History of Art and Architecture

Summer 2017 Visual Media Workshop News

The Visual Media Workshop, under the direction of Dr. Alison Langmead, has continued its work creating connections, enabling conversations, and producing scholarship under the broad umbrella of the digital humanities. After an eventful Spring Term, the VMW has transitioned into our summer work and projects. We continue our focus on the three main projects of the lab, with new phases and implementations for each.

Historical ‘Big Data’

This past spring, VMW graduate research assistants Lily Brewer and S. E. Hackney, along with their sponsoring librarian, Kate Joranson, were awarded the Sotheby’s Institute of Art Research Award, for their project, “Historical 'Big Data': Visualizations of Algernon Graves' Art Sales in the early 20th Century and Today.” Hackney presented this project at the 2017 ARLIS Annual Conference in New Orleans, and accepted the award on the group’s behalf. Going forward, the group is working with technologist David Newbury to use the Art Sales data as a case study for a linked data framework, MicroAuthority (https://github.com/arttracks/microauthority).

Decomposing Bodies

Decomposing Bodies, managed by S.E. Hackney, took on two First Experience in Research (FE-R) undergraduate students during the Spring Term, Ashley Cipcic and Joe Jang. They engaged with the Decomposing Bodies through card transcription, contextualizing research, and data analysis, presenting their project, “Decomposing Bodies: Foundations of Prejudice and its Lasting Effects on Incarceration” at the end-of-term Office of Undergraduate Research: Celebration of Research.

This summer, the focus for Decomposing Bodies is on presentation and organization. Work is being done to add descriptive content to the project website (http://sites.haa.pitt.edu/db/), including an interactive visualization of the faces from the Bertillon cards in the collection, created by Sam Nosenzo, adapted from the piece “7,105 Faces in Order” from the Data (after)Lives exhibition at the University Art Gallery in Fall 2016.

Sustaining MedArt

Researchers from the NEH-funded Sustaining MedArt project took their show on the road this spring, presenting their work at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan at a session sponsored by the Material Collective, as well as through a “rouge poster session” at some of the conference’s wine hours. Additionally, Dr. Langmead and Aisling Quigley presented the report of their work to the NEH in Washington DC, as a part of the grant that funds this work.

The Sustaining MedArt team, consisting of Dr. Langmead, Aisling Quigley, Jedd Hakimi, Lindsay Decker, and starting in Summer 2017, Chelsea Gunn, have been transitioning from their historical research and digital forensics of the MedArt website (http://medart.pitt.edu) into the creation of a “Socio-Technical Sustainability Roadmap.” The Roadmap is a series of modules aimed at getting creators and curators of digital projects to think about and plan for the long-term future of their projects.


During the spring, Itinera’s Project Manager, Lily Brewer, created and implemented best practices for adding content to Itinera, which is available at the “Itinera: A Guide” site (https://sites.haa.pitt.edu/itineraguide/), and which is designed to highlight and clarify many of the interesting technical and intellectual questions that arise when interpreting narrative historical texts into database entry fields. Itinera also brought on two FE-R students for the spring, Supriya Avadhanula and Victoria Johngrass who worked on adding entries based on Minutes of the Royal Academy of Architecture, and who also presented their work as a poster at the end-of-term Celebration of Research.

This summer, undergraduate student worker Vee McGyver is continuing her work with network visualizations for Itinera using the d3 library for JavaScript, and the entire Itinera team is collaborating to consider future project and publication options.