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 the new 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’s Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture (CHPDC) and a Council on Library and Information ResourcesCouncil 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 Showcase Projects page. With generous funding from a UW2020 grant, Digital 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 working with Performant to develop DM 2.0 for release in late 2018.