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The Digital Transformation in the Humanities


Computers have transformed research in the humanities as well as the sciences, enabling investigators to answer in a few hours or days questions that once would have taken a lifetime. An Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant is allowing faculty and graduate students from the Department of French to compare digitized versions of manuscripts by the late-fourteenth-century poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut, which are currently scattered in libraries across the world. They are creating an electronic research environment that will give grant participants a uniform set of tools to study these manuscripts simultaneously.

A similar initiative was completed for the Chaco Research Archive, an online resource devoted to New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, the center of ancient Pueblo civilization. Led by Stephen Plog, the David A. Harrison III Professor of Historical Archaeology, and Worthy Martin, associate professor of computer science and codirector of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, the archive enables researchers to compare artifacts and records held at nineteen museums, federal agencies, universities, and libraries.

Bernard Frischer, professor of classics and art history, with National Science Foundation (NSF) funding, will add a fourth dimension to "Rome Reborn," a 3-D navigable model of Rome in A.D. 320. He is also adding avatars representing historical characters to his re-creation of Hadrian's Villa, which supported more than 3,000 people on 200 acres. This simulation is a teaching tool that enables students to assume the roles of historical residents so they can learn how the complex villa functioned and residents interacted.