Welcome to Digital Mappa 1.0 (beta)

Digital Humanities workspaces, editions, scholarship and publications for the rest of us


Quick Take: Digital Mappa (DM for short) is a freely available and open-source online environment for the collection and curation of digital images and texts. The premise of DM is simple and powerful: if you have a collection of digital images and/or texts, you should be able to produce an online resource that links together specific moments on these images and texts together, annotate these moments as much as you want, and make this work public and searchable with no technological fuss or expertise. DM can be used to create you own personal workspace, as a collaborative research space, as a pedagogical space for your students, or as a public publishing platform. Once it’s set up (which will require a system admin who knows what their doing), the amount to technical expertise you’ll need to have is largely limited to pointing, clicking, copying, pasting and typing. If you can do that, you can create your own digital scholarship, editions and projects in DM.

To get started, you either need to be affiliated with an existing DM server, or set up one of your own (some assembly required 😀). See the help guides for more info.

More Details: DM’s suite of tools enables users assemble digital materials (both image and text), and then highlight areas of interest specific areas of interest on these documents. These highlights are then active, and users can create commentary for them, or link between them and other highlight on the same or other documents in the same DM project.

DM is designed for scholars to do what they’ve always done – produce bespoke scholarship, targeted on specific moments of specific materials. But now, they can do it digitally. DM enables scholars to easily create these types of networked relationships among resources- once a version of DM is installed on a local server or in the cloud to host projects, users do not need any technical proficiency beyond the ability to type, select text, and point and click in order to create rich displays of linked and annotated relationships between objects of study. And as content, notes and commentary is added into a DM project, it is instantly part of a searchable corpus of information within that project.

Multiple users can collaborate on projects, and projects can be published online for public, read-only viewing simply by checking a box.  DM 1.0 also allows users to export the linked data they create in a standard RDF3 (.ttl) format for potential database use. All DM projects are hosted on a server set up as a local DM provider, where projects are persistently saved and backed up. This hosting server can be set up as a host by you or your system administrator, or can be cloud-based through the affordable Digital Ocean platform. On any such DM server, users can create, share, collaborate on, and publish multiple projects.

Please Note: DM 1.0 is very much a beta prototype of this resource – we’ve got the basic features all done and dusted, but there are still a few kinks we are working out, and many improved and new features we are planning to add in the next 2.0 release.  DM 1.0 is in some ways limited in its features and potential scale of projects, but designed to showcase the software’s core functionality. For instance, currently, DM works best on Chrome browsers and has some issues with touchscreen laptops. And for instance, in DM 1.0, collection handling isn’t all that great – once you move past say more than a dozen primary documents, things can get unwieldy to organize. DM 2.0 (below) will resolve such issues.

But this is just the start: DM 2.0 is currently in development, with generous funding from a multiyear UW2020 grant, with a planned release of early 2019.  Go here for an overview of enhanced features in DM 2.0, including large scale collection management, granular linking from external websites, and the incorporation of the IIIF standard for image access and viewing.

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A Brief History of Digital Mappa:

In 2007, Martin Foys began to work on developing a digital edition of the early medieval Cotton Mappamundi. With a $5,000 summer grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), he began work on the edition, supported by three undergraduate assistants, Liz Aghjayan, Liz Lipke and Whitney Trettien. Using a prototype of the now defunct Edition Production Technology resource (EPT) to digitally edit the map and link it to textual sources and analogues, Foys soon realized that the data he was generating could equally serve other medieval maps that had similar content, and that a resource was needed to allow one to edit groups of medieval maps and associated content in a network together. Asa Mittman began collaborating on this effort as a co-director, now called Digital Mappaemundi, soon after.

In 2009, Shannon Bradshaw became the technical lead for the project, and in 2010 Foys and Bradshaw were awarded a small NEH Digital Humanities Startup grant to develop a prototype of a resource that would allow multiple medieval maps to be edited in aggregate. They soon realized that the resource they were developing could be used not just for medieval maps, but any collection of digital images and texts. Lisa Fagin Davis used an early version of Digital Mappaemundi to digitally edit a fifty-foot medieval scroll for her own research, while Bradshaw began collaborating with DMS-Tech, a Mellon Foundation-funded project at Stanford University to develop standards for digital repositories of medieval manuscripts, where the Digital Mappaemundi prototype was used by the Dictionary of Old English and several other projects.

In 2013 the project was awarded an NEH multiyear Digital Implementation grant, and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) became a three-year home for the project, under the administration of Dot Porter. A flagship project for the resource, Virtual Mappa was begun in collaboration with the British Library, where research associate Cat Crossley oversaw the foundational editing and annotation of ten early medieval English maps of the world and thousands of geographic inscriptions.  Though SIMS, Performant Software was brought on to finish development of the DM 1.0 beta version (now rebranded as Digital Mappa), which was released as open access software in early 2018. During this time, with support from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW’s Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture, and a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) data curation postdoctoral fellowship, Heather Wacha joined the project, to finish editing the Virtual Mappa project and to ready this project (including a full edition of the Cotton Map – the object that started all of this more than ten years ago) and DM 1.0 beta version for public release.

Currently, a number of new DM projects are underway at the University of Wisconsin by faculty and students, while other projects begun in the past few years at SIMS are being readied for publication. Some of the most developed are listed in the Sample Projects page. With generous funding from a UW2020 grantDigital Mappa now also has two University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate research associates, Max Gray and Laura Schmidt, who are working with Heather Wacha to manage new DM projects at UW (and who produced most of the content on this website!)

Coming up: after the release of DM 1.0 in early 2018, the team will be spending the next year helping people work on new DM projects, and finish and publish current projects, and developing DM 2.0 for release in early 2019.

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