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Heringman and Lake Awarded NEH Grant to Build a Scholarly Edition of Vetusta Monumenta in Scalar

 

Noah Heringman, the Catherine Paine Middlebush professor of English at the University of Missouri and Crystal B. Lake, associate professor of English at Wright State University, have received a Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to build a digital scholarly edition of Vetusta Monumenta in Scalar.

“Vetusta Monumenta,” Latin for “ancient monuments,” is a series of 336 large prints created from highly detailed copperplate engravings of ancient buildings and artifacts and published by the Society of Antiquaries of London between 1817-1906. Only 11 copies of “Vetusta Monumenta” exist, one of which is at the University of Missouri Special Collections. Heringman, Lake, and their editorial team have already scanned, at high resolutions, the first 159 prints in the series and included them in their digital scholarly edition in Scalar.

The NEH Grant will allow Heringman, Lake and other researchers on their team to investigate each print to learn more about the objects depicted, including their provenance and history as well as create a digital edition that will preserve and make those prints available to everyone.

But Vetusta Monumenta, as a digital edition, is about more than access and preservation. Heringman and Lake’s aim is to employ Scalar’s affordances as a means to offer readers and researchers multiple, interconnected pathways through the series while annotating the prints themselves extensively. Many of the prints will be marked up with translations and scholarly commentary (see image above). But the collection as a whole will also be richly interconnected in this Scalar version in ways that can move the prints beyond their original organization as a series. In this way, Vetusta Monumenta constitutes an essential rethinking of the scholarly edition, one that truly combines the traditional scope of humanities inquiry with the affordances and methodologies of digital scholarship. By offering readers the ability to engage the contents of each volume as a traditionally structured “book” and as a series of data points whose complex interconnections can be visualized, navigated and explored, Vetusta Monumenta attempts to move the genre well beyond the standard “electronic scholarly edition.”

Scalar’s new path + context navigation system

 

We’ve added a few navigational features to the Scalar reading interface this week. We hope you like them. We’d like to thank the generous folks at the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities for making work on these features possible.  

New Path Navigation

First, we’ve updated the ways readers can navigate backwards and forwards along a path. In addition to path navigation buttons located at the bottom of pages, readers can now access arrows in the wings that will direct them to content immediately preceding or following the current page in a path. Rolling over these arrows will also reveal the title and thumbnail for the content to which it links. Readers can, on a path of media, for instance, now get a preview of what’s next without leaving the current page.

New Context Navigation

Whether for research, collection building or some other purpose, Scalar books can be as expansive, complex and richly interconnected as one requires. Individual items in Scalar projects -pages, media, and annotations, among others- can, for instance, sit at the nexus of several pathways through a project. They can live in multiple contexts. A single page can reside on numerous paths, be tagged by multiple items, or both. Scalar is developed to make these complex interconnections legible to readers by offering a number of built-in visualizations for a book’s content.

Today we’re launching an interface element that makes these interconnections even more visible to readers: a new “Context” button. Clicking this button, located in the top-right of the page, reveals all paths within which the current item resides as well as all items that tag it. Links are provided to those tags as well as to the current page within other paths, allowing readers to treat those pages as akin to subway stations, getting on/off distinct, but related, narratives, arguments or collections (see figure below). The  new “Context” button thus allows readers to better understand the multiple contexts within which the author has situated the current item and makes it easier for them to switch those contexts.
A representation of intersecting paths in Scalar. Left: red pages are the same page residing on multiple paths, as are the brown pages. Right: our new “Context” button allows readers to link to and from the same page on multiple paths.

These new navigation features will not, by default, be turned “on” for already existing Scalar books. To enable the new features, simply head to the “Book properties” tab in your dashboard and set “Display navigation buttons in margins?” to “Yes.”

As always, please feel free to send us feedback on these new features or just drop us a note about how you’re putting them to use.

Scalar Webinars: Announcing Our Summer 2017 Schedule

The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture will offer another series of free online webinars this fall.

All webinars will feature our new interface, Scalar 2. Our “Introduction to Scalar” webinars will cover basic features of the platform: a review of existing Scalar books and a hands-on introduction to paths, tags, annotations and importing media. Our “Intermediate Scalar” webinars will delve into more advanced topics including the effective use of visualizations, annotating with media and a primer on customizing appearances in Scalar.

Our summer schedule will include four dates:

Introduction to Scalar: July 6, 4-6pm (PST)
Intermediate Scalar: July 27, 4-6pm (PST)

Register here.

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The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture

The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture was created with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.