University of Virginia Vice President for Research
Sustainability Research Initiatives

Digital Visualizations

Innovations in technology offer the potential to create visual presentations of rich and varied data that provide new insights for research and interpretation. Known as digital or spatial history, this approach utilizes an array of powerful visualization tools to explore the spatial dimensions of human history, drawing upon forms of "evidence and databases that would be too opaque or too unwieldy to access without computers" 1, as well as the ability to integrate data that is recorded at vastly different but significantly overlapping geographic and temporal scales.

The development of a prototype model for visualizing the complex interplay of human behavior, government institutions and ecological processes in shaping the development of cultural landscapes provides an opportunity to advance knowledge through collaborative place-based research. Using Morven, its history and its regional ecosystem as a case study, these visualizations will integrate data on long-term ecological processes (as modeled by environmental scientists) with records of human occupation and activity (as interpreted by scholars working in the arts, humanities, and social sciences) to produce better understandings of cultural and historical landscapes and their ecosystems services. The resulting presentations, and the collaboration process to create them, represent both a major advance in scholarly communication across disciplines and a new way of presenting integrated research findings to a broad public audience (including government agencies and non-profits) using the tools and techniques of digital/spatial history.

Scot French, UVa Department of Architecture
Credit: 1 Richard White, Director, Stanford University Spatial History Project


Beginning in 2007, the UVa Virginia Center for Digital History developed a visualization tool called VisualEyes (, created with funding support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This web-based authoring tool is the medium for transforming graphics such as images, maps, and charts together with text-based data and video to produce dynamic visualizations. Continuing support for VisualEyes is provided by the UVa Science, Humanities & Arts Networkof Technological Inititiatives (SHANTI).

Visualizations interpreting research about Morven's history being produced in 2010/2011 will include: