented. Categories such as housing statistics and local industries, drawing their data from census records and local databases, all contain information as far back as 1801.

 

 

From there, a researcher can select a category to dive further into. Following the Oxford example, if one were to click on the “Population” section, a number of statistics and census records would show up. The main feature of these categories are the charts generated automatically based on the information, with data as far back as the 19th century. For example, this graph on the right shows the age and sex structure to age 85 and up for Oxford in 1911.

 

 

These charts on A Vision of Britain were generated using JFreeChart, an open access charting software.

 

Historical Maps:

Another feature of this project is their historical maps section. Researchers are able to interact with a map of Great Britain, composed of dozens of different maps, for an interactive experience spanning centuries.

The interactive map of Great Britain is seen on the right. The maps that make up the whole presentation are listed on the left. Notice that users are able to change time periods from the drop-down menu above.

Since this project is digital the researcher can utilize the information on hundreds of maps placed together to gain a better understanding of a specific area instantly. For example, a researcher can analyze the differences between 19th and 20th century London simply by selecting another map configuration, as seen below.

19th century London
20th century London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The combination of maps is made possible by the Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System and their unique Historical GIS software. In addition, MapServer was used in conjunction with GIS.

 

How This Advances the Humanities:

Courtesy of AVisionofBritain.org

A Vision of Britain is doing traditional humanities work as usual, but with the added element of being digital. Southall and his team are pulling data from primary sources, such as maps and census records, to provide the information on their site. Researchers are thus able to interpret this primary source data to further explore the relationships between people and their environment; in this instance, British citizens and the various localities across the island.

Being a digital project, as opposed to more traditional routes, allows for more interaction on the part of the user. Charts are generated to give them seemingly endless statistics on a range of topics across British society. Not only is the raw data given, but also the sources are listed and instantly accessible, something not possible in articles or books. Additionally, researchers can quickly move between maps across centuries and from different sources to find exactly what they need. When they are done, they have the option to download the maps for future use. In fact, the user can download most of the website’s open access software and content for use on their own personal projects.

Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the American City

Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the American City is a digital mapping project connected to the book of the same name by Colin Gordon. This project uses various programs, particularly ArcGIS and Social Explorer, to explore the relationship between people and a place (a common theme in traditional humanities) interactively.

Home screen for Mapping Decline.

The project includes four maps, each connected to a theme from the book. It is not necessary to have read the book to understand these themes, as the site gives background information on each one. The book and digital project’s main goal is to explore certain demographics—in particular race and housing—in St. Louis over time. Mapping Decline specifically explores four themes: White Flight, Race and Property, Municipal Zoning, and Urban Renewal. Except for Race and Property, all maps include a slider bar in order for the user to see change in each topic over time. For example, the White Flight map includes four types of data: increase in white and black populations, and increase and decrease in white and black populations from 1940 to 2010. With the slider, the user can interact with the map and see the change in populations in certain regions for the specific time period.

 

Slider for the “White Flight” map.
 
This interactive portion is one of the aspects that separates this from a traditional humanities project. Maps are often used in traditional humanities to illustrate certain concepts, particularly the relationship between people and places. Maps help the audience to visualize how a community interacts with its region. Digital maps, like those in Mapping Decline, have the added component of being interactive. Having the slider allows the user to flip between data from different time periods quickly. Seeing the data this way helps the audience to visualize the events, see patterns more easily, and bring the historical events to life.

Beginning and end time periods for the “White Flight” map.

This project, since it is digital, can also reach a wider audience. One reason this project could reach a wider audience is because it is hosted on the Internet, which allows anyone with an Internet connection to access it. Another way this project could reach a wider audience is because, with it, Gordon can spread the message from his book in a condensed form. Instead of having to read the entire book, audiences can pretty clearly understand the ideas (or at least the data) Gordon covers in a much shorter amount of time. The project also includes links to documents which are important to the topic, something that is not offered by simply reading the book. In traditional humanities, you would have had to look up these documents on your own. Mapping Decline, however, allows you to access these documents with one click. A tab at the top of the site leads to a page talking about the documents, which includes links to digitized versions of the documents. Mapping Decline also offers the option of seeing the documents on the map itself. The user can turn on this option by clicking the “documents” button at the top. Once they are on the map, the user can get to the digitized version of the document by clicking the document symbols. Mapping Decline also has the option to enable municipal boundaries and roads and highways. Both by its location on the Internet and its form as a condensed version of Gordon’s book, Mapping Decline allows Gordon’s argument to reach a wider audience.

Example of documents inserted into the map.

Mapping Decline was created using a few different programs. From what I can find, Colin Gordon, the author of the associated book, did most of the work for this project himself. The three mains programs used were ArcGIS, Social Explorer, and the University of Minnesota’s National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS). The NHGIS is a place to find data in file types which can be utilized by GIS systems. The specific version of ArcGIS that was used was ArcView 9.2. ArcGIS is a mapping platform run through ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute). The ESRI was founded in 1969 and as of 2014, held approximately 43% of the GIS software market worldwide (more than any other supplier). The other mapping program used to create Mapping Decline was Social Explorer. Social Explorer is only one program offered by the company of the same name. Social Explorer the company has roots going back to the late 1990s and also offers the programs Charts, GeoBuffer, and MapSpice. Social Explorer includes some data access (like the NHGIS) as well as the tools to build maps. As mentioned in the “About” tab of Mapping Decline, some of the data had to be adjusted in order to be mapped. For example, the 1960 data (which had 323 census tracts) had to be adjusted to fit over the 1950 geography (which had 247 tracts) for the 1950-60 map.

Mapping Decline is an example of how interactive, digital maps can help an audience to better understand the patterns in data. Finding patterns in demographic data which relate to larger social issues in a community (such as housing and racism) is a popular theme in traditional humanities, but interactive maps on the Internet, using programs like ArcGIS and Social Explorer, allow for both a better visualization of these spatial patterns and a potentially wider audience.

Folger Digital Texts

Folger Digital Texts is a project undertaking a very traditional humanities aim – preserving, organizing, and making available Shakespeare’s collection of works – but breaks newer ground with digital tools and a great contribution to the collaborative, open source nature of digital humanities initiatives.

Shakespeare can be found everywhere, to be sure, but these editions are unique because they offer a highly readable, navigable, and interactive text to users. Physical books, PDFs, and simpler websites containing Shakespeare’s work are limited when it comes to these features, which is why the digitals tools the Folger Shakespeare Library implements really shine. Public domain texts with the widespread cultural impact that Shakespeare has are always going to be available, but a project like this ensures a quality reading experience to those who might otherwise lack access to a reliable physical edition or digital file.

For instance, once you open a play of your choice – let’s say, Hamlet – you are immediately shown a few displays. In the center of the website is the play itself, formatted much like a physical book with a clear, attractive layout. On the left, you have a display of information about the text, which is present throughout the reading experience. You can switch between a synopsis, a character list, and the table of contents of the work. If you have forgotten who Reynaldo is, for instance, you only need to slide your eyes to the left to see that he is Polonius’ servant. If you have been reading Act III for what feels like an eternity and want to know exactly how many scenes are left to get through, again, look to the left. There is no flipping between pages or scrolling endlessly to find what you need here; the tools exist for you to find background information, lines, and scenes immediately.

Furthermore, the text is marked at various points to indicate some of the changes between versions of the play; wherever there is a square bracket one can hold their cursor over, a note will appear with information about the version this word or phrase came from. This illustrates how scholarly work has been carefully encoded into the edition, although this feature is fairly limited in this project – it would be fantastic to have more complete scholarly notes strewn throughout the text. For a free online resource, however, this may be a tall order.

Projects such as this can be achieved through the use of TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), a language developed from XML that presents humanists with a general set of guidelines for digitally encoding texts. A thorough explanation of TEI can be found here, but you can see the process that may have been undertaken to encode Titus Andronicus in one of this website’s examples, including some important elements:

Source: TEI by Example

Outside of creating an accessible and dynamic collection of Shakespeare’s works, Folger Digital Texts also has another purpose, one that marks it as even more unique from traditional humanities projects. For every play, there is an option to download the complete, edited text in seven different file formats: XML, HTML, PDF, DOC with line numbers, DOC without line numbers, TXT, and TEI Simple. This turns the project into an excellent, centralized source for those accessing Shakespeare’s work to use in further digital projects – maybe humanists can pull a file to perform textual analysis of a play, examine relationships between Shakespeare plays and more recent works, or develop a digital edition with a different aim.

This spirit of open collaboration is a bit different from the type of collective work traditionally done through scholarly references, panels, and journals. Scholars can use this project to build many others simultaneously, freely, and easily (at least to the extent that they can begin with a reliable text file). There is no need to build a digital edition of a Shakespeare play from scratch for further initiatives when a TEI Simple file can be accessed at the click of a button. The Folger Shakespeare Library has recognized a need to share its labor with other digital humanists, and this focus on the growth of the field is very promising for those of us just getting started.

Group 6- Text Analysis

In our analysis of Walden, we utilized Voyant tools to enhance our understanding of the text. Voyant tools features  tracking options and offers the ability to strip filter words from the text. By making key words more accessible, readers may focus more on words that give insight into Thoreau’s thoughts and their evolution throughout the text of Walden. First, we re-read portions of Walden that fascinated us. Then, we used the helpful features of Voyant tools to analyze these chapters of Walden individually, and then pieced together word trends that related to the topics each of us chose to explore.

The chosen topics were frequency of religious words, frequency of positive words, frequency of experiential words and positive and negative correlations throughout Walden as a cohesive text. The graph tool showed us where words were more or less frequent throughout the text and let us infer how that conveyed Thoreau’s message of living deliberately. We could see where words that may have not been used before and then were suddenly utilized. These red flags keyed us into searching for Thoreau’s moments of enlightenment and discovery. Voyant tools helped us to thoroughly analyze the text beyond our own comprehension of language. We tend to look at the message of the text, not the particles that make it up, and the small bits actually brought new information about Walden and Thoreau to light. Utilizing Voyant allowed us to incorporate statistics into our research so our results were no longer just opinion, but irrefutable data to back our opinions.

Our first day toying with Voyant, we removed all the filter words. After removing all filter words, “life” and “man” are the most prevalent words in Walden as a whole. Reading Walden, it is clear that he is a man on a mission: to live life to the fullest. But now, we can  give substantial mathematical support to enhance understanding of Thoreau’s search for greater meaning. Each group member followed their own path, but we were ultimately able to see how our individuals aspect of text analysis conveys Thoreau’s philosophy of living life deliberately.

 

Digitizing Donald Ross

This project was centered on finding ways to apply previously completed scholarly work on Walden to the digital frame of our class. Donald Ross played a major role in analyzing the different versions of Walden, as well as tracing the inspiration for many of Thoreau’s messages. Ross was able to draw connections between Walden’s narrative to major ideas such as Biblical allusions, references to Eastern Philosophy, and so on. Our mission for the semester was to take Ross’ information and translate it into a form that we could use for the Fluid Text edition of Walden.

RossOur first obstacle was simply figuring out how to start; Ross’ materials stretched on for 72 pages of dense information, most of which we spent a good deal of time trying to decipher. We settled on using R to analyze Walden, using digital methods to parse out Walden the same way that Ross did by hand. By doing this we were able to test out the possibilities and limits of digitally analyzing a work of literature by comparing it to the analysis of the same work by a human scholar.

What we found was that R has a huge amount of potential in this field, though it will take some work to fully reach that potential. The way the analysis worked was by searching for “n-grams,” or a set of n number of words (in our case 5), looking for matches between Walden and other specified books. The n-grams were compiled into a spreadsheet which showed us the word matches along with the entire sentence of Walden and the entire sentence of the other work. The program found over 2,000 n-grams, most of which were coincidences driven by similar word-usage. We focused on the Biblical references Thoreau is notorious for, and so scrolled through the enormous spreadsheet searching for n-grams that held deeper meaning than simple coincidence.

Sheet

The program written for the analysis performed by R was still in its early stages and yet was able to perform the analysis in a number of hours; surely record time in the field of literary analysis.

There is clearly a lot of future work that can be put into this project.  Sifting through the information example by example was a lengthy process, even with three people working simultaneously.  As a result, our group only managed to make a modest dent in the material.  We only focused on the Biblical allusions Ross found in Walden, passing up his lists of allusions to Eastern philosophers, verbal wit, and other categories.  We also only managed to sift through a fraction of what the R program additionally found.  Although most of these were coincidental, one of them seemed to be an honest Biblical allusion that Ross overlooked.  There could be many more that Ross didn’t find, but that we were simply unable to get to in the allotted time.

Overall we have looked at the program as a success. After sifting through the bibical references that Harding had already found and comparing them to what the computer found, the computer was able to pick up on one more reference that Ross had missed. While this may seem like a small victory compared to the thousands of invalid references that the computer had found, it must be considered that the references were found in a matter of hours and the program is still in its early stages. While it may have taken Ross months to be able to find these references, the computer was able to do it in just a few hours.  We believe this project has some real potential to affect the Digital Humanities, and there is a lot more work to be done.

Building a Thoreau Timeline

The Thoreau Timeline

Henry David Thoreau was a busy man, and our group was tasked with listing and detailing his many lectures, publications, journal entries, and general biographical facts along with his work on A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Walden. We were provided with a rough outline of what such a timeline should encompass from Stephen Adams’ and Donald Ross’ Revising Mythologies: The Composition of Thoreau’s Major Works, as shown below.

A valuable resource but not the most intuitive.
A valuable resource but not the most intuitive.

Our main goal was to expand upon this information and put it in a more visual, interactive format. To do so, we used TimelineJS. This service allows users with little technical knowledge to create an attractive, intuitive timeline complete with media and layered information. TimelineJS provides a template for a Google spreadsheet, then generates a code for the published timeline that allows users to embed it into a website.

An example of what entries in the spreadsheet look like.
An example of what entries in the spreadsheet look like.

Our group split the categories into six parts, and we initially created six different spreadsheets of data. Alexa had the biography, Cassie had the journal entries, Gabe had the lectures and articles, and Holly had A Week and the Walden versions. Our text was drawn from a variety of sources (the most helpful to us being Walter Harding’s The Days of Henry Thoreau), and the images were generally licensed for use under Creative Commons and gathered from Flickr or Wikimedia Commons. If possible, Gabe linked articles and essays written by Thoreau into the timeline using PagePeeker, which provides an image and link of the website he found the essay on. Our main obstacles were working with TimelineJS itself – figuring out how to enter dates without knowing specific days of  month, where to source our information, dealing with invalid image links, and tagging information that fell into different categories.

We tagged our entries in order to create a six-layered timeline.
We tagged our entries in order to create a six-layered timeline.

In the end, we combined our six timelines into one monstrous spreadsheet dubbed “The Master TImeline.” Once this was published and fine-tuned, we had a visually intriguing and well-organized timeline that allows readers to easily connect different areas of Thoreau’s life to a certain time period. Building this timeline not only pulled together some of the technological skills we had learned over the semester, but gave each of us insight into Thoreau’s life and work.

(Holly) A Week and WaldenThe timeline allowed me to pull together various aspects of the class – the various readings, the fluid text edition, the significance of the manuscript changes – and really illustrate the development of Thoreau’s literary works. Tracing the progress of Thoreau’s two books showed me how much Thoreau’s writing was impacted by his life experiences and the ups and down of his literary career. What struck me most was how prepared Thoreau seemed to be for the publication of Walden after finishing and working on publishing his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. As we know, it would be many years and manuscript changes later before Walden was actually published, and this was (arguably) partially due to the failure of A Week. What would Walden be had Thoreau’s first book sold well on the market? The timeline is a valuable tool that offers a big-picture perspective on how Thoreau’s life experiences interacted with his writing. Studying the intertwining nature of some of the entries, for example, can show how certain events may have shaped others, as is the case with A Week and Walden.

From the Walden timeline.
From the Walden timeline.

(Alexa) Biography: When creating my timeline on the biography of Thoreau’s life, I certainly found that Thoreau was a very exploratory person. He had taken multiple visits to Cape Cod and Maine, as well as Hill & Plymouth in Massachusetts for exploration purposes and to gather information for his journals. He also had taken an opportunity to travel to Canada mainly because the train ticket was very cheap. Along the course of Thoreau’s life, I found dates in the biography relating to what we found through reading Walden: when the cabin was being built at Walden Pond, when Thoreau lived at Walden Pond, the date Thoreau spent the night in jail, and when he returned to his home in Concord. I also found it interesting that this timeline helped show a different perspective on Thoreau not really seen when you read Walden. There was an event on the timeline dealing with the Burns Affair, for example. After researching this, it turns out this had to do with an escaped slave on trial, Anthony Burns, and Thoreau was protesting the return of Burns to his slave owner. I found some great detail about Thoreau’s opinion on slavery.

(Cassie) Journals: This task was challenging because it required me to organize the two journal sections from the original timeline, and then figure out where each entry recorded is located in the journal. The journal entries ended up being separated into two different sections, the 1906 and the Princeton/Mss versions. Although there was a bit of overlap, for the most part, where one journal ends, the other journal begins. In both of these versions, Thoreau manages to stay consistent with narrating the little things that go on in his day-to-day life. By organizing these entries, I was able to learn more about Thoreau’s thought process. When Thoreau was deciding to leave “high society,” for example, I was surprised to learn that he had much more going on in his life than just this desire to “live deliberately.” I also found that he left to “cure” his writer’s block. He talked about his fear that if he did not leave, he would never be able to finish his writings. In some ways, Thoreau may have surprised himself with how much his departure from society changed him. This realization made it easier for me to be able to connect the writing with the human. This is partly why the timeline itself is important; it connects all the parts of Thoreau’s life to give an impression of the real man, not just a series of disjointed writings. While reading these entries and figuring out a timeline of the feelings, thoughts, and emotions reflected in them, I was better able to understand not only the premise for Walden but also the way that Thoreau’s brain works.

From the journals timeline.
From the journals timeline.

(Gabe) Lectures and Publications: My portion of the timeline was dedicated to recording the dates of the lectures that Thoreau would give on his various works across the Northeast, as well as the publication of those works beginning with his first lecture in May of 1835. I think the thing that most interested me about this reconstruction was how it demonstrated how hard it is to reestablish the past – so much of what I inputted was only known about from an off-handed mention in a journal entry of Thoreau’s, and because of that we often know that a lecture on a subject occurred but cannot give an exact date, or know Thoreau lectured on a certain date but are unaware of what it was on. I think that really demonstrates the necessity of linking the digital world with the humanities, so that in the future we do not have to piece together fragments in order to gain only the shadow of an understanding of our context, but can preserve it whole for the future.